DNR backs higher fees for anglers

Resident saltwater fishing licenses could jump from $5.50 to $10 a year

Saturday, February 17, 2001

Of The Post and Courier staff

     Saltwater fishing licenses could nearly double in price for residents and increase nearly seven-fold for nonresidents under a plan endorsed by the state wildlife board Friday.
     The S.C. Department of Natural Resources Board voted unanimously to direct staff to work on seeking a fee structure that mirrors that of the freshwater fishing license, $10 annually or $5 for four days for state residents and $35 annually or $11 for seven-day licenses for nonresidents.
     The current resident fee of $5.50 is the second-cheapest in the country and compares to a coastal average of $12, according to Wayne Waltz, assistant director of the Office of Fisheries Management.
     Nonresident licenses, now $5.50 here, average $35.
     Sports fishermen must buy the license to fish from boats (other than charter boats) in saltwater and to harvest oysters or clams. The license isn't required for shrimping, crabbing, or fishing from shore or piers.
     About 103,000 people purchased a license - formerly a stamp - last year, which brought in about $550,000.
     The additional money brought in would go toward expanding or starting projects that benefit sports fishermen and their marine quarry: artificial reefs, public shellfish ground planting, free tagging kits to encourage tag-and-release fishing, and education and research on species such as red drum.
     The only public comment during meetings Thursday and Friday in Charleston came from the S.C. Coastal Conservation Association, which endorsed the plan for saltwater license fees in line with freshwater fees.
     The higher fees also will bring in more national money, Executive Director Scott Whitaker said.
     He urged requiring licenses for shore-based fishermen, about a third of saltwater fishermen, he estimated.
     That would help the department more fully assess the recreational impact on marine resources, which is critically important, Natural Resources Director Paul Sandifer said.
     Department staff and the board's Marine Advisory Committee had twice recommended pursuing a fee hike after surveys of fishermen showed support. The full board delayed action last September until new surveys could be done.
     Support for a higher fee ranged from a low of 47 percent (among shrimp baiters) to a high of 60 to 100 percent among various clubs, Waltz reported Friday.
     The greatest number voted for a resident fee of $10 to $10.50, and 80 percent favored a higher nonresident fee with $35 being the top vote-getter.
     Fishermen indicated they'd like to have shore-based anglers buy a license as well, Waltz said.
     Prices have not risen since the saltwater stamp was introduced in July of 1992.
     A fee increase needs approval from the Legislature.