Prettyman: Utah fishing groups get wish for fee increases

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Utah fishing groups for years have been telling legislators and Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) officials they wanted a fishing license fee increase. It looks like they finally got the fish to bite.

The state wildlife agency will roll out a list of proposed fishing license and hunting fee changes to the public for review and comment during a series of Regional Advisory Council meetings in the coming weeks. The proposals then will go to the Utah Wildlife Board and eventually to the Legislature for approval. Any approved changes would not take effect until 2015.

While they are glad to finally have the fish on the line, the angling groups are being cautious about how they play the beast. During recent discussions with DWR officials, fishing community representatives made it clear they are watching where the revenue from any increases will be spent.

DWR leaders have avoided fishing license increases since 2003, saying they didn't want to introduce additional costs during lean economic times. The angling groups are sympathetic, but know the aquatics section has been running pretty tight for at least a decade and pushed for an increase.

After all, they say — and I completely agree — paying $26 for 365 days of fishing is better than any Groupon discount out there. Seriously, that's about equal to catching one movie for one person once you pay for a ticket and some snacks.

A proposed $8 increase to buy a resident license would push the 365-day license fee to $34. A combination small game/fishing license would increase by the same amount from $30 to $38. See the Fishing Utah blog for an update on other proposed fee changes (there are some reductions).

DWR director Greg Sheehan said his agency has identified about $3.2 million in needs and the proposed fee increases would cover those costs.

He hopes to apply new revenue to benefit the warmwater fish production program, deal with increased hatchery costs (some due to a loss of federal funds), enhance community fisheries and fill a vacant fisheries biologist position at the Flaming Gorge/Green River Project, among other expenses.

Angling groups worry all the revenue from the increases will be used on administrative costs such as motor pool and personnel. They understand the need for those costs, but don't like the fact that general funds allocated by the Legislature cover such costs for other state agencies.

And that, they say, makes it hard to explain their support of the fee increase to other anglers if the money won't end up being used to better fishing in Utah.

Reach outdoor columnist Brett Prettyman at or on Twitter: @BrettPrettyman.