Minnesota Rep. Cravaack takes a shot at ‘six-pack’ rule

Isle, Minn. — Seizing on a captive audience of anglers focused on the opening day of the game fish season, a U.S. representative from Minnesota last Saturday announced he’s seeking to eliminate some of the federal hurdles to guiding on popular Minnesota waters like Lake Mille Lacs.

In a press release, U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack said he’ll introduce the “Mille Lacs Lake Freedom to Fish Act,” legislation, the press release states, regarding “Minnesota’s state sovereignty, job creation, cutting federal red tape, and strengthening Minnesota’s outdoor fishing tradition.”

The U.S. Coast Guard rules, according to many small-time fishing guides on Minnesota lakes subject to those rules, represent costly overkill for simply taking clients to fish. There are plenty of guides, too, who aren’t aware of the requirements for such “federally navigable waters” such as Leech, Bemidji, and Rainy lakes, for example, as well as the state’s major riverways. Some say the Coast Guard simply doesn’t have the manpower to enforce the rules on all Minnesota water bodies.

According to the press statement, “In March 2010, the U.S. Coast Guard ruled that Mille Lacs Lake was a federally navigable body of water, based on historical interstate commerce. Specifically, the Coast Guard justified its overreach by using a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ruling, which maintains that because fur traders and lumberjacks utilized the lake and the Rum River in the 1700s and 1800s, the lake is deemed a federally navigable water body.”

The Rum, the press release says, currently is dammed at Anoka, and the last log floated on the lake was more than 100 years ago.

For guides, the classification can mean costly requirements such as a license as an “operator of an uninspected passenger vehicle (OUPV),” more commonly known as a “six-pack” license because of the limitation on passengers. Also required was the “transportation worker’s identification card,” or TWIC. Bottom line, according to Cravaack, is that the requirements are “forcing all fishing guides, mostly college students, to spend time and money to obtain a federal boating license to bring fishermen out on Mille Lacs Lake. This license and associated costs put fishing guides on the hook for over $2,000.”

According to Rep. Cravaack, the federal rules also serve to duplicate state safety rules that currently exist.

Josh Bullivant, a fishing guide out of McQuoid’s Inn, in Isle, said there are guides aware of the federal rule, but who aren’t federally licensed.

Launch operators on Mille Lacs – those crafts that often depart a dock with 20 to 30 passengers – are licensed by the state Department of Labor, he said.

Saturday’s announcement was made at Nitti’s Hunters Point Resort on Mille Lacs.

According to resort owner George Nitti, “The bottom line is the cost the federal government is imposing on obtaining the TWIC license for maritime workers and the six-pack certification for captains. Less control from the federal government on Mille Lacs Lake is a good thing.”

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