Head: Over limits in Mexico? The math ain’t that hard.
Dock Totals May 20 – May 26: 2,227 anglers aboard 93 boats out of San Diego landings this past week caught 24 bluefin tuna, 645 yellowtail, 135 calico bass, 145 sand bass, 2,811 rockfish, 729 whitefish, 13 lingcod, 6 bonito, 368 sculpin, 227 sanddab, 26 sheephead, 5 bocaccio, 7 halibut, 14 barracuda, 6 halfmoon, 5 white seabass (released), 1 mako shark, and 1 bat ray.
Saltwater: What might seem a no-brainer is not always so: Limits seem to be an issue at times in the recreational fishing world, even among those that should know. The venerable San Diego sportfishing vessel Red Rooster III was cited for over limits upon their return from a six-day excursion into Mexican waters last year and it finally settled this month with a fine. It would seem a simple thing; there is a number of anglers, the species caught, and the total amount of days fishing. Let’s take a look at how a seasoned crew might wind up on the receiving end of an over-limit fine.
First, we need to know that regardless of trip length, all long-range trip catches are limited to three days total per angler when fishing in Mexican waters. Next, know that the limit per species vary, and that matters. Here are the reglas per SAGARPA, the Mexican fishing agency:
1) No more than ten total fish per angler, per day, may be kept.
2) No more than five fish total of any one species, per angler, per day, may be kept.
3) In the case of marlin, sailfish, swordfish, shark and grouper (giant seabass)), the limit will be one fish per angler per day, which is equivalent to five fish allowed per species toward the daily limit.
4) In the case of dorado, roosterfish, bluefin tuna or gulf grouper, no more than two fish may be kept per angler per day, which is equivalent to five fish allowed per species toward the daily limit.
Confused yet? Seems simple enough — catch five yellowtail or yellowfin tuna and two dorado or two bluefin tuna, and you have five of one species and two of another equaling five for your daily limit of ten fish. But wait a minute. If two dorado or bluefin tuna equal five, then does one of either equal two and a half? No, one dorado, roosterfish, gulf grouper or bluefin tuna still equals five fish. This can pose a problem on multi-day trips, but in truth — regardless of each day’s fishing — the limit is usually considered the total per angler allowed, which would be, at most, thirty fish, with no more than fifteen of any one species represented. This is really the only way the rules can be enforced.
So, easy-peasy, a 30 fish total per angler. But add in a couple dorado per day, and now your number drops substantially. If you kept six dorado, you can now only have 21 total fish. If bluefin tuna are biting along with the yellowtail and dorado, then it can get tricky; let’s say you have two yellowtail in the bag, now you catch a bluefin. Okay, you can still catch another bluefin and a few more yellowtail, but what about a dorado? Nope, that one bluefin doesn’t allow for one dorado. Just one bluefin tuna, one dorado, and one of any other species can be considered ‘over limits’, as the bluefin and dorado, whether one or two of each, now count as ten fish, your total allowance for the day. So, if you have a bluefin and a dorado, you can now only keep another bluefin and another dorado, for a total of four fish.
With the deck sometimes pell-mell with the activity of twenty-five anglers in a wide open and mixed bite, at the end of the day one can see how a crew might have allowed over-limits to be boated. But in long-range fishing that’s one day of many, and when you take into account that the crew adds toward a fixed total for three days, regardless of trip length, you have to acknowledge that there is a problem. If you have boat limits for two days and two days left to fish, you might be coming in early. I don’t remember hearing of a long-range vessel coming in days early from a 10-day trip due to limits in the hold.
This, from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife: “When wildlife officers boarded the vessel, they were met with cooperation of the crew and captain and an admission of the over-limits. Wildlife officers allowed each passenger to leave with possession of their three daily bag limits worth of fish, then seized the rest. The over-limits of fish were separated and counted by species. Wildlife officers seized 96 yellowfin tuna, 46 dorado, and 57 yellowtail — totaling 199 fish over the legal possession limits of three daily bag limits. The September 2017 case was settled in recent weeks when the vessel’s captain 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.
The fine was substantial at forty thousand dollars, but the real risk was losing the opportunity to fish in some of the finest pelagic fisheries in the world.
Fish Plants: June 1, Santee Lakes, catfish (1,000), June 4, Jennings, catfish (1,200)