State fishing for a saltwater license fee

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is looking to find out if anglers will pay to fish saltwater like they do fresh. Anglers have until Sept. 29 to speak up.

Those who have signed up for the no-fee marine recreational fishing registry, which serves as the current “license” to fish salt water, received a survey via email titled “We Need Your Opinion on a Recreational Saltwater Fishing License,” with until Sept. 29 to respond. The introduction to the survey states: “The [DEC] is seeking feedback from anglers regarding saltwater fishing licenses. Currently, 23 of the 26 U.S. coastal states have a fee-based license for saltwater fishing that is used to enhance angling opportunities and support management of key species. The State is exploring the potential for a similar license in New York to provide revenue to enhance high-quality recreational saltwater fishing.”

The anonymous survey begins with questions similar to other marine surveys that saltwater anglers receive annually. It asks for the number of fishing trips taken in a year. It also asks for modes used to fish, including piers, jetties, boats and surfcasting or party boat options.

The survey then asks, “if New York State were to implement a fee-based Saltwater Fishing License, how would you most prefer revenue from the license be used?” It lists the following options: increase fishing access (new and improved piers, ramps, parking, etc.), support artificial reef development, strengthen law enforcement to ensure compliance with fishing rules, broaden marine fishing education and outreach initiatives, enhance shoreline and marine habitat and conduct fisheries research important for recreational species. The survey asks for second choices of the same options in the following question. Finally comes the central question — does the angler support a fee-based saltwater fishing license in New York? The survey notes that it would cost a minimum of $10 per year.

The state enacted a $10 saltwater license fee before in 2009. East End towns fought and, as a result, won to have it rescinded. The state Legislature later repealed the controversial license in 2011 and replaced it with the no-fee recreational marine fishing registry. 

To fish legally at this time, anglers add their names to the registry annually. According to the DEC website, it created the registry for the purpose of collecting data from New York anglers. The state uses the data for regulatory assessments and adds it to the national database. “The database helps in efficiently obtaining fishing activity information, which is vital in setting quotas, size and bag limits, and fishing seasons each year,” the site states.

The registry is for anglers 16 or older who fish for saltwater species in the marine and coastal district. The DEC defines that as ocean waters within 3 miles from the state’s coast. That area includes the Atlantic Ocean, Long Island Sound and embayments. Patrons of party charter fishing boats do not have to register, as they fall under the captains’ state licenses.