Lansing — Nonresident anglers in Michigan are getting a bit of a reprieve. At the state Natural Resources Commission meeting earlier this month in Lansing, the DNR announced it was reducing the cost of a nonresident annual fishing license from $76 to $68. The change becomes effective beginning March 1, 2015.
“Discounting the nonresident annual fishing license will encourage more out-of-state visitors to come and experience Michigan’s world-class fisheries – and the many other outstanding recreational opportunities available in this state,” DNR Director Keith Creagh said in a statement.
The state Legislature has the sole authority to establish fees for fishing, hunting, and trapping licenses. However, the DNR director has the authority to discount licenses at any time.
Last year, the Michigan Legislature completely revised the fishing, hunting, and trapping license structure and generally increased the cost of licenses across the board.
In 2013, nonresidents paid $34 for a restricted fishing license, which allowed license holders to fish for all species except trout, salmon, sturgeon, and cisco. A nonresident all-species license, which includes those species exempted from the restricted license, cost $42. Last year, after the Legislature revamped the system, the restricted license was eliminated and the all-species nonresident license fee went up to $76 – an increase of $34 for anglers purchasing an all-species license and $42 for those who previously purchased a restricted license.
“When we looked at nonresident licenses, we found that the greatest reduction in sales from previous years was the nonresident annual fishing license, which dropped by 41 percent,” DNR spokesperson Ed Golder said. “As a whole, nonresident licenses dropped about 10 percent, and fishing license sales overall dropped by about 5.8 percent.
“We heard from business owners, legislators, and others who were concerned about it,” Golder said. “We felt we might be able to bring some of those non-residents back with a discount.”
Golder pointed out that fishing licenses generate more money for the economy than simply the cost of the license.
“Fishing funds local businesses and local economies,” he said. “It’s much bigger than just the cost of a license. It’s about making sure people come to Michigan to enjoy the resources we have to offer.
“Consider those people who have property in Michigan but live out of state. They come here for a couple weeks or more to fish and enjoy the resources. They’re pumping money into the economy.”
Nonresident and resident anglers also have the option of purchasing a one-day license for $10 or a three-day license for $30.
Barry “Bear” Drews, who owns Bear’s Nine Pines Resort in Marenisco on the shore of Lake Gogebic in the western Upper Peninsula, said he gets a lot of nonresident anglers from neighboring Wisconsin and Minnesota. He said some nonresident anglers opted for the one-day or three-day licenses last year rather than pay $76 for an annual license.
“Ninety-nine percent of my nonresident customers just about tipped over when they found out about the increase because it was so big,” Drews said. “Maybe they should have (increased the price) in stages over a couple of years rather than all at once.
“Everyone complained about it and I’m sure we lost business because of it. New customers always ask about the price of a license and it turned a lot of people off,” he said.
Minnesota resident Rob Drieslein enjoys fishing the Cisco Chain of Lakes near Watersmeet in Gogebic County with his parents and four children. Last year’s steep license fee increase put a damper on the family plans.
“I didn’t even fish because the license was so high,” Drieslein said. “My parents were shocked when they saw the price. That’s a lot of money.”
Drieslein pointed out that Minnesota charges $45 for a nonresident fishing license and another $10 to fish for trout and salmon. The discount brings Michigan’s fee a little more in line with Minnesota’s.
Could there be more discounts in the future?
“As you know, we won’t be through the first year of the (license fee) increase until March 1. We have heard some concerns and we’re reviewing them,” Golder said. “We’re considering making changes to other licenses, but we still have to analyze the first-year results. For instance, deer license sales were down, but there were other factors that could have impacted those sales. We reduced the number of antlerless tags significantly and we had a snowstorm hit much of the state the first week of (gun) season. Those each probably had an impact.
“We don’t have anything on the table right now as far as further reductions, but we are looking at all of it and considering the possibilities,” he said.