On May 22, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife posted on their Facebook page that read in part that in September of 2017, their officers made a “significant over-limit bust on the captain of the commercial passenger fishing vessel, Red Rooster, out of San Diego Harbor.
“…. the vessel’s captain (Christian Andrew Cates), plead guilty to possession of fish illegally taken outside the state and importation of fish without declaration. He was sentenced to five days of public service work and $40,000 in fines, $37,000 of which has already been paid to the court.”
At the time, the Wildlife officers seized 199 fish over the legal limit (three daily bag limits per person) from the vessel upon its return to San Diego from a six-day trip into Mexican waters.
“$40,000 is way too much,” said Robert Peterson. “If Fish and Game truly understood how hard these long-range captains and crews work to not only ensure the fish stocks, but the environment as well, they might just rethink their fine.”
Peterson is a 50-year-old San Diegan that’s been sport-fishing, on the Red Rooster III for 33 years. He admits that on long-range fishing excursions, it’s hard to keep track of what each angler catches when the vessel docks back in San Diego. “Imagine 30 anglers all hooked up at the same time,” he said. “People are hooting and hollering, adrenaline is flowing and the crew is running around gaffing fish, untangling lines, supplying bait, making sure that everyone’s being safe and fish are laying on the deck. Then some might be afraid of not getting their fish, so they grab their tag and staple it on instead of waiting for the crew to do it for them.”
“The fine is probably about right,” said Teddy, a 37-year-old physicist from San Diego. “$40,000 for 200 fish means they got fined $200 per fish. It will definitely deter the average person from being over their limit.”
Teddy caught his first fish at two years old, and last year he reeled in a 7.5 lb. bass at Lake Murray.
“Putting the name of the Red Rooster III boat out there helps the captain,” Teddy said. “The next time I want to go on a chartered trip, I’m going to remember the name of that boat.”
When the Wildlife officers busted the Red Rooster III, they allowed each passenger to leave with their three daily bag limits worth of fish. They then seized the rest; which was 46 dorado, 96 yellowfin tuna and 57 yellowtail.
“The average person might look at this number and be appalled at that amount,” Peterson said, “but in reality that is not many at all. Consider, a six-day trip with about 30 passengers equates to one fish over limit per day. Now if this was a one-day trip and they were 199 fish over limit with thirty passengers then they would be over six fish per person over limit which is a different story. The captain who was fined in this incident makes this statement to his passengers: “if you are going to be embarrassed to take a picture of your fish when you get back to the dock, then you have no business keeping it.” I agree with him 100 percent.”
Many anglers online, including Peterson, say that this type of over-limit bust is a rare occurrence.
“This is actually the first I’ve heard of anyone getting caught for being over the limit,” Teddy said.
“[The San Diego] lieutenant stated the tip came from a passenger who wanted to remain anonymous,” said Captain Patrick Foy from Fish and Wildlife.
“If the person had a problem or concern, then why didn’t they go to the captain and express him or herself,” Peterson said. “I understand an anonymous tip when one might be dealing with some serious illegal action where they might find themselves in physical harm, but in a case like this, don’t hide behind the anonymity and if you believe in your cause then put your name by it.”
Last November, at Hurricane Bank (Mexico), Peterson caught a 230 lb. yellowfin tuna on the 105-foot Red Rooster III (it sleeps 30 anglers).