Fishermen take new license rule in stride

Mangroves and manatees. Visions of 3-foot snook.

From a bridge near Weedon Island, Ross Boyd and his 14-year-old son, Harrison, cast hooks into Tampa Bay on Saturday, hoping for a fish big enough for grandma to coat with cornmeal.

While they waited, the bay put on a show so good that they didn't grumble about the admission fee.

Florida's new requirement for a $9 shoreline fishing license kicked in Saturday. But after watching the sun rise over saltwater and a manatee swim past with its baby, Boyd said it wasn't too much to ask.

"We take this for granted," said Boyd, a fifth-generation St. Petersburg resident. "Maybe charging the nine bucks will make 'em realize it's a resource. It's not just there."

The Legislature created the license requirement in the spring, as it grappled with the worst budget crisis in decades. But don't start hurling fish guts just yet.

State fisheries officials say this is not another pathetic case of nickel-and-diming. They said they had to create the license to pre-empt a new federal requirement that would have cost everyone who fishes Florida — all 1.1 million of them, not just the shoreline folks — $15 to $25 a pop.

So, if you want, blame the big fish.

But the feds also had good motives, said Lee Schlesinger, a spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. They need more information to better manage fisheries, and part of that involves getting a better handle on how many people are fishing. The new license will fill in a data gap.

It will also bring federal matching money to Florida. And most of it will be used for fisheries research and management.

The state estimates 115,000 to 185,000 people need the new license.

Derick Rasheed of Wesley Chapel, who was trout fishing Saturday near the Gandy Bridge, isn't one of them.

His $35 freshwater/saltwater combination license covers shoreline fishing. The people at Gandy Bait & Tackle were reminding customers to get the new license, he said. But so far, law enforcement hasn't asked to see his.

"I was kind of ticked because I spent all that money," he joked.

Behind the St. Petersburg History Museum, Gene Bennett was reeling in pinfish and snapper with son Charles, 16.

Do you have the new license?

Head shake.

It went into effect today.

"Damn."

The state says it will give warnings for a few months before lowering the boom. The fine is $50.

Bennett, a plumber, said he and his son fish about every other week.

"Something to do that doesn't cost a lot of money," he said.

Nine dollars isn't bad, he said. It sure beats the cost of movie tickets.

Times staff writer Jessica Vander Velde contributed to this report.

. FAST FACTS

What to know

The new fishing license includes a number of exemptions. For more information about them, go to www.myfwc.com. To get one by phone, call 1-888-347-4356.

Fishermen take new license rule in stride 08/01/09 [Last modified: Monday, August 3, 2009 7:49am]

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