Sometimes a few bad apples really can spoil the bunch and ruin it for everyone.
That appears to be the case when it comes to fishing in the Manatee River along Riverwalk. City officials will soon decide whether to ban fishing, including cast netting, altogether, with the exception being off the fishing pier.
Some anglers, the city says, just aren’t being responsible.
“The ordinance will specifically allow fishing on the fishing pier, which was its intended use,” said Jim McLellan, public works director. “Riverwalk is not covered by the existing ordinance so it needs to be expanded to ‘No fishing’ on the Riverwalk. We’ve received a lot of complaints and don’t have the authority to enforce anything right now.”
The ordinance will cover the existing Riverwalk, as well as planned eastern expansion to the east. McLellan said much of Riverside Drive East is already covered by the existing ordinance.
The bulk of complaints are about people casting nets and leaving unwanted dead or dying fish lying on the ground, along the Riverwalk walkway itself or tossed into other areas of the park.
For some regular visitors to Riverwalk, the city’s decision is a bit baffling. They said they would prefer the focus went elsewhere.
Tony Blagdon walks his dog about three times a week at Riverwalk. He hasn’t seen a problem.
“I’ve not seen any problems with fishermen,” Blagdon said. “I have never seen them leave a mess, fish or lines behind. I don’t like to talk bad about anybody but if there is a problem on Riverwalk, it’s from people riding their bikes too fast along here when there’s not enough room.”
Carrie Buxbaum visits Riverwalk at least once a week, and she too, said fishermen aren’t the problem.
“It’s the homeless leaving all the trash,” Buxbaum said while standing not far away from where several homeless people were camped out near the restrooms and another was finishing a piece of fruit, throwing the leftover on the ground. Just a few yards away, children were amping up their play time on the playground equipment as the sun came out on an overcast Thursday morning.
“What the fishermen do is walk and fish and work their way toward the pier,” Buxbaum said. “They are always respectful of the people around them and I’ve never seen anyone, whether using a rod or casting leave anything behind. They keep to themselves while the homeless don’t always do that.”
Buxbaum said there is one man in particular who says sexually suggestive things to females if they are alone or just with other females. She said the city is better served addressing the homeless.
“I think they are wasting their time about the complaints about fishermen,” she said. “I don’t believe anyone complaining has a leg to stand on as far as what they are complaining about. It’s just not happening.”
There were some small pieces of evidence that some fishermen aren’t acting responsibly. Plastic fish with large hooks were left on the ground at the railing near the CSX railroad bridge and the despite best efforts by public works employees, the biggest mess was on the fishing pier itself.
More plastic bait, broken glass and plastic drink holders lay on the deck.
The receptacle to be used only for discarded fishing line, and has a sign reading “Not to be used for trash,” was stuffed with trash while a trash can on the pier was largely empty with the exception of a few beer cans.
McLellan said he hopes to have an ordinance ready for the city council’s Feb. 13 meeting.