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Baiting the hook?

By Staff | Jun 17, 2021

If you plan to continue fishing from beneath one of Cape Coral’s bridges, get ready to buck up — the city has made casting a line there illegal and subject to a $50 fine.

Saying the city has been receiving complaints of left-behind litter and trespass onto abutting private properties, City Council passed Wednesday an ordinance that makes it illegal to “traverse” beneath, under or on the adjacent rights of way, including the shoreline, to certain bridges — ie. all of them unless there is a specific structure for pedestrians under the bridge.

How many complaints persuaded a Council majority?

Fifty-one daytime and 13 nighttime complaints last year; 44 and 20 respectively the year before, the bulk of which were related to two bridges, one at El Dorado Parkway, W. at Southwest 6th Avenue; the other at Old Burnt Store Road and Northwest 14th Terrace.

These were all complaints received, not just those related to fishing under the bridges, according to the Recreational Activities at City Bridges report Council received in May.

As residents in favor of the ban stated during public input this week, neither the complaints nor the issue are new. Council has, in the last dozen or so years, tackled it at least twice, but efforts to ban fishing both on and around city bridges failed each time.

Public protest from anglers citywide killed a fishing ban affecting 10 bridges in the northwest Cape in April 2012. A proposed fishing-from-bridges ban failed in 2018 as well.

Apparently the lesser ban of prohibiting fishing under bridges was a bit more palatable in a community that touts its water recreation.

But not to all on the elected board.

Council members Dan Sheppard and Robert Welsh cast the two dissenting votes agains the ban. Councilmember Rick Williams, who was absent, previously said he would not support the measure.

Councilmember Sheppard called it a feel-good ordinance that duplicates prohibitions already on the books. He added it does not address the core problem — not enough officers on the street to enforce existing laws, such as trespassing on private property or littering.

We’re going to agree with the dissenters on this one and we’re going to make a prediction anglers may wish to note: The complaints are not going to go away because the issue is and has been related to fishing from bridges, not just under them. Put another way, more anglers atop the bridges is not going to substantively mitigate the matter for those concerned about noise and litter. Nor is it, well, going to make them feel good about the matter.

Taken in hand with the top-side safety concerns outlined in the May Recreational Activities at City Bridges report, expect this one to come back again.

The ban on fishing from beneath the city’s bridge may just be the bait on the hook for those who likely would still prefer a total ban. Expect them to run with it.

–Breeze editorial