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Saltwater update: You must register this year

If you purchased a saltwater license last year it is good for a year from the purchase date. However, PFRC boat licenses were due to be renewed this month (Jan. 1) and cover any angler in the boat in tidal waters of Maryland and Virginia but primarily the Potomac River and its stem tributaries to certain points. See the license for details or the PFRC Web site.
A few weeks ago we ran a story about a proposed bill that would help anglers deal with the new federal mandate to register for saltwater angling. More information has come along and I felt it would be a good time to update readers on new requirements for this year.
According to some data I received, all saltwater anglers MUST register themselves this year prior to going fishing in saltwater reaches of Maryland and Virginia waters. Many states on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts have already come up with registration methods and have had their anglers participating for a few years. The good news is that for the year 2010 the registration is free.

This registration is through the federal government and is reportedly being required so fisheries managers and scientists can better manage and track the fisheries, the impact on the fisheries with angler pressure, etc. …
This move is very controversial and your columnist could spend several weeks detailing accounts of just what the issues are. Some of the issues have caused anglers or groups of anglers to take the federal government to court.
For now though it is best to focus on the fact that anglers who are required to register get registered.
Anglers can do this by calling a toll free number 1-888-674-7411 from 4 a.m. to midnight or by going to www.countmyfish.noaa.gov. The site will walk you through a survey to see if you must register or you can just go ahead and register. I did go ahead and register to see how involved and personal it was. Beyond a name, address, phone number that is pretty much all that is required. Supposedly the government will call and survey you about your fishing trips. The registration took me about two minutes from the time I got on the site until I was finished. I have dial up service too.
If you fall under one of the following categories you should not have to register.
Hold a license from a state that already has you registered. Alabama, Alaska, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas and Washington are such states.
Are not required in one of those 15 states to register. Sometimes active duty military and seniors may be exempt
Pay a guide or charter captain to fish on their boat. They keep records and do the survey.
Are under age 16.
Hold a commercial license
Have a Highly Migratory Species Angling permit.

It may be time we all paid a bit more attention to what our government is doing and put our two cents in on the matters that pertain to us. This registry slipped by me until it was a done deal. For that I apologize for not bringing the news to you sooner.
As the population of our country grows, pollution increases with rampant development along our waterways and fish species suffer. We do need to have good management practices in place to keep our fish stocks healthy. However, our government also has a duty to put things in place to curb the unnecessary pollution and make serious efforts to clean up our Chesapeake Bay, its tributaries and the ocean.
The sheer number of fish eating advisories along the Atlantic Coast to include the large number of them in our local waterways is disturbing to say the least. We need to do our part as individuals as we face many challenges ahead in dealing with our passion to fish.
It is going to be up to us to speak up and stand up to make better decisions so we can get ahead of the problems and not just react to them if we want to leave something to our kids worth fishing for.

Mark Fike

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