When “free” isn’t free

By Candus Thomson, Outdoors
Baltimore Sun, June 18, 2010
So New York lawmakers and leaders of the Recreational Fishing Alliance are drooling all over themselves because the state Senate passed a bill to repeal its $10 saltwater fishing license and replace it with a free angler registry.
As Bugs Bunny would say, “What a bunch of maroons.”
Lucky for us, they put their stupidity in a press release for all to see.
“Residents should be able to partake in recreational saltwater fishing without being forced to purchase a license to do so,” said state Sen. Brian Foley (D-Irresponsible), the sponsor of the bill.
“A total repeal of licensing fee requirements is one step closer to reality thanks to Senator Foley’s efforts,” said U.S. Sen Charles Schumer (D-Pandering). “Now we need the Assembly to act immediately to keep fishing free.”
“We’re halfway there, and if we can now get the Assembly to understand this saltwater user fee is simply another unfair tax with misappropriated funds, perhaps we can see this unreasonable burden on the New York recreational fishing community lifted once and for all,” added Jim Hutchinson, of the Recreational Fishing Alliance.
Wrong, wrong and wrong.
Let’s see, we have a state senator from a bankrupt state and a U.S. senator from a bankrupt nation both saying people shouldn’t pay for what they use. And we have a group paid for by the fishing industry and based in New Jersey (busted budget, busted government) applauding irresponsible fiscal actions.
Any wonder why we’re in the fiscal mess we’re in?
Fishing isn’t free. Sure maybe it was in the good old days, when wagon trains rolled west, women cleaned clothes by beating them on rocks by ye old stream and everyone lost their teeth by the time they were 30.
And during those free and carefree fishing days, we overfished everything in sight.
Today, responsible fishing requires science-based regulations to protect species and the gear and manpower to back up those rules.
“The biggest challenge we face is the fight to reform and bring common sense and sound science into the fisheries management process, says James Donofrio, RFA founder, in a statement on the RFA website.
Last time I looked, that science stuff wasn’t free.
Running an angler registry isn’t free, either. Maybe Schumer can get BP to pay for it.
The license/registry is required by the federal government so that scientists can accurately assess how many fish and what types of fish are being caught each year. Maryland didn’t have a saltwater license, so the General Assembly this year–in the 11th hour of the session–approved one. Instead of the money going to the federal government next year to pay for the registry, the money will stay in Maryland and be used on Fisheries Service projects.
That’s being responsible.
Why do I care if Foley, Schumer and others are in a New York stupid state of mind?
Because Long Island anglers share migratory striped bass with the rest of us on the Eastern Seaboard. If N.Y. fisheries regulators are fiscally hamstrung, that isn’t a good thing for us in Maryland.
Schumer complained that the saltwater fishing license approved last year “places far too great a burden on Long Island anglers and charter boats who are already struggling day to day.”
Ummm, Chuck, you want fly fishermen in the Adirondacks or bass fishermen on Lake Champlain to pay for a SALTWATER license?
And $10 is a burden on someone who owns a boat on Long Island? Really?
Sadly, it’s just election-year pandering from Foley, a Long Island lawmaker who could easily be out of a job in November, and Schumer, who needs the spotlight like oxygen.
Send in the clowns. Don’t bother, they’re here.


After obtaining an undergraduate degree in Political Science from Loyola College in Maryland, Captain John McMurray served in the US Coast Guard for four years as a small-boat coxswain and marine-fisheries law enforcement officer. He was then recruited to become the first Executive Director of the Coastal Conservation Association New York. He is currently the Director of Grants Programs at the Norcross Wildlife Foundation in New York. He is the owner and primary operator of “One More Cast” Charters. John is a well known and well published outdoor writer, specializing in fisheries conservation issues. In 2006 John was awarded the Coastal Conservation Association New York Friend of Fisheries Conservation Award.

Posted in Articles, Conservation, Conservation News
4 comments on “When “free” isn’t free
  1. avatar Jim Timmins says:

    They should try to go to a Yankee’s game for free. I think they have their heads in a “dirty” place!

  2. avatar Pat says:

    Yes, but I’ve seen only one person in Brevard Co. FL with a license, me.

  3. avatar Bill Hubbard says:

    Well, how do you know if someone has or doesn’ have a license? I have one and my friends have them but none of us wear them in our hats or on our shirts.

  4. avatar Bill Hubbard says:

    You’ve got that right, Jim.

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