- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Under the broad brush of promising added sportfish restoration and management programs, the Maryland General Assembly has approved an increase in sportfishing license fees effective July 1. Ask your legislator how he voted and remember it when the next state elections come around.

The state’s Department of Natural Resources says the license fee increases actually were proposed by recreational fishing organizations that “recognized the need to restore and maintain sportfishing opportunities, which in Maryland results in an economic output of more than $1 billion.”

The recreational fishing organization that endorsed this license increase is the Maryland Saltwater Sportfishermen’s Association, the same group that conducts dead fish tournaments on the Chesapeake. As far as I’m concerned, it does not speak for me. Does it for you?

So now we’re going to hand the DNR some more funds although there are no guarantees that the money will be spent to enhance our sportfishing opportunities. If the DNR is so interested in enhancing our fishing why aren’t there 20 or 30 free public fishing piers along the shores of the Chesapeake Bay and some of its tidal rivers? Why aren’t there a host of public boat launching places on tidal and freshwater rivers? They’re doing this from North Carolina to Florida, but not in Maryland where the DNR has a long history of showing preference for commercial fish netters, while considering sport anglers little more than a nuisance.

Recreational fishing fees as of July 1 will cost $20.50 — up from $10 — for a yearly resident freshwater license ($30.50 for nonresidents or the same fee charged a Maryland resident by the nonresident’s home state); $15 for the resident and nonresident annual tidal water license; and $50 for the annual Consolidated Bay Sport Boat License, which is affixed to a boat registered in any state.

The fees for the short term recreational fishing licenses and trout stamp remain the same.

Animal rights in Texas — Who could have imagined that a state like Texas, where gun ownership and hunting is a long-standing tradition, now may be undergoing fundamental changes that will be welcomed by animal rights activists?

The Texas House of Representatives passed HB 2328, which rewrites animal cruelty statutes. No one I know has a problem with that. However, the bill’s language concerning animal cruelty statutes not only would protect domestic animals but also include previously exempted wildlife.

“Blurring the distinction between wildlife and domestic animals will leave sportsmen open to prosecution by animal cruelty statutes,” says the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance (USSA), a nationwide hunter advocacy group.

Currently, the legislation that was introduced by Rep. Beverly Woolley, Houston Republican, awaits action in the state Senate’s Criminal Justice Committee.

The bill doesn’t answer questions about wildlife management and feral animals and provides a way for animal rights activists to criminalize currently accepted activities. Current Texas statutes already provide reasonable ways for prosecuting animal cruelty, thus making changes in the law unnecessary.

New name, same job — They used to be called game wardens, but whether it’s a bit of political correctness or actual necessity, Virginia’s men in green who check our fishing and hunting licenses and sometimes arrest a scofflaw now be will known as conservation police officers. It has something to do with added duties by the game wardens, including occasional traffic stops of drunk drivers or drug traffickers. I’m too old to change now; they always will be game wardens as far as I’m concerned.

Fly and light tackle tournament — I’m against fishing tournaments, but I recognize that some of our readers enjoy them. With that in mind, the Coastal Conservation Association’s Kent Narrows Chapter will hold its fourth annual Fly Fishing and Light Tackle Tournament on June 2 at the Jetty at Kent Narrows. The tournament is an excellent opportunity to walk away with some bragging rights and prizes.

Any fly or light tackle gear can be used, and there will be no trolling and no live bait. The fishing boundaries are from Rock Hall to Cedar Point with fishing hours from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Entry fee: $30 an angler, but you must be a CCA member to participate. CCA membership is $25. For additional details or to register contact Ed Liccione at 410/827-4426 or Brooke MacDonald at 888/758-6580.

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

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