A Fishy Fishing Story at Lake Berryessa

A Fishy Fishing Story at Lake Berryessa

Undercover agents and all…plus a new Fishing Guide Policy from Reclamation

Say it's a beautiful day at the lake. Say you’re a long-time fishing guide at the lake. Say a nice young couple hired you to take them out fishing. Say they had a fun day and caught some fish. Say the couple thanked you for the trip, paid your fee in cash along with a nice tip. Say you drove them  back to your house with their fish in the live well of your boat to take some photos before putting the fish on ice in a cooler.

But when you pulled into your driveway a black SUV shot in right behind you, blocking your way out. Suddenly you were being interrogated by a local Fish and Wildlife Warden. Your fee and tip are confiscated. (They were marked bills.) You learn that the nice young couple are really undercover Fish & Wildlife agents! You get two tickets - one for not having your state fishing guide license, the other for transporting live fish from the launch ramp to your house.

Was this a new episode of CSI: Lake Berryessa? Was this fishing guide an evil genius behind a fish smuggling ring laying waste to the Lake Berryessa bass fishery? Or was it actually an egregious, and expensive, overreach by a state agency - a total waste of government time and money? Lake Berryessa residents are familiar with the last question since we’ve lived it at the hands of the Bureau of Reclamation for the last 18 years.

And why was this guide targeted? The Warden drives by the guide’s house almost every day - sometimes on his way in the evening to check returning boaters' fishing licenses at the nearby Recreation Area launch ramp. He has access to fishing guide licenses. If he checked that this guide had not renewed his license, he could simply knock on his door to remind him to do so.

Why all this drama? Why this guide, not all the other fishing guides on the lake?

And under what bureaucratic policy and budgetary guidelines would a Fish & Wildlife manager give two undercover agents a paid vacation on beautiful Lake Berryessa, as well as pay two additional wardens to sting someone who forgot to renew his fishing guide license?

And, ethically, how do two people lie about their motivation for that many hours? This was not a dangerous undercover operation against drug dealers or terrorists.

New Bureau of Reclamation Policy

Previously fishing guides did not need a permit from the Bureau of Reclamation to operate on Lake Berryessa. The guide had tried to get a permit many years ago when Janet Rogers was Park Manager. His check was returned saying he did not need a permit.

Some fishing guides who operated as sub-concessionaires at the resorts at that time, under contract to the resort owners, did pay a fee to the resort. Part of that fee went to Reclamation under the resort's concession contract. The guides themselves did not pay the BOR.

Since the new contracts with Markley Cove and Pleasure Cove prohibited sub-concessioners, there has been no requirement for fishing guides to have a permit from the BOR - just from the state.

This may change soon since Reclamation has just introduced a new policy regarding Guides and Outfitters. Although the new policy has only been implemented for boat rental businesses operating outside the recreation areas - one permit issued so far - it clearly applies to all fishing guides, and arguably to RV rental companies and other types of equipment rental companies whose customers use a Lake Berryessa Recreation Area.

The permit request form is: Use Authorization Application 7-2540 (02-2016), which includes Commercial Guiding & Outfitting as a use requiring this permit. The State of California’ definition is appropriate:

“Guide” means any person who is engaged in the business of packing or guiding, or, for compensation, assists another person in taking or attempting to take any bird, mammal, fish, amphibian, or reptile. 

“Guide” also includes any person who, for profit, transports other persons, their equipment, or both to or from hunting or fishing areas.

Reclamation officials did not respond to a Lake Berryessa News request for an implementation date for the new policy.

Use Authorization App edited-1

pKilkus@gmail.com                       © Peter Kilkus 2018