In matters of fishing, Maryland should start thinking like Georgia

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Our friend Jim Shepherd, who runs the Fishing Wire web page, passed along interesting details about the state of Georgia and how much it values recreational anglers. Wouldst that Maryland felt as passionate about the subject as the Peach State.

Maryland’s neighbor, Virginia, delivers freshwater fishing information that is kind of user-friendly and informative if you bother to go to the www.dgif.state.va.us web site and search for it. It’s better than  Maryland’s, but both states appear to be in the pockets of the fish netters when it comes to saltwater fishing. The commercial sector is treated as a sacred cow while recreational fishermen appear to be little more than a nuisance to both states’ regulatory bodies. It’s a sad fact even though hundreds of thousands of sport anglers bring far more money to state tax coffers and private businesses than the small number of professional watermen ever could.

Shepherd says that recreational fishing is a big business in Georgia, to which we can only say that fun fishing is big business everywhere. “According to [Georgia] state officials, the annual estimated economic impact is somewhere in the neighborhood of $1.9 billion dollars,” said the Fishing Wire. “That is serious money — even to banks and car companies who seem to have government-issued ATM cards to the U.S. Mint.”

But Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue says his state is still not properly capitalizing on fishing. In a friendly way he’s determined to use his administration to help reach into the wallets of even more sport fishermen by way of supporting more high entry fee  fishing contests.

Although I am against big-bucks bass fishing tournaments, there’s no denying that when properly run a lot of money can be pocketed by local businesses and state offices.

With that in mind, Perdue announced that Atlanta will host the 2010 Forrest Wood Cup, the championship of the huge professional FLW Tour that caters to bass tournament fishermen.

Georgia already has kicked off “Go Fish Georgia,” a push to establish the state as a national fishing destination by improving the quality of fishing in Georgia waters, improving access to lakes and rivers for fishing and increasing participation through promotion and marketing of Georgia’s exceptional fishing resources.

Plans call for a “Go Fish Georgia” visitors center and hatchery, also an 18-site bass fishing trail with mega-ramps to accommodate large fishing tournaments. The state and various cities pump nearly $10 million into mega-ramps to facilitate access to public fishing waters.

While I’m not in favor of mega cast-for-cash fishing contests, it would be nice if the states that don’t mind taking recreational anglers’ money for licenses, stamps, permits, special taxes, boat registrations and trailer tags — not to mention private businesses, such as charter fishing captains, guides, hotels, restaurants and tackle shops — would pay more attention to our needs.

Georgia has promised to improve fishing access to its waters, build new boat ramps and do other things, but in Maryland you’ll be hard-pressed to find a simple state-erected sign that says “Fishing Access” with an arrow pointing you in the right direction. There are few if any permanent metal signs, such as the ones you’ll see in North Carolina and even in Virginia, that plainly show the way to a public boat launching ramp and certain fishing waters and as far as I know there are no new public boat ramps being built to accommodate freshwater — for that matter also saltwater — anglers.

In Maryland, public fishing access often is treated as something to keep under wraps instead of the state being helpful and showing the way for its citizens. What a shame.

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