Proposal to make youth fishing free won’t move forward

All anglers between 16 and 18 years old still must pay sportfishing license fee.

SACRAMENTO — An attempt to make sportfishing free for all youth in California won’t make it to the legislative floor for a vote, let alone the governor’s desk for signature as Assembly Bill 478 (AB 478) has stalled.

Assembly member Marie Waldron’s (R-Escondido) proposal was placed on the suspense file in March but was never taken off since, according to legislative records. A legislative update of fishing bills posted on the California Sportfishing League website stated AB 478 “is dead.”

AB 478 did gain some traction in late March, when the Assembly’s Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee voted in favor of the bill. Legislators placed the bill on the suspense file shortly after the passage.

However the bill’s lack of movement since has not boded well for making it out of this year’s legislative session.

Waldron’s proposal, if signed into law, would have updated California law to make fishing free for any resident younger than 18 years of age.

The California Sportfishing League supported AB 478, arguing the proposal would help make recreational fishing more accessible to anglers and ensure a new generation of outdoors enthusiasts would drop a line into the water.

“Under existing law, anglers are not required to obtain a fishing license until the age of 16. This bill increases the eligibility to fish for free to 18 years of age. Given that over 70 percent of anglers learned to fish during their youth, making fishing more affordable could increase future fishing participation rates and increase future fishing license sales,” California Sportfishing League staff stated on its website of AB 478.

A legislative analysis published by the Assembly Appropriations Committee stated the bill, if signed into law, would result in a loss of revenues for the state.

The Fish and Game Preservation Fund, for example, could lose $1.55 million in annual revenues, according to the Appropriation Committee’s legislative analysis. California could also suffer future revenue losses from Sport Fish Restoration Act funds if AB 478 became law, the legislative analysis continued.

“[Department of Fish and Wildlife] estimates that approximately 22,000 16 and 17-year olds purchase resident fishing licenses and 100 purchase non-residential licenses each year,” AB 478’s legislative analysis stated. “While this bill will result in a loss of licensing revenue to the [Department of Fish and Wildlife], the proponents of the bill argue, by removing the fee, more young people will be encouraged to take up fishing, and that over time this will result in an increase in the number of fishing licenses sold, potentially offsetting the loss of revenue.

“Whether removing the requirement for a license for 16 and 17-years olds will encourage more individuals to take up fishing is unknown,” the bill’s legislative analysis continued.

The 2017 base fee for a California sportfishing license is $47.01 for residents and $126.36 for nonresidents. Other costs include report card fees (for certain catches) and fishing with a second rod.

 CDFW photo

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