Fishermen, some ‘looking for a fight,’ clog marina

Anglers fishing from boats spark ‘drama’ by obstructing navigation, clashing with tenants

ANGLERS in the red boat (main photo) were fishing in the middle of the marina channel Sunday, while the ones in the white boat (inset) were fishing very close to docked boats. The problem, officials said, is that fishermen are obstructing navigation in the tight confines of the marina. Photos by Bill Schanen IV
By 
KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Ozaukee Press staff

Fishermen lured by spawning salmon flock to the Port Washington waterfront at this time every year, but they’ve recently taken it to a new level that has sparked clashes with boaters and caused “a lot of drama,” officials said.

Anglers fishing from boats, some of them even trolling, in the tight confines of the marina are obstructing other vessels and in some cases letting other boaters know in crude terms that they don’t care.

It was so bad that the marina staff called Assistant Harbormaster Lisa Rathke who called Port police to talk to the fishermen Sunday morning. 

Police Chief Kevin Hingiss said that after the officer talked to the fishermen this weekend, they cooperated and moved on.

The situation caused “a lot of drama,” Harbor Commission member Sue Knauer told the group Monday.

“It was crazy. They were six feet from my boat looking at me,” she said. “They wouldn’t move. They said we have every right to be here and fish here.”

But the problem, she said, is that they are impeding navigation, something that isn’t allowed in Wisconsin.

“It’s hard enough to maneuver around. They anchor in the fairway. They’re sitting in the middle and they don’t move,” Knauer said. “It was like a big game. One guy, it was like he was looking for a fight.

“It was just unbelievable.”

Knauer isn’t the only person shocked by the fishermen.

Another marina tenant, who asked that he not be identified for fear of retribution, said he was coming into the marina Saturday when an angler fishing from a boat in the marina channel between the inner and outer harbor caused a logjam with an outgoing boat. 

The tenant said he had to put his boat into reverse because there wasn’t room for him to pass, allowed the outgoing boat to pass and then yelled at the fisherman, telling him “This isn’t a good place to be fishing.”

The fisherman turned his back, the tenant said. When he got closer, he said he asked the fisherman, “You’re going to ignore me?”

“He turned around and began to assail me with derogatory terms,” the tenant said. “He told me he had the right to be there. He kept going on and on. He was harassing me.”

It was such a loud exchange, he said, that the fishermen on the shore “were chuckling.”

After he docked, the tenant said, he talked to other boaters who said they had the same problem with the fisherman, who he said came within feet of other boats.

“It upset me. They have a right to fish in the inner harbor, but they’re supposed to stay out of navigation areas,” he said. “When I’m coming into the harbor, the last thing I need is three or four vessels that I have to fight my way through and weave my way to the dock.”

The tenant said this is the first time he’s had such an experience here.

“I’ve had a boat since 2000 and I’ve never seen anything like this before,” he said. “You’ve got 20, 30 of these boats and it makes it difficult to maneuver.”

The tenant stressed that not every fisherman causes issues.

“That one guy ruined it for a lot of people,” he said.  “It’s sad. I want to coexist with the fishermen.”

Harbormaster Dennis Cherny said this is the first year they’ve had this issue at the marina.

“In all the years I’ve been here, we’ve never had this,” he said. “It’s a phenomenon all the sudden. There’s a lot of fishing going on in the harbor. The fishermen are basically blocking the entry channel.

“They don’t move, and they’re obstructing the channel.”

The problem isn’t bad during the week, Cherny said, but on the weekend there’s so much traffic that it’s difficult for boats to maneuver properly if people are fishing from boats in the inner harbor.

“I think it’s just a matter of education,” Cherny said. “You can sit there and fish if you’re not obstructing other boats.”

Cherny said he’s asked the Department of Natural Resources warden to patrol the harbor in the coming weeks to try and head off any further issues.

Hingiss said this incident was the first of its kind, although he added that police have had to deal with fights and disagreements between fishermen over territory in the parks in the past.

“We haven’t had much of that this year,” he said.

“It’s sad because we’re a fishing community,” Rathke said. “We love our fishermen. It’s sad when a few bad eggs spoil it.”

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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