The moaning and groaning you’ve been hearing when fishermen talk is not about fishing.
It’s about the new saltwater license that most anglers may be required to purchase as of tomorrow.
I know what you’re probably thinking”¦”what does he mean may have to buy by tomorrow?”
A Federal Regulation requires that all coastal states to have a formal registration of all saltwater anglers in the United States by 2010. That includes those who fish from the shore or from a boat. I can deal with that.
Just before the 2009 regular session of the Connecticut General Assembly adjourned our legislators passed House Bill 5875 which apparently satisfies the Federal Regulation. House Bill 5875 requires that any and all anglers over the age of 16 who fish in state marine waters must be in possession of a saltwater fishing license by June 15.
The license will cost $10 for Connecticut residents and $15 for non-residents. People age 65 and older are entitled to a free license provided that they have lived in Connecticut for more that 12 months.
Note that the bill requires a start date of June 15. As soon as the law was passed, saltwater licenses were available for purchase on-line.
That make sense right?
No! As I write this column the bill has not been signed into law by Gov. M. Jodi Rell. Or at least searches on the state website do not show that it has been signed.
That’s when the bellyaching and questioning really
started. Anglers are questioning everything from the validity of the law to the start date for licensing (Why so soon? Why not start it next year?), to the fairness of the law.
As far as the validity of the required licensing I can see the necessity of it. And frankly, by requiring the license saltwater anglers will by virtue of a true head count, prove to our leaders that we are a power to be reckoned with. Right now, there are only estimates of just how many of us actually fish. The current estimate is that between 15 and 25 million Americans fish for saltwater species.
Then there is the question of why we need to start purchasing the new license now instead of 2010 when the registry is actually required.
I think the attitude of our legislators is let’s get the money now when we really need it and the public be darned.
So where will the money go? Where do you think?
Revenues from the saltwater license will at first go into the Environmental Conversation Fund and then into the state’s General Fund. Once there, the members of the General Assembly will determine how the money will be spent. Just my opinion, folks.
Then there is the question of fairness. There are exemptions to the mandatory license law.
Exempt from having a license include party boat passengers, people rowing or operating a motor in the boat from which other persons are catching fish, and state residents participating in DEP authorized fishing derbies (with certain restrictions).
Yikes. Talk about loopholes. Okay, I will grant you that party boat captains make their living taking the occasional angler fishing. Perhaps allowing their customers, who might be otherwise deterred from a day of fishing, to forgo a license purchase is okay if you allow the occasional shore angler the same benefit.
However, there should be a way to add them to the ‘official’ head count of saltwater anglers.
Where our legislators goofed — in my opinion — is that they made no provision for allowing groups of citizens such as those who are lucky enough to participate in the First Congregational Church of Branford’s Veteran’s Outreach or “Take a Vet Fishing” program.
The way the law reads it appears that the church would have to purchase a license for each and every participant. In one event earlier this year, the group hosted 86 people including 10 blind veterans in a fishing outing and barbeque.
Imagine if everyone there had to have a license for that one day when all they are trying to do is brighten up the lives of heroes who gave so much of themselves so we can remain free and safe. Don’t they deserve at least as much as a party boat customer gets?
Connecticut state marine waters are defined as Long Island Sound, its river mouths, harbors or estuaries. Anglers must also be licensed even if the fish was caught in New York waters and brought into Connecticut via Long Island Sound.
Now, for the $64,000 question, Will having a Connecticut saltwater license allow a person to fish in New York, Massachusetts or Rhode Island?
Who knows? HB 5875 has a provision for establishing a reciprocal agreement with other five coastal New England states provided they enact their own reciprocal laws for marine fishing. Currently none of those states has such a law.
Last week was a cold and rainy one but fishing remained very good. There are still lots of huge stripers around and fishing for bluefish is strong.
The biggest fish of the week was a 52.5-pounder reported by the folks at Rudy’s Tackle Barn. Pete Vizenzio caught the huge cow while fishing at Hempstead Harbor. The fish was taken using a bunker chunk.
On the Westchester side of the Sound, 11-year-old Claudio Fidaleo Jr. boated a 42-inch striped bass while fishing off Rye with his dad, Claudio Sr. and his grandpa, Tony. They also caught some nice bluefish weighing up to 6 pounds.
The waters off Steamboat Road in Greenwich remain productive. Last week, Georgio Orjas caught a 40.5-inch and a 39-inch bass while fishing from shore. Orjas was using fresh bunker for bait.
Valarie Hiller, 12, spent some time fishing with her dad, Mark Hiller, off Stamford last week. Valarie caught a nice 30.5-pound linesider. Valarie, an experienced angler, was using chunks of bunker for bait.
Also doing well off Stamford last week was George DiScala Jr. Using bunker for bait, he caught a 36-pound striped bass.
Ron Lombard hooked a 44-inch linesider while using fresh bunker for bait. The big bass weighed in at 33.5-pounds.
The Stamford Cows have been very productive. Alex Mazola caught three nice bass and a hefty chopper at the Cows. His bass included a 42-inch, 25-pounder, a 40-inch, 22.5-pounder and a 39-inch, 20.5-pounder. The bluefish tipped the scales at 11-pounds even. All of the fish were taken using fresh bunker.
Phil Caruso caught a nice 30-pound striped bass at the Cows. He was also using fresh bunker for bait.
The guys at Fish Tales reported Clem from Stamford Boats had a good day of fishing off Stamford last week. Clem caught a pair of 10-pound bluefish and a striped bass. The fish were taken on bunker chunks.
Victor Sokolohorsky and his son, Boris, spent some time fishing Greenwich waters last week. Together they caught lots of stripers including a 36-pounder. They were trolling bunker spoons.
Norwalk was red hot last week. Good fishing spots include the islands. That’s where Shawn Murphy caught a 48-inch, 36-pound striper and a 32-inch striper. Murphy was using bunker chunks for bait.
Over at Greens Ledge, Michael Chappa caught and released eight stripers. His larger fish weighed between 30 and 35-pounds.
Also doing well at Green’s Ledge was Glenn Katz. He boated a 42-inch striper that was attracted by bunker. The linesider weighed 28-pounds.
Joe Polito caught a nice fish at Greens Ledge. Using a live bunker he reeled in a 40-inch striped bass.
Marc Tomasulo and Nick Falcone teamed up to catch a lot of nice bass at 11B. In total they caught eight linesiders measuring from 34 to 42-inches in length.
David Smith did well fishing from shore in Norwalk Harbor. He caught a nice 22-pound linesider while drifting a bunker chunk.
Also doing well from shore in Norwalk was Mike Nagy. He caught a 30-inch striped bass using a live bunker for bait.
Martin Armstrong is a member of the Fisheries Advisory Council, a lifetime member in Trout Unlimited and a member of the Outdoor Writers Association.