Tough luck, trout fishermen

The DNR Enforcement Division recently reminded anglers that
their 2007 fishing and shelter licenses are good through April 30,
2008. During the 2007 Session, the Minnesota Legislature adjusted
the angling and shelter license period from the last day in
February to April 30. It made the change after the 2007 fishing
regulations booklet went to print.

The legislative reasoning behind the change is so anglers don’t
have to buy new licenses during the winter season. The license year
for resident fishing, the angling portion of a sporting license,
nonresident fishing, resident fish house, resident dark house, and
nonresident fish house begins on March 1 and ends on April 30 of
the following year. In other words, the license year now lasts 14
months.

This is just great if you like to fish for crappies and yellow
perch – primary targets in March and April. Unfortunately, trout
anglers don’t benefit from the Legislature’s magnanimity. The
license year extension doesn’t apply to trout stamps. So, if in
March you like to go after lake trout in the Boundary Waters, fish
the no-kill season on Bluff Country creeks, or lob spawn sacks at
Lake Superior ‘loopers, you’ll need a 2008 trout stamp beginning
March 1.

Minnesota’s license year for fishing, small game, and trapping
has ended on the last day in February for a long time. Prior to
that, the license year ended Dec. 31. As I recall, the change to
the last day in February was made so winter anglers could fish
through the end of walleye season and hunters could go to the end
of rabbit and squirrel season without having to buy a new license.
It was a logical, consistent date to end the license year.

Now, if you have a “sporting” license (the gender-neutral name
for the combination small game hunting and fishing license once
called the “sportsman’s” license), the small game portion of the
license will expire on the last day in February, but you’ll be able
to continue fishing (except for trout) until April 30. Of course,
you’ll have to buy a new license before the general fishing opener
– another date that may be subject to legislative change.

Confused? Think maybe the Legislature has better things to do
than tinker with fishing licenses?

Unfortunately, more tinkering is needed. The political
adjustments left the licensing structure out of tune. The new April
30 end date is neither consistent with other licenses nor fair to
all anglers. At the very least, the Legislature must address the
trout stamp issue, but overall consistency among licenses that
traditionally have started and ended on the same dates should be
reconsidered. Hunting and fishing are not well served by confusing
rules.

On the border

Another new rule anglers and others who cross into Canada must
know is that identification requirements have changed for entering
the United States. Now you must have a picture ID, such as a
driver’s license, and your birth certificate to present to U.S.
Customs officials. Of course, a passport is best and eventually
will be required.

Border security has increased since 9/11 along what used to be
our rather casual border with Canada. The birth certificate
requirement, which began Jan. 31, is an interim measure until
passports are mandated and a new, land-crossing card comes on line.
However, there are questions whether a birth certificate is a valid
form of identification.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune recently published a letter sent to
the Department of Homeland Security by several U.S. senators,
including Coleman and Klobuchar from Minnesota. The senators
questioned the effectiveness of using birth certificates for
identification, because they are not standardized. They asked
Homeland Security to reconsider the birth certificate
requirement.

While the birth certificate requirement isn’t likely to make
much of a difference for your annual Canadian fishing trip, it is
clear that we can no longer think of the border as an informal
boundary. While the two nations remain friendly, global changes
necessitate better border security. Hopefully, the respective
governments will allow their citizens time to adjust to the
transition to stricter rules.

Over time, the two countries should continue to encourage
cross-border trade and travel. The current identification
requirements seem to weigh most heavily on law-abiding citizens, a
point made in the senators’ letter to Homeland Security. And a
greater effort should be made to get the word out regarding the
birth certificate requirement prior to the summer travel season.
Ultimately, we might be more secure if the U.S. and Canada
cooperated on shared security issues.

As a friend observed, “The U.S. and Canada would be better
served if we focused on our mutual North American borders rather
then the border between our countries.”

Arne’s on board

Former Minnesota Gov. Arne Carlson encouraged the Legislature to
quickly pass a dedicated funding bill this year in a recent op-ed
in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Carlson’s support for dedicated
funding was mostly boilerplate – conservation funding is at a
historic low, therefore we need a consistent source of new money.
Like all other supporters, he didn’t articulate when or how the
Legislature will craft the policy to determine spending
allocations.

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