Maine Free Saltwater Registry Nears Enactment
A free Maine saltwater angler registry may take its final step to enactment on June 7 in the Senate, after the Maine House of Representatives set aside a spirited and stubborn attempt by Rep. Jon McCain to derail it.
The House gave final approval to the free registry bill on June 6. The Senate endorsed the bill in several earlier votes, so the final vote there is a sure thing.
McCain objected to the state’s setting up the registry, and has worked throughout the session to defeat the free registry and force the issue back to the federal government. If he had succeeded, all anglers who fish in the saltwater for anadromous species would have been forced to register annually with the feds and pay $15.
Instead, thanks to the work of Senator David Trahan and a handful of free registry advocates, Mainers will be able to register for free. Trahan has worked tirelessly on this issue for almost two years, and deserves great credit for this achievement.
This year he was blessed by the support of Commissioner Norman Olsen of the Department of Marine Resources. The establishment of a Maine saltwater angler registry comes in response to a federal mandate that the names and contact information for saltwater anglers be provided to the feds for the purpose of conducting surveys.
Trahan’s bill brought together individuals and interest groups that bitterly fought each other last session as the legislature debated the same issue. The result of that fight was enactment of a mixed-up mess for 2011 that allows inland anglers to register to fish in the saltwater for free, but levies registration fees — including a special permit to fish for striped bass — to those who fish only in the saltwater.
The new system is terribly complicated and has confused saltwater anglers. The Department of Marine Resources is likely to suspend active registration of saltwater anglers for 2011, as soon as Governor Paul LePage signs Trahan’s bill into law.
Here are the basic principles the new registry. 1) DMR will maintain its authority and responsibility for the registry. 2) The registry will be free for all saltwater anglers. 3) Anglers who purchase a fishing license from the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and indicate they fish in saltwater will not have to pay a fee to the licensing agent. They will be registered as saltwater anglers automatically. 4) Saltwater anglers who do not purchase a IF&W fishing license will have to register and pay an agent fee of $1 to DMR or $2 to licensing agents. DMR is working to establish a two-year registration. 5) All nonresidents who are registered to fish in the saltwater in another state or by the feds will be covered in Maine and will not have to register here. 6) Saltwater anglers under the age of sixteen, passengers on board a charter boat, and those fishing at commercial smelt camps, will not have to register. 7) All saltwater anglers must register, regardless of what species of fish they seek. 8) Saltwater anglers who do not buy a IF&W fishing license can register to fish in the saltwater online at DMR or IF&W or at any of IF&W licensing agents. 9) The “striped bass endorsement” that cost $5 for residents and $15 for nonresidents will be eliminated.
At the public hearing on his bill, Senator Trahan testified, “I hope this committee recognizes the historic nature of this day; although I wish we could keep the ocean free for everyone. If we adopt this bill as amended, we will have fought back a very unpopular federal registry, stiff-armed a state fee-based saltwater fishing license, and placed Maine businesses at a significant advantage over most all other coastal states. For once we can say with confidence that we really put Maine people first,” concluded Trahan.
Mission accomplished. Now, let’s go fishing!