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Recreational anglers should have “freedom to fish”

[ Return To Senator Roy Dyson's Newsletter ]

Posted on September 22, 2003:

Senator Dyson Remember the beginning of each Andy Griffith Show, perhaps the greatest television show depicting Americana at its best? Its opening shot had Sheriff Andy Taylor and his young son Opie wandering down to the local fishing pond with their fishing poles slung over their shoulders ready to catch a few fish.

There’s few things more American than fishing for sport. And yet, there is a movement underway to undermine this very thing.

That is why I introduced Senate Bill 535 in January or the “Maryland Freedom to Fish Act. This bill was supported by numerous sportsfishing groups and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources with some reservations.

Numerous amendments to address these concerns were introduced too late in this past year’s Session so the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs committee upon which I sit, agreed to study the issue over the summer.

What has emerged is an even stronger bill then the one I introduced last year and plan to re-introduce this year.

I believe this worthwhile piece of legislation has an excellent chance to pass because I can’t think of anyone who would want to deprive our sportsfishermen the right to fish where they want as long as they are following all of the laws governing the sport.

Closing waterways to sportsfishermen has already been done in Hawaii and Southern California and has been proposed in other waterways in other states. This is a proactive attempt to make sure we do not do the same thing here in Maryland.

I believe this bill is important for many reasons.

It will ease government oversight over a hobby that is not at all detrimental to our local waterways or the finfish population. According to the Maryland Saltwater Sport Fishermen’s Association, 369,826 fishermen and woman took their hobbies to our local tributaries and estuaries in 2001 resulting in a “total economic impact of $640 million.”

Gene Mueller, the award-winning, nationally renowned columnist for the Washington Times, came out in favor of my bill in a column he wrote on February 26, 2003.

In his column, Mr. Mueller cites a 2002 report from two independent consulting firms stating that “700,603 fisherman, also known as anglers, accounted for a total economic output of $1.1 billion in Maryland during 2001.”

What I want to do with this bill is to simply protect a great American tradition.

Sports fishermen are just that -- they fish for the love of the sport. While, by law, they are allowed to take a few fish home for dinner -- if they are lucky enough to catch some and they meet proper size regulations -- they are not commercial fishermen who are regulated separately and are not directly affected by this bill.

That’s what our sports fishermen want -- and deserve. They just want to get out on our waterways on their free time and have a good time fishing. For many, there is not a better stress reliever than getting out on the Chesapeake Bay or all of our other magnificent waterways in Maryland that help make our State the greatest in the Union.

[ Return To Senator Roy Dyson's Newsletter ]

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