Saturday, January 28th, 2023
Saturday, January 28th, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

Hike for fishing licenses possible

Brooklyn Center, Minn. – It’s been about a decade since resident
fishing license fees have increased in Minnesota. But the DNR isn’t
about to suggest hiking that fee, currently $17 (annual,
individual) for state residents 16 and older.

However, officials say, an increase might help address a revenue
shortage for the Fisheries Section. Nowadays, revenues are coming
up about $4.5 million short of expenditures, and that discrepancy
is being covered by Wildlife income, Dave Schad, Fish and Wildlife
Division director, told Roundtable attendees last week in Brooklyn
Center.

Jason Moeckel, Fisheries operations supervisor, said the
agency’s Budget Oversight Committee has expressed desire for
Fisheries to pull its weight.

“The situation as it stands is, we’re spending more than we’re
bringing in,” Moeckel said.

There’s also a personnel matter; Fisheries is down the
equivalent of about 25 to 30 full-time employees, Schad said, a
reflection of recent state budget shortfalls.

Adjusted for inflation during the past 10 years, the $17 fishing
license would now cost about $21, Moeckel said.

Even a $4 increase in the resident individual license wouldn’t
bring in enough money to cover what Wildlife has been providing,
Moeckel said. Estimating the number of licenses bought (a few
residents might decide against buying a license if there’s a cost
increase), it’s believed the hike would provide an additional $3.5
million, he said.

The agency has been asked to examine a possible fee increase,
but such a proposal would need to come from the governor’s office,
Moeckel said.

“At least some of our stakeholders are strongly supporting the
idea,” he said, adding that the governor’s office hasn’t indicated
if a fee increase might be pursued this year.

While the DNR might not carry the torch for a license fee
increase this session, the newly formed Anglers for Habitat group
might, according to Vern Wagner, the organization’s vice
president.

“At this point we’ve talked about it … and I think we’re all
supporting that there should be a fee increase,” Wagner said.

What that fee increase should be is still open to debate, though
Wagner said one option drawing support is a $3 fee increase valid
for five years, followed by a $2 increase after five years.

There also was talk about a three-year license, though Wagner
said it’s likely some anglers wouldn’t like that option because it
would mean a three-year outlay for stamps (trout) they might not
use in the future.

Wagner said he’s prepared an informational schedule for anglers
to compare Minnesota fishing fees with those of other states. One
example: a Wisconsin resident annual angling license costs $20.

Fisheries chief finalists

Schad said the list of candidates for the Fisheries Section
chief position has been trimmed to four: Moeckel; Dirk Peterson,
former Central Region fisheries manager, who’s serving as interim
chief; Tim Schlagenhaft, Mississippi River and Blufflands
coordinator in Lake City; and Steve Perry, Inland Fisheries
Division chief for New Hampshire Fish and Game.

Schad said there were 40 applicants for the position, vacated
last last year by long-time chief Ron Payer, who retired.

Interviews are scheduled with each of the candidates, and a
chief likely will be named next month.

Lake survey modification

For those anglers who like to get information about a given lake
via the DNR’s lake surveys, change might be ahead.

Moeckel said the agency is expecting further budget constraints
in the near future, but wants to maintain its base of information,
that DNR officials “recognize that collecting lake information is
the basis for science-based lakes management.”

What might be different? Moeckel said fisheries managers will
look at historical data, and decide how to modify collection that
might result in less effort, but sufficient data.

For example, he said, instead of setting 15 gill nets during a
lake assessment, perhaps 10 would be set. The type of data
collected might change, too, reflecting heavier collection of
information often overlooked by casual anglers, and the result of
more emphasis on things like water quality, vegetation, and
non-game fish.

That’s because a portion of the costs might be eligible for
Clean Water funds from outdoors amendment proceeds. Moeckel said
those funds might be directed toward lakes seldom surveyed.

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