In the spring of 2019, several clients chartered an ocean fishing trip out of Coos Bay. They were promised trophy-size lingcod. They got a demonstration in illegal fishing practices.
Clients pay big money to catch big fish. This includes ocean fisheries where few people have a boat big enough to fish the ocean, and rely on commercial guides or charters instead. However, not all guides and charters necessarily play by the rules.
Consider the case of John Blanchard, 45, who owns Sharkey’s Charters in Coos Bay. He was recently charged with multiple fishing violations from a fishing trip he guided last spring. Here’s what happened:
He started his trophy lingcod fishing trip by working with clients to catch rockfish. He then filleted the rockfish and used the meat and carcasses to bait hooks to catch lingcod. However, it’s illegal to filet or mutilate rockfish in a way that makes it impossible to identify the size, sex or species of the fish.
Blanchard also did not present or disclose the rockfish used as bait to the ODFW fish checker as part of the client’s daily bag. On one particular trip he tossed the leftover rockfish overboard before returning to the marina. That practice is illegal and, depending on the circumstances, you could get a citation right along with your guide.
Rockfish are a sought-after delicacy. Many anglers book trips specifically to catch rockfish for the table.
What can you do to insure your guide doesn’t jeopardize your reputation by fishing illegally?
Here are some tips from the ODFW anti-poaching team and Cyndi Bolduc, the outfitter guide program coordinator for the Oregon Marine Board:
Review the Fishing Regulations, and brush up on the species of fish you’re are after, the legal (and illegal) catch methods, and dates the season is open. Yes, your guide should already know this but if you’re holding the rod, you should know, too.
You can check your guide’s standing with the Oregon Marine Board by going to their website. The easiest and most up-to-date way is to check the Oregon Marine Board online store and click on “Online Lookup” in the bottom right corner. Enter the guide’s name and then click on OG Information to see if their guide registration is active. You can also ask to see your guide’s registration card (paper or digitally on the phone).
Check online reviews of the guide or charter you’re thinking about hiring, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Learn how to identify what the fish you’re after looks like, where you’re likely to find them and something about the species. Not only does this help you to stay legal when you catch a big one, but it gives you something to chat about with the guide while you’re waiting for the bite.
As for Blanchard, he was charged with multiple fishing violations including aiding and counseling a wildlife offense, unlawful taking, and aiding in a wildlife crime. He was sentenced to 60 months bench probation and $1,000 in fines and restitution payable to the Turn In Poachers (TIP) Line. He maintains conditional guiding privileges.
Report a wildlife or habitat law violation or suspicious activity:
Yvonne Shaw is the ODFW anti-poaching campaign coordinator.