Down East 2013 ©
Thanks to an intensive month-long lobbying effort by the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine aided by a few key legislators, freshwater anglers will not have to purchase a new, separate saltwater fishing license.
The decisive vote came in the Maine Senate at 8:30 p.m. on March 25, after Democratic senators emerged from a caucus with an agreement to support a substantial amendment to the bill. The amendment also won the support of SAM.
The amendment would not have been successful if eight Democratic senators and all but one Republican senator had not been strongly opposed to the bill. That opposition prevented the bill’s supporters from advancing their proposal and forced them to reluctantly agree to major changes.
The bill remained tabled for two weeks in the Senate, while a dozen or more supporters of the saltwater license turned out daily to push for their bill, including lobstermen, clam diggers, the Coastal Conservation Association, the Natural Resources Council of Maine, and leaders of the Department of Marine Resources.
SAM worked closely with Senator David Trahan and Representatives Jon McKane and Kerri Prescott to defeat the bill.
The final amended version of the bill got us 90 percent of what we wanted, although most Republicans, including Trahan, McKane, and Prescott, opposed the amended bill on final passage.
While we would have preferred no action at all by the legislature, we are pleased that most anglers will not have to register or buy a license to fish in saltwater. If this bill had not been enacted, anglers who fished for migratory fish in tidal water or outside the three-mile limit would have had to register with and pay a federal agency beginning in 2010.
This law takes effect on January 1, 2011.
Resident and nonresident anglers who purchase a fishing license from the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife will not have to register or pay any fee to fish in saltwater. When these anglers purchase their freshwater fishing license, they will check a box on their license application if they want to fish in saltwater..
Saltwater anglers who do not purchase a DIF&W fishing license will have to register with the Department of Marine Resources. The registration is free, but an agent fee must be paid ($1 if registering directly with DMR, $2 if registering with a licensing agent). We’re assuming that DMR will use DIF&W’s MOSES online system and licensing agents, but that is not required by the law.
The names, mailing addresses, and telephone numbers of those who check the DIF&W license box to fish in saltwater or who register with DMR will be given to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to be used for federal surveys of saltwater anglers.
Saltwater anglers who do not purchase a DIF&W fishing license will have to purchase a “striped bass endorsement” to fish for or possess striped bass. The annual fee for this endorsement is $5 for a resident and $15 for a nonresident. Anglers seventy years of age or older may purchase a lifetime striper endorsement for $10, but must renew that endorsement (for free) each year. Henceforth, we will call the endorsement a license.
In addition to DIF&W licensed anglers, the following will not have to register with DMR or purchase the striper license:
a) anglers under 16 years of age;
b) clients in a boat captained by a guide who has purchased a $50 commercial operator’s license;
c) anglers renting a smelt fishing shack from an operator who has purchased a $50 commercial operator’s license;
d) a person with a disability, defined as a person who is physically or mentally incapacitated as determined by DMR’s commissioner
e) a disabled veteran, defined as a veteran of the Armed Forces of the United States who has a service-connected disability as determined by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs;
f) an angler with a New Hampshire saltwater fishing license who is fishing along the southern border to Cape Neddick;
g) all anglers fishing on July 4, Labor Day weekend, or Memorial Day weekend.
The money raised from the striper license and commercial operators’ license go into the “Marine Recreation Fishing Conservation and Management Fund” and may be spent to pay for the registry and “for research and conservation efforts related to the saltwater recreational fishery.” DMR reported that it plans to use the money to fill existing positions in the department that are now vacant and unfunded or will be vacant and unfunded in the next fiscal year and to purchase two boats for the Marine Patrol. The exemption provided to DIF&W licensees by a last-minute amendment to the bill sharply reduced the amount of money DMR hoped to raise in the initial proposal.