Fishing in Public

By "Tackle Box" Billy Kelley

Like dew on grass…

It’s just been too wet to fish, period. Hell, I’ve been to Emergency three times for falling off a dry wharf. Plus, the fish seem to be on vacation — dismal reports from all team members. So now’s the perfect opportunity to write about something Chris has been bugging me about and is maybe important: saltwater fishing licenses. 

We’ve all heard the rumors Maine’s gonna require a license. The thought of it makes me cringe. 

So first, I took one of my notoriously informal surveys of local anglers. I got somewhat interesting results. Obviously, most were dead-set against it. I mean, some would rather discuss a root canal. Some were ambivalent, and some were actually for it. However, to a man, the big response was, “Where’s the money go?” A very good question, indeed! 

Freshwater license money goes to certain things, like replenishing stocks, enforcement — all kinds of things to help out. But where would saltwater money go? You can’t stock the ocean! 

Does it go to another one of the seemingly endless studies that have gotten us exactly nowhere, except to tell us we can’t fish, or to tell us that all our fishermen are down in Massachusetts? Or does it go to subsidizing salmon pens Down East, or more boat buyouts? 

Another good question: is it even enforceable? Maine’s coast is about 3,000 miles and change long. Can they patrol a line from about here to Central America?   

And another thing: no one really knows how many fishermen there are. Lots of folks come to Maine to saltwater fish, but how do you count ’em? Estimates be damned — no one knows. 

And another problem: Maine people are unique. Would they fork over $17 a year to catch some mackerel on the pier? Doubtful. 

The tourist boys bring in money already, buying bait, food, ice, beer…  They bring in a lot of loot to our shores. Would they still come if we charged them license fees? 

Again, who knows? So many questions, so few answers. And that’s the big rub. I’m thinking it’s so impractical, so unenforceable, it doesn’t work. To the folks who like the idea, I suggest a voluntary thing, like checking the box for politicians on tax forms.     

I say no double no. I mean, where’s it stop? A license for kids catching pollywogs? Some of us have not much recreation left. Big government is killing us. 

But I’m also a realist. Like the slow evaporation of dew on grass, they’ll get what they want. 

Maybe I’m just a nostalgic old timer, but I’d like to see a waterfront like it used to be. I’ve been up and down the Atlantic and Pacific seaboards, and it ain’t cute. 

I love Maine. I love Portland’s waterfront. Like I say, we’re unique. And I like unique.

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