It's the ultimate bait and switch. Californians expect a portion of their fishing license fees to go toward restocking the fish population. This historic "put and take" system ensures sustainability to protect fishing now and for generations to come.
However, a bill on the governor's desk, Senate Bill 1148, gives the state free reign to raise fishing fees without dedicating a single dime more to hatcheries or planting programs.
You got that right: Pay more, get less.
Senate Bill 1148 was crafted in the final days of the legislative year and proponents refused to work in good faith toward a fair solution that could have improved fishing in California to the benefit of all anglers. This poorly drafted bill will unravel a carefully crafted compromise I worked on for years that balanced the interests of the fishing community, environmentalists and other stakeholders.
The legislation I worked on, Assembly Bill 7, passed the Legislature unanimously and rightfully redirects one-third of fishing license fees to inland fisheries, with the majority dedicated to hatchery production.
Planted fish replenish our lakes and streams, so that families, particularly those of modest means, may enjoy the sport of fishing. Rural communities, already suffering from the current economic downturn, would be hurt further if families did not visit these serene areas for recreational fishing.
Adding insult to injury, the bill also requires planted fish to be sterile. This costly process blocks spawning and, obviously, will make fish planting less effective.
You're probably scratching your head about why the state would want to destroy fishing, and the small economies that rely on the sport, with this pending legislation. Simply put, it's a bureaucratic attempt to grow government on the backs of the two million licensed anglers in our state.
While AB 7 received buy-in from all the community stakeholders, the Department of Fish and Game never wanted to implement the bill. The department stymied its progress by raiding fees to feed its own Sacramento bureaucracy. Fish and Game never met the goals of AB 7 and it appears that it may have illegally redirected nearly $2 million for commercial fishing programs.
We must use fishing license revenue to reinvest in our hatcheries so we can keep sport fishing alive and well in our state.
While the governor has hundreds of bills to decide upon over the next month, it's clear that this one deserves to be caught and released. Californians interested in protecting recreational fishing for families, as well as the small communities that rely upon this sport, should call the governor at (916) 445-2841 and urge him to veto SB 1148.
Cogdill represented the valley and eastern Sierra for a decade in the Senate and Assembly. He lives in Modesto and is the Stanislaus County assessor.