Last Summer, my family and friends decided to enjoy an in-city-vacation and camped out at St. Andrews State Park. The plan was simple, get a nice quiet spot while the post-spring-break-pre-summer-limbo-season kept the beaches empty, hit the shore during the Pompano fish run and spend the nights by the fire eating what we catch and having an all-around good time. We spent only a few bucks for the campsite, even fewer bucks for bait shrimp and sand fleas from Half Hitch Tackle, and within hours we were catching more huge Pompano than we could handle. We just cracked open some fold-out chairs, cast lines, waited and the lines danced like Muhammad Ali. We caught so much fish, we were able to spread the wealth and share some with other campers. It was a near-perfect time and, best of all, the fishing was free, both in cost and in need of a license.
On August 1st, the freedom to fish, as I did casting from the shore, will no longer exist. Starting on said date, a new and much debated shoreline fishing fee will go into effect forcing anglers as well as anyone who wishes to fish from bridges, docks, piers or structures attached to the shore, to pay $9 for the new license to do so. This fee, denounced by the likes of Representative Jimmy Patronis, was approved by the State Fishing and Wildlife Conservation Commission as a countermeasure against a federal license that had the potential to increase saltwater fees up to $25.00. Money generated by the new license, estimated at nearly a million dollars annually, will go towards protecting marine resources, research and law enforcement.
While nearly everyone will fall under the licensing umbrella, there are a few exceptions. If you are a senior, a child, disabled or carry a military license, the fee will be waived. One nice exception, for those who have paid to fish off the newly completed Dan Russell Pier on Front Beach Road, is that all the necessary fees have been paid for you. You pay to fish and the license is included. Also, if you are fishing with a non-mechanical device like a cane pole or are under government assistance you would not be required to pay the fee.
But for most of us, in only a week, gone will be the days of free shore fishing. So next season when the Pompano are running, I suppose I’ll have to run and get my wallet before a cast my line.
Edited by Jason Koertge
I just got off the phone with Representative Jimmy Patronis, who fought tooth and nail against this “revenue-grab” by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. A recent News Herald article quotes that he gets “hot under the collar” discussing this topic, and I found this to be very much true, and with great reason. “Some things people should just not have to pay for,” Patronis said. I agree, and I also agree that it’s more than that. This was a shady way for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission to generate revenue from people who largely go unheard when it comes to legislature matters, and I commend Jimmy for going to bat for us.
Two things really aggravate me about this.
1.) Why should I have to pay if I want to go throw a line in the water at a public beach, whether I catch something or not. I mean, it’s not all about the money. If I have a passion, I could scrounge up an extra $9, but why should I have to make an extra trip somewhere to make the payment? I, for example, don’t ever fish, but now if I want to, I have to make a trip somewhere and purchase a license, rather than just walk over to the beach with my son. This is a hit below the belt, a shady way to make an extra buck. I know the different agencies are hurting for money, but so is everyone else. This isn’t the time to start dreaming up new ways of charging citizens money.
2.) Why should I have to sacrifice my privacy just to go fishing. Why does the federal or state government need to know my name, address, phone number or email address just because I want to catch some dinner (not that I could catch anything ;-p). It’s like the whole DNA thing, what if I get caught up in some unfortunate circumstance that results in some felony charge when I didn’t do anything and they end up with MY DNA in THEIR database, then drop all charges. Why should I have to take a hit when it was someone else’s mistake? Look, I understand the need for data, I’m in the data collection business, but in my business, I PAY for the data I get, I don’t charge you for it. Imagine, if you will, if I charged you to sign up for my newsletter; what if I charged a usage fee for everyone that read pcbdaily? Would you like that? I would hate to have to justify that argument. I’m feeling guilty just thinking about it? But that’s the point, isn’t it? The government always seems to be doing things with a clear conscience that for the normal person, would inflict a pang of guilt in the center of their gut.
Representative Patronis said that he received a call from pollster the other day asking him about his fishing habits. I don’t think I should have to endure a phone call from some random pollster just because I want to fish off a public beach.
The point is that this was a senseless revenue grab by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. But, Representative Jimmy Patronis said this isn’t the end of the fight. He’s got some ideas to help solve this issue in the future.