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Fishing belongs on the bridge, but the experience needs to be improved for fishers, the community and visitors.
And the bridge might not be the only place to improve the fishing experience, either.
The Ketchikan City Council declined this week to ban fishing off the Stedman Street bridge.
The question of a ban has been brought up at least a couple of times in recent years. The main concern has been the mess left as a result of fishers cleaning fish, which happens to leave blood and fish entrails on the bridge's sidewalk where the fishers stand and reel in their catches. The language of a few fishers also has raised concerns, too; it's offensive and not exactly clean itself.
The Council presented its answer to whether fishing would continue to be allowed. But, it could be expanded upon. For example, at the Council table, the possibility of installing a fish-cleaning station at the bridge came up. That's a reasonable idea. It takes care of the mess on the sidewalk as long as the fishers use it, which if they knew that the use was the only thing that stood between continued fishing and a ban of fishing from the bridge, they likely would use it.
The kids and others enjoy the bridge-fishing experience. With Ketchikan's fishing focus and history, it seems like not allowing the fishing would be like not allowing fish to feed. It's what kids — as well as adults — do here. Sometimes after a hard day's work, a man can be found taking his son down to the bridge to fish in the evening. Other times it's kids fishing off the docks during the day instead of doing any number of other things that adults might not like them to do.
It might not be the kids spouting the offensive language, either; it could be adults. But, regardless of whom is speaking as to embarrass the community, particularly in front of tourists, they could individually be banned from the bridge if they continued to spout in such a manner. The other fishers, working with the Ketchikan Police Department, could clean up the language at the bridge in no time at all.
Once again, the fishers behaving themselves and wanting to continue bridge fishing would be inclined toward assisting police if they knew that the possibility of a ban existed. A ban is likely to be brought up another day if what's spoken isn't fit for decent people.
The language is a concern because it is in the middle of tourist traffic, but the fishing mess extends to the docks where the cruise ships tie up. Locals and visitors fish off the docks after the ships leave, and blood and mess is left as a result of cleaning fish.
The Council heard the idea of the using head-tax money generated by the cruise industry to pay for fish-cleaning stands and their installation. Not only because tourists occasionally fish off the bridge, but also because of the fishing off the docks, it appears to be a reasonable suggestion.
Blood on the sidewalks doesn't leave such a great impression on locals or visitors. It isn't pleasant to walk through for others who use the sidewalks. It and the other messiness is slippery. Cleaning stations could be located in appropriate spots, and simply will be another point of interest for the tourists and a useful item for them and locals alike.
Between the fishers and the city, fishing from the Stedman Street bridge can continue to be a K-town tradition.