Three fishermen rescued on Sonoma Coast as groundfish season begins

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Three fishermen out on the ocean for opening day of the recreational groundfish season required rescue after running into trouble Saturday morning, emergency personnel said.

The anglers, two Sacramento men whose Zodiac boat lost power and a kayaker whose watercraft took on water, were all brought ashore without injury in rescues north of Timber Cove, a state park officer said.

The incidents occurred almost simultaneously, when the kayaker, a Santa Rosa man, radioed the Coast Guard for help at an area near Stillwater Cove shortly before 9 a.m.

Joe Stoffers, a state parks peace officer/lifeguard, was on patrol with a personal rescue watercraft and found the kayaker hanging onto the sit-on-top boat, which was sitting low in the water but had not sunk completely.

The victim, whose name was not available, was wearing a wetsuit and a life jacket, and had an emergency Coast Guard radio, as well, Stoffers said.

The lifeguard was able to get the man onto the back of his watercraft and ashore before heading off to find the two men in the Zodiac closer to Ocean Cove.

The Sonoma County sheriff’s helicopter assisted in locating the vessel.

“Two big guys in a very small, tiny Zodiac,” said Stoffers.

“They couldn’t go anywhere with the two little oars that they had.”

Stoffers said the beginning of ocean-fishing season, an increasingly popular sport, and good ocean conditions brought lots of people out to the coast Saturday.

But emergencies, as the kayaker found out, can happen any time, and it’s important to be prepared with the proper safety equipment, as the paddler was, Stoffers said.

“I saw lots of people out there today without that equipment, and it’s really important that they’re ready for full submersion if their boat goes under. And just having a way to communicate, too,” he said.

You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 521-5249 or On Twitter @MaryCallahanB.

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