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High costs lead to drop in California fishing-license purchases

Annual fishing license sales in California have dropped nearly 55 percent since 1980, according to the California Sportfishing League, despite census numbers reporting a population increase from about 23 million to more than 38 million in the same period.

The study shows that California fishing licenses cost 66 percent more than the average cost of fishing licenses in other coastal states, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association.

“California’s recreational anglers have become increasingly frustrated with the state for increasing the cost of fishing, all the while imposing greater barriers to access and constantly adding new and burdensome regulations,” a California Sportfishing League press release said of the findings.

The study found that California’s fishing licenses cost 76 percent more, compared with all states.

“In 1980, California’s annual fishing license fee was a mere $5. Today, California’s annual resident fishing license is the second-highest in the country, at $47.01 for a base ‘annual’ license, excluding permits and stamps that a substantial number of anglers are required to purchase throughout the year,” the study said.

“If an angler purchased every available permit and stamp to catch all the various fish in California, fees could exceed $120 per calendar year. The price to fish for a family of four, excluding cost for tackle, transportation, food or lodging, can easily cost several hundred dollars or more.”

California ranks second to Washington for the “priciest fishing license,” according to the study.

Beyond cost, the study pointed out that the way California defines “annual permit” is also a barrier. Fishing permits are issued on a calendar-year basis, according to the study. If a California angler purchases an annual permit on Jan. 1, 2015, it will be valid until Dec. 31, 2015. If another angler purchases the same type of permit on Dec. 30, 2015, it would expire the next day.

“While 13 other coastal states practice such a calendar system, their annual fees are significantly less expensive, with one state offering a calendar-year fishing license for a mere $8.50,” the study revealed. “In fact, when compared to all states offering a calendar-year license, California’s license costs 84 percent above the national average price ($25.52).”