Surf Turf War Hits Huntington

Surfers and fisherman battle for the same slice of ocean


Surfers are notorious for jealously guarding their favorite spots, and the latest turf war is at the Huntington Beach Pier, where fishing lines and surfers are competing for the same slice of ocean, it was reported today.

``When you're catching a wave, those fishing lines are like a spider web ... it's kind of like you're dodging it,'' 23-year-old Huntington Beach resident Stephen Stemmer told the Orange County Register. ``And next thing you know you're caught up in a line.''

Stemmer said that some surfers have been hooked in the leg or foot and have had lines wrapped around their necks, and has asked the city to toss the fishermen out.


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Surfers paddle in alongside the pier because a current, called a tow out, helps pull the surfer to the break line. From there, they paddle away from the pier to catch wave. Stemmer told the Register the pier is a premier spot for experienced surfers who want a good ride.

However, some fisherman say they fish in shallower waters because the catch is better.

``I think what they're asking is unreasonable, they have the same ocean,'' Junior Cortez, a 17-year-old Santa Ana resident told the Register. ``This is where the fish feed and it's easier to catch (them).''

Huntington Beach resident Jose Llamas, 30, said the declining economy has drawn more fisherman to the area, heightening the possibility of a serious incident.

``Someone is going to get hurt,'' Llamas said. ``They need to make a rule; either tell the fishermen to fish only on the south side or tell the surfers to surf farther out. There are now a lot more people out here catching their food.''

Marine Biologist Camm Swift told the Register both groups are correct, in a way.

Pier pilings caked with mussels and other sea creatures attract fish to areas all around the pier. Certain fish are attracted to surf such as corvina and surf perch.

``It's (about) different kinds of fish,'' Swift said. ``The surf zone is kind of its own habitat. If you go farther out on the pier you get sharks, croaker and halibut.''

Marine Safety Officer Eric Ching said the pier and the water surrounding are designated as a multi-use area, and the two groups have to cope.

``The fishermen are responsible for their lines, and surfers are responsible for being aware of their surroundings,'' Ching said. ``It's kind of like, `Can't we all just get along?'''

Stemmer last year asked the City Council for help in getting caught up in fishing lines multiple times, one that resulted in him slicing his hand open so he could break free. He approached the council again at the Aug. 3 meeting to petition for fishing restrictions.

``(The city) makes fishermen pull the lines up for the U.S. Open (of Surfing) on the south side and when the Junior Lifeguards do their pier swim, so obviously they know it's a safety hazard,'' he said. ``So why aren't they concerned for our safety?

``It could be prevented but (the city) does nothing,'' he said. ``That's why I'm so heated about this.''

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