California sportfishing lobby closes its doors

Covid-19 pandemic forces closure of California Sportfishing League.

SACRAMENTO—One of the most vocal sportfishing lobbies in the state of California has turned off the lights and shut its doors. California Sportfishing League (CSL), in an editorial published by Western Outdoor News, announced it went out of business. A similar – and much shorter – announcement was posted on the CSL website.

CSL launched in 2014 “out of necessity,” according Marko Mlikotin, the organization’s executive director. The lobby’s various campaigns for sportfishing reform in California had regularly been reported on by The Log and FishRap.

Mlikotin said CSL was forced to close its doors due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic have been very real for all Californians. Like many businesses that have closed their doors, this pandemic proved too costly for the California Sportfishing League (CSL) to continue operations,” Mlikotin wrote in his Western Outdoor News editorial and in closure announcement posted on the CSL website.

The Western Outdoor News editorial, which was published on Sept. 25, said CSL was created to defend against a potential ban of pier fishing and to challenge regulations potentially putting fish farms and fishing lakes out of business. CSL also fought against proposed bans of fishing tackle.

The biggest spotlight, however, was shone on the various proposals to shift California’s sportfishing licensing schedule from a 12-month calendar scheme to a 365-day plan. Mlikton and CSL consistently campaigned for this proposal to make it the governor’s desk. The proposals, however, fell short each time. Anglers and CSL staff were hopeful a bill would make it out of Capitol Hill this year, but Covid-19 forced legislators to limit consideration of bills to what they considered to be “essential.”

CSL commissioned a study to review the effects of a 12-month fishing license system and the benefits of a 365-day plan.

“The study’s conclusion: many anglers won’t buy a pricey license that expires on December 31st, regardless of when purchased, and they weren’t interested in the less expensive short-term licenses. By spring, as outdoor activity increases, license sales should increase as well, but they declined, and many anglers stopped fishing for good,” Mlikotin wrote in his editorial.

“The solution was simple. Give anglers what they want – a fishing license that is valid a full 365-days from the date of purchase,” Mlikotin continued. “But from the very beginning, calls for licensing reform met political opposition. CSL sponsored legislation, only for it to be defeated, time and time again.”

A proposal for a 365-day sportfishing license could be back on the legislative floor in 2021 – though CSL won’t be involved in any lobbying for or sponsorship of the bill’s passage.

“We believe that there continues to be a need for an organization like CSL, but it is now someone else’s turn to carry the torch,” CSL staff said in its closure announcement.

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