Down East 2013 ©
Many saltwater anglers are confused by Maine’s new registration requirements. While relief may be on the way for 2012 as the legislature considers several bills that would change the registry law enacted just last year, here’s what you must do for 2011.
The good news is that anglers who purchase a fishing license from the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife will not have to pay a fee to register to fish in saltwater. The 2011 inland fishing license application asks applicants if they fished in saltwater the previous year. Answer yes and you’re all set to fish for free in saltwater in 2011.
Saltwater anglers who do not purchase an IF&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). DMR is in the process of identifying and designating its own licensing agents rather than using all of IF&W’s agents, an inexplicable decision to me. So the easiest way to register is at DMR’s Web site. Let’s hope that sometime soon the department will announce its agents.
Resident saltwater anglers who do not purchase an IF&W fishing license will also have to purchase a “striped bass endorsement” to fish for or possess striped bass. And yes, the word “endorsement” is a clever substitute for “license.”
The annual fee for this endorsement is $5 for a resident and $15 for a nonresident. Anglers 70 years of age or older may purchase a lifetime striper endorsement for $10, but must renew that endorsement (for free) each year. It’s unclear at this point how and where seniors can do that.
DMR has also come up with a novel and unprecedented rule that requires anyone who might catch a striped bass unintentionally, while fishing for other species such as mackerel, to buy the striper endorsement. This is an outrageous requirement that should be challenged.
One section of the new law exempts nonresidents who purchase an inland license from having to purchase the striper endorsement, while another section says they must. Not surprisingly, DMR has chosen to require all nonresidents to purchase the striper endorsement, even if they purchase an inland fishing license.
In addition to IF&W licensed anglers, the following will not have to register with DMR or purchase the striper license: anglers under 16 years of age; clients in a boat captained by a guide who has purchased a $50 commercial operator’s license; anglers renting a smelt fishing shack from an operator who has purchased a $50 commercial operator’s license; a person with a disability, defined as a person who is physically or mentally incapacitates as determined by DMR’s commissioner; 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; an angler with a New Hampshire saltwater fishing license who is fishing along the southern border to Cape Neddick; all anglers fishing on July 4, Labor Day weekend, or Memorial Day weekend.
If the legislature had not acted last session, all anglers who fish for migratory fish in tidal water or outside the 3-mile limit would have had to register with and pay $15 to the feds.
As the lobbyist for the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine last session, I fought hard to win the free registry for fresh-water anglers, but was disappointed we couldn’t do the same for those who only fish in the saltwater.
Maine’s system exempts all anglers from having to register and pay the feds and makes the registration free for most saltwater anglers. The names, mailing addresses, and telephone numbers of those who purchase a IF&W fishing license and report that they fish 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.
The saltwater registry rules published by the Department of Marine Resources can be found at http://www.maine.gov/dmr/rulemaking/85.pdf . Among other things, the rules define disabled anglers.
Striper anglers should also be familiar with other new rules, including a requirement that circle hooks be used when fishing with bait. The new striper rules can be found at http://www.maine.gov/dmr/rulemaking/42.pdf .
Sometime soon I’ll report on four legislative bills that could change all of this. But for 2011, if you fish in the saltwater, these will be the rules. Good luck!