City Council approves changes to fishing regulations at Naples Pier
Naples City Council approved a resolution Wednesday restricting fishing at Naples Pier on Sundays in addition to a suite of changes to regulations at the city landmark meant to curb wildlife injuries.
Beyond prohibiting fishing from the Pier on Sundays, fishing is no longer permitted between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. daily, meaning from January to May next year, fishing is not allowed between 11 p.m. Saturday and 5 a.m. Monday.
“We’ve been working on this as a council for quite a long time, and I appreciate the public’s comments,” Mayor Teresa Heitmann said. “(Sunday restrictions are) a test pilot to see what we can to do to correct issues on busy days and giving (wildlife rescue) volunteers a rest too.”
From earlier: Board recommends changes to fishing rules at Naples Pier
Council unanimously passed most of the changes to the city ordinance governing regulations at the Pier.
These changes prohibit:
- Possession of fish hooks larger than 5/0
- Possession of hooks, lures and bait with two or more hooks sharing a single shank
- Using or possessing treble hooks, sabiki or multi-hook fishing rigs
- Fishing, or possessing fishing gear, between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.
- Leaving hooks and gear in the water unattended. Anglers must be physically present within 3 feet of the fishing rig
Changes to the ordinance, as well as the temporary resolution banning fishing on the Pier on Sundays, take effect Jan. 1.
Council members also changed parts of the same ordinance not related to fishing. They removed restrictions on using the Pier’s bathrooms to change clothes, swimming or boating within 150 feet of the pier and sleeping on the beach.
Council was spilt 5-2 when voting for the full-day restriction to fishing on Sundays. Council members Gary Price and Ted Blankenship voted against the closure, while Heitmann, Vice Mayor Terry Hutchison and council members Mike McCabe, Ray Christman and Paul Perry voted to approve the resolution.
“My concern is that if we are going to do this, I think we should do it on Monday,” Price said. “Sunday, for many families, is the only day they have to go out and enjoy the Pier. I will not support this if Sunday is the day, but I will support it if we can choose another day.”
Officers will educate anglers about the new rules
Naples Police Lt. Michael O’Reilly said officers will educate anglers about the new rules before handing out written warnings and citations.
“Whenever we have a statutory change, or in this case an ordinance change, we conducted an extensive period of education and verbal warnings,” O’Reilly said. “After a predetermined time, we will then possibly use written warnings, but most likely at that point, we would go to the first stage of citing.”
First offenses carry a $100 fine, and a second offense by the same individual for the same violation would carry a $200 to $500 with the possibility of arrest, he said. Nobody has ever reached that phase of repeated violations so far, he said.
The changes came about after the Conservancy of Southwest Florida and its von Arx Wildlife Hospital proposed the changes to council in June.
Joanna Fitzgerald, director at von Arx Wildlife Hospital, reported nearly 200 injured pelicans were brought to the wildlife hospital last year after becoming tangled and hooked by fishing gear.
Fitzgerald told councilors in June that while pelicans have become the “poster bird” for injuries at the pier, calls come in about other shorebirds as well as turtles and dolphins.
“Our budget can’t sustain these numbers of injured animals,” Fitzgerald said. “Over $70,000 is contributed by the Conservancy to rehabilitate injured animals — and that’s actually just pelican numbers. That’s not including any other species.”
Several Conservancy volunteers spoke in favor of the changes Wednesday.
Scott Jacobs, who said he has volunteered at von Arx Wildlife Hospital for eight years, said the restrictions are reasonable given that Naples is the crossroads to internationally significant environmental sanctuaries such as Everglades National Park and Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary.
“A large number of tourists are in Naples because of the environmental opportunities available,” Jacobs said. “And the fishing activities at the Naples Pier are in conflict with the visitor experience of a forward-thinking environmental community.”
Other members of the public asked council to avoid restricting fishing on the Pier every Sunday.
Blake Brickzin said he grew up fishing on the Pier and that closing it on Sundays would ruin the chances of children to learn about fishing.
“I would really try and not push for Sunday, maybe a Monday. If you want to have a better impact and still save this beautiful monument for kids, open it on Sundays,” Brickzin said. “Maybe push the enforcement on Sundays. Have somebody standing out there and saying, ‘This is how you handle a pelican. This is how you treat a pelican.’ This is a good way for kids to grow up and learn about handling wildlife.”
City council has asked for an update once the pilot program is complete to determine its effectiveness.
If successful, council members will have to once again adopt a resolution for a Sunday closure.
Karl Schneider is a Naples Daily News reporter. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @karlstartswithk