- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Among Republican voters in Maryland, the standing joke is that whenever Democrats are in charge, taxes will rise. That bit of humor might become a stark reality if state Sen. John C. Astle, Anne Arundel Democrat, has his way.

Astle wants to reach into Maryland anglers’ pockets and nearly double fishing license fees — all under the pretense that it will help future fisheries by way of financing “the scientific investigation, protection, propagation and management of non-tidal finfish.”

In a confusing, mind-boggling and lengthy Senate Bill 1012, Astle appears to go in two different directions, addressing his bill to nontidal fish species in one part, then making it all-inclusive to add the Chesapeake Bay fishery, promising his bill would show that robust fishing resources are critical to the economy of the state and “vital to a treasured heritage and way of life.”

Trust me, when Astle talks about treasured heritage and a way of life, he’s not referring to a kid standing hip-deep in a trout stream. No, he’s talking about the commercial fish netters in the state that for some reason always are referred to as being part of a rich tradition. Considering the sad state that a number of commercially sought fish species are in, it’s not a tradition that should be a point of pride.

At any rate, Senate Bill 1012 would want a task force on fishery management that should, of course, include the Secretary of Natural Resources but also gubernatorial appointed representatives from the Chesapeake Guides Association, Coastal Conservation Association, Charter Boat Association, Watermen’s Association (commercial fish netters), Aquatic Resources Coalition, communities that rely on fishing for their local economies (does that mean commercial fishing?) and peer review panels that, no matter how nicely it’s put, would have no more authority than the aforementioned task force. In the end, the Maryland DNR calls all the shots. And it is not in the habit of listening to task forces and peer review groups.

Here’s what would happen if this ill-begotten legislation becomes reality: A resident annual fishing license would climb from $10.50 to $20.50; nonresident fees would jump from $20.50 to $30.50 or a fee equal to what Marylanders are charged in the nonresident’s home state. The Chesapeake Bay boat license would climb from $40 to $50.

I could not find a section in the bill that said commercial licenses would be raised as well, but if the bill’s purpose is to optimize the yield of fishery resources for “the benefit of all citizens of the state,” I would hope they would be included in this attempted robbery of the tax payers.

If you think that license increases aren’t new taxes, think again. A rose by any other name is still a rose. Only in this case, it’s stinkweed.

Somebody, please, show Sen. Astle’s bill the door.

Learn how to fish reservoirs — Set aside Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World in Arundel Mills Shopping Center will have a free seminar on how to fish Liberty, Prettyboy and Loch Raven reservoirs in the general Baltimore area. You can learn about which waters have largemouth bass, northern pike, tiger muskellunge, walleyes, yellow perch, white perch, rock bass, stripers and rainbow trout. (A 47-pound striped bass was caught in Liberty Reservoir a few years ago, and in the 1970s a smallmouth bass record of 81/4 pounds also came from Liberty.)

Members of the Electric Bass Anglers Fishing Club will be on hand to reveal fishing secrets of the impoundments. Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World can be reached via I-97 to exit 10 (Route 100), near Hanover, Md.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: [email protected]washingtontimes.com.

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