The weather report said that it will top 40 degrees today, so I’m going to fly fish on the first day of the New Year.
Last night as the clock struck 12, my 2009 fishing license turned into the proverbial pumpkin, so I went online to buy and print a 2010 license. Online licensing is a great feature, and I’ve been able to use in other states for last-minute fishing trips.
As I was purchasing my license, I noticed that a Connecticut inland fishing license, which cost $20 in 2009, jumped to $40. Aside from the sticker shock, I have some concerns.
First of all, any increase of this magnitude is going to discourage many from purchasing fishing or hunting licenses. This includes parents that would normally take their kids for family outings. There are also a number of out-of-state anglers that are already paying twice the in-state rate for a Connecticut fishing license. When they stop coming, local sales of tackle, gas, food, lodging and other items will drop as well. Undoubtedly poaching will also increase from those who will take the risk of not shelling out $40 for a license.
Second, the funds collected from licenses go to the state general fund, not the DEP, which, among other things operates the fish hatcheries and stocking trucks. So where are these additional dollars going? Your guess is as good as mine.
Lastly, how could an increase of this magnitude go unnoticed and without protest? Here’s how. Anglers and hunters typically don’t do a good job of lobbying state or national politicians on issues that matter to us. We’re happy to attend outdoor trade shows or join conservation groups such as Trout Unlimited, but when it comes uniting around issues such as fee increases or season restrictions, we do a lousy job. This is surprising given the number of social clubs dedicated to angling and hunting, which have so much potential to become grass-roots political watchdogs.
The sad part of this situation is that politicians vote based on what they hear from their constituents, and a simple phone call, email, or even a petition could help us avoid costly and uncontested fee increases.
Emails to my state senator and representative have already gone out. You should think about doing the same before fees and licenses become out of reach for all of us.