Community Commentary: Say goodbye to your favorite fish'n hole

The California Fish and Game Commission will be considering new regulations this week on fish stocking in public and private ponds, lakes and streams that, at the very least, will severely impact the recreational fishing industry in California and could possibly destroy it.

Like many Californians, some of my fondest childhood memories include days on the shore of a stream or lake fishing with my dad. It is a tradition I carried on with my own children and plan to continue with my grandchildren. Unfortunately, what is being proposed by the DFG threatens to destroy this family-friendly outdoor activity.

The DFG claims that planted fish will possibly degrade a few native species located in certain high-mountain areas of the state. Fish stocking has been going on in California for more than 120 years without causing any type of environmental problems. DFG regulators seem to be basing the new regulations on a hunch rather than science.

Under the proposed regulations, owners of small lakes could pay in excess of $100,000 annually to comply with rigorous and unnecessary testing requirements. The regulatory costs alone would put most operators out of business and force them to lay off employees.

To make matters worse, DFG is also proposing that anglers fishing at these lakes be required to purchase a fishing license, even if the lake is privately owned, stocked and operated. Requiring a fishing license will more than double the cost of an entrance fee to most lakes, making fishing economically unreachable for most working class families.

These regulations will be catastrophic for most private fish hatcheries, as well as the many related industries that support the multibillion-dollar recreational fishing industry in California. The small cities of the Eastern Sierra mountains will feel the brunt of these unnecessary regulations, as they are extremely dependent on the economic activity created by recreational fishing.

Gas stations, restaurants, hotels, etc. would all see decreases in business. In Orange and Riverside counties, the Santa Ana River lakes and Corona Lake would be adversely impacted.

For the past 35 years, the Elliott family has managed a small business that has operated these lakes where, for a small fee, you can enjoy a nice day of fishing. If the proposed regulations are enacted, the cost to fish at these lakes will soar, customers will not show up and the Elliotts will most likely have to close their small business, laying off 30 to 35 employees.

This unfortunate situation is a classic example of why California needs regulatory reform that will promote job growth, rather than strangling it dead.

I intend to testify at this week's hearing and urge the commission to reject these unwarranted and dangerous regulations. I hope that many of my fellow anglers will join me.

TOM HARMAN is a California state senator representing the 35th district.

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