Parks Officials Say Fishing Ban Bayshore Boulevard USA

Parks Officials Say Fishing Ban A Keeper By ELLEN GEDALIUS egedalius@tampatrib.com

TAMPA – Keep the bait and fishing rod off Bayshore Boulevard.
Citing safety concerns, Tampa’s parks and recreation department will recommend to city council members Thursday that they retain the rule prohibiting fishing on the bayfront park. Department officials fear fishing lines could entangle bikers and joggers.

“You’re talking a big, long fishing pole and casting it behind your head,” said Linda Carlo, parks department spokeswoman. “You can hit somebody.”

The issue surfaced after former Hillsborough County Commissioner Jan Platt – an angler in her own right – heard about a lawyer who was stopped by police while fishing along Bayshore. Platt asked the city whether fishing there was illegal and eventually was told it is.

That prompted Councilman John Dingfelder last month to ask city staff to consider tweaking the ordinance, perhaps allowing fishing on some parts of Bayshore.

“I’m not advocating necessarily that we open up the Bayshore sidewalk to fishing, because currently it’s illegal,” Dingfelder said in April. “But there are other parts, including Marjorie Park basin, where we don’t allow fishing, and I’m sitting there scratching my head; that looks like a perfect place. If the fish want to go there, maybe we ought to allow fishing.”

Carlo said Bayshore was designed for people to walk, jog and ride bicycles. Anglers bring bait boxes and coolers. She questions where they would place their equipment without blocking the path of others using the park.

Though the safety concern was paramount to the parks department, Platt said, “There are a lot of things going on on Bayshore right now that could be safety issues.”

South Tampa resident and angler Erin O’Brien organized a protest last month on Bay to Bay and Bayshore boulevards. O’Brien usually fishes on Picnic Island, but the realization that fishing on Bayshore is illegal stirred her to action.

“Everybody is a little bit smarter than they give us credit for,” said O’Brien, who has been fishing since she was 5. “I just think we can share it.”

Kat Alley has been fishing on Bayshore near Rome Avenue since 1962.

“Everyone I know is very responsible,” Alley said. “We wouldn’t even dream of casting without looking behind us.”

Fishing is permitted on Ballast Point Pier, where people also walk. Alley said a walker could just as easily be injured there as on Bayshore.

Fishing on Bayshore comes with a fine: a $67 citation for Florida residents and $85 for non-Floridians.

“I don’t want to get arrested or get a ticket,” Alley said. “I don’t know if I will fish or not. I would say probably not because I’m a law-abiding citizen.”

Platt said the majority of people she sees fishing are young.

“I don’t think they should be faced with the police saying they’re breaking the law,” Platt said. “It’s going to make young people potential lawbreakers at a young age.”

Carlo said the department likely will post signs on Bayshore, reminding people that fishing is not allowed between Gandy Boulevard and Platt Street Bridge. Fishing also is not allowed from the Platt Street Bridge, Davis Islands Bridge, Marjorie Park Yacht Basin, municipal boat slips and landings along Bayshore. Carlo said she was unaware of marinas that allow fishing.

Fishing is permitted at several spots in the city, including Ballast Point Pier, Picnic Island Pier, Al Lopez Park and Bobby Hicks Park.

Reporter Ellen Gedalius can be reached at (813) 259-7679.

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