City drops proposed fishing ban for Riverwalk. Fishermen warned to clean up their mess

The Bradenton City Council on Wednesday tabled a proposed ban on fishing and cast netting along Riverwalk -- but cautioned the idea could re-emerge if fishermen don’t do a better job of cleaning up after themeselves.

“I suggest we table this indefinitely for two reasons,”said Ward 3 Councilman Patrick Roff. “The first is to put cast netters on notice that if they don’t do a better job cleaning up after themselves, we can revisit this and secondly, I want to know what kind of actual man hours it’s causing for our guys to do maintenance.”

It was a few complaints to city staff regarding some anglers leaving a mess that prompted Public Works Director Jim McLellan to propose the ban. McLellan said it was never the intent of the city to allow fishing on Riverwalk when it opened in 2012.

McLellan suggested the ban in late January to encourage anglers and cast netters to use the designated fishing pier.

McLellan said some anglers were leaving behind a mess, in particular fish blood that workers could not clean due to a lack of water on Riverwalk to pressure wash the affected areas.

A majority of residents voiced opposition as soon as the proposal was raised and told officials they had more important problems with Riverwalk to deal with, such as the homeless and bicyclists endangering pedestrians.

Resident Judy Fry reiterated that point on Wednesday during public comment.

“We are known as Bradenton, the Friendly City,” Fry said. “Let’s be careful not to lose that. So ask yourself, is this proposed restriction really needed? As you think about how to proceed, please pause and take a step back and ask yourself if I am sure here that we’re not trying to turn some complaint into some manufactured problem. Complaints and problems are two different things.”

Fry said she walks Riverwalk daily and the fishermen she encounters are nothing but respectful, clean and mindful of their surroundings.

“Cyclists who are a far more dangerous safety threat,” Fry said.

The city tweaked its proposal earlier this month to not include fishermen and target cast netters. But after further feedback from the public, council members backed Roff’s suggestion and voted 4-1 to table the proposal. Ward 1 Councilman Gene Gallo cast the dissenting vote..

Gallo was responsible for getting anglers removed from the proposed ban, but he supported a cast netting ban.

Ward 2 Councilman Gene Brown said it didn’t appear to be a big enough problem to warrant enacting a new law.

“I don’t want to take something away when there are more important issues we have (on Riverwalk) that aren’t as enforced as they should be,” he said.

Breaking News/Real Time Reporter Mark Young began his career in 1996 and has been with the Bradenton Herald since 2014. He has won more than a dozen awards over the years, including the coveted Lucy Morgan Award for In-Depth Reporting from the Florida Press Club and for beat reporting from the Society for Professional Journalists to name a few. His reporting experience is as diverse as the communities he covers.
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