California Legislator Denies Anglers a 12-Month Fishing License

Hopes of turning around California’s declining fishing-license sales by allowing anglers to buy one-year licenses were dashed when a legislator killed the legislation.

O P I N I O N

A new generation of California anglers
California boasts a large population of angling enthusiasts, for whom fishing is important recreationally and socially, as it is vital to the state's economy. Yet unlike most states, California inexplicably continues to deny them the opportunity to buy a one-year fishing license.Courtesy CCA California

California Anglers Shafted Again

Once again, sportsmen and women are truly amazed at California politics and fisheries management. The Assembly Appropriations Committee, chaired by Assembly Member Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher who represents a San Diego coastal district (second largest fishing license sales in the state), did not report out Senate Bill 187. SB187, legislation authored by Senator Tom Berryhill, would have created an annual fishing license that would be valid for 12 months from the date of purchase like just about every other state in the union.

In April, many California anglers were rejoicing that the state appeared to finally be moving toward a 12-month fishing license when SB 187 unanimously passed the senate’s Natural Resources & Water Committee. Anglers had complained for years that Department of Fish and Wildlife licenses are essentially a state rip-off. No matter when purchased, the annual fishing license expires on December 31, even though most anglers wait until the spring or summer fishing season to renew their licenses.

California survey of anglers shows licensing preferences
Given this survey question and the clear result, it would seem by her actions that Ms. Gonzalez Fletcher would prefer to make it more difficult for the state's anglers to go fishing.Courtesy CSL

“Fishing is important for so many Californians,” said Berryhill, who has introduced a 12-month-license bill three times. “From anglers who love the sport to people just trying to feed their families, this bill would improve the quality of life for our constituents.”

Recreational fishing contributes more than $4.6 billion annually to California’s economy and is a major source of outdoor tourism, jobs and tax revenue for state and local governments. However, sales have plummeted as rates have increased. In 1980, when licenses were a reasonable $5, California sold more than 2.2 million licenses. In 2017, Fish and Wildlife charged residents $47.01 for a license that may be valid for only a fraction of the year, depending on when you buy it. If an angler wants to use a second rod in inland waters, an additional fee $14.61 is required. On top of that, Southern California saltwater anglers must pay a $5.14 "ocean enhancement” fee.

"If nothing is done, the state's fishery program will continue to bleed millions of dollars a year due to declining fishing license sales."

California has over 2.7 million anglers, yet there is a growing concern that the unprecedented decline in fishing license sales will threaten funding for fishery and conservation programs, as well as millions of federal dollars tied to the number of licenses sold. SB 187 was supported by nearly every statewide organization representing small business, labor, travel, hospitality, local government and outdoor recreation. Nonetheless, the bill hit the Assembly Appropriations Committee and died there without even a vote, and there is no good reason why.

If nothing is done, the state's fishery program will continue to bleed millions of dollars a year due to declining fishing license sales. The state’s Fish and Game Preservation Fund — which is funded by license revenue — is currently running a $20 million deficit.

An army of kayak anglers prepares to launch in Southern California
Kayak fishing — a very low-footprint, ecologically friendly form of the sport — is increasingly popular in California waters, certainly including the San Diego area. Ms. Gonzalez Fletcher represents that coastal district, ironically the district boasting the second-highest fishing license sales in the state.Courtesy CCA California

On the plus side, another bill (Assembly Bill 986) is making its way through the process and may be acted on in January 2018. The legislation, sponsored by State Assemblyman James Gallagher, R-Sacramento, also aims to increase fishing license sales and revenue by making annual fishing license sales valid for a full 12-months from the date of purchase and also discounts annual fishing license for American veterans by 25 percent, and by 50 percent for veterans who have a 50 percent or greater service-connected disability.

CCA California will certainly work to ensure this common-sense legislation is adopted, but until it is, California will inexplicably remain one of the few states that doesn’t sell a 12-month license.

To help the effort to protect and enhance access to sport fishing in California visit CCA California.

About the Author

Wayne Kotow, executive director, CCA California
Wayne KotowCourtesy CCA California

Wayne Kotow is an avid fisherman and outdoor enthusiast. He has fished all around the world and works hard to help protect our right to fish in California. He is the Executive Director of CCA California and resides in San Diego.

Sport Fishing welcomes opportunities to share a variety of perspectives from prominent or influential participants in issues related to recreational fishing and fisheries.