NAPLES — Florida anglers may not be taking in a new fishing license law hook, line and sinker.
But the new requirements, which went into effect Saturday, are slowly spreading through the fishing community.
“I think that’s a good thing,” Fort Myers resident Nick DeFrancesco said Sunday. “Everyone should have one. Then they won’t have excuses when they take in illegal fish.”
His opinion is one of many swirling around the new law, which requires anyone fishing from the shore, bridges or piers to hold a license. Formerly, state residents who fished from the shore or any structure connected to the shore were exempt from licensing laws.
DeFrancesco, 26, who has a fishing license, said he was unaware of the new requirement until Sunday.
The new shoreline licenses cost $9, while saltwater fishing licenses are $17, for residents. Non-residents need regular licenses to fish from the shore or a boat.
“It’s kind of wacky,” said Olger Solis, 22. “It’s just the shore. I don’t think you should need a license at all.”
The Naples resident, who does have a license that covers saltwater fishing from a vessel, was fishing near Doctors Pass in Naples Sunday with friends. The license Solis holds will now cover shoreline fishing as well, but he said he did not know about the new requirement.
He said he believes the protections on some fish in Florida have actually caused populations of certain fish, such as goliath grouper, to get out of control. The Atlantic goliath grouper is still listed as a critically endangered species.
“They just want to get more money out of us,” Olger said.
Friend Braddy Rojas, 16, who was fishing on Sunday near Doctors Pass, did not have a license, and he said he did not plan to get one.
“It’s lame,” he said. “We don’t need it. There are enough fish in the sea to catch.”
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, however, has noted that the new law preempts a more expensive federal registration requirement expected to take effect in 2011. License revenues are supposed to go toward research, marine resource management and law enforcement.
The new law allows exemptions for resident anglers fishing in their home counties using live or natural bait, on a line or pole without a line-retrieval mechanism. The exemption does not apply to people using nets, traps, gigs, spears or who gather seafood by hand.
Since the new requirement was announced, 5,800 shoreline licenses have been purchased, said Henry Cabbage, state spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. He said an estimated 115,000 to 185,000 state residents fish from the shore each year.
North Naples resident Robert Casals, 31, said he was fishing at Delnor-Wiggins State Park Saturday when a ranger made the rounds informing anglers about the new license requirement. As he fished from the same spot on Sunday, at the mouth of Wiggins Pass, he said he expected some anglers to resist the change in license requirements. He is in favor of the change in requirements, though, and expressed hope the new law would be enforced.
“I think it’s a good thing,” Casals said. “Most of the revenue goes toward the environment. You’re going to keep seeing tighter and tighter requirements. We’re going green as a society, so every little bit helps.”
Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission regional spokeswoman Gabriella Ferraro said officers are exercising a grace period with anglers while the shoreline license requirement is still new.
“They are going to just be doing education for the first six months,” she said. “However, if they come across someone they had educated the day before and then the next day, there’s no change, they would go into warning or enforcement mode at that point.”
Fishing without a license is a civil infraction, Ferraro said. After the education period, as with the laws enacted previously, anyone caught without a license will be fined $50 plus the cost of the license required for the type of fishing they are engaging in. That cost varies depending on saltwater versus freshwater, where a person is fishing from, whether he or she is a state resident and the type of fish caught.