Cumberland Times-News

Local News

February 21, 2012

Bill would allow free fishing sites

DNR hopes to spur interest in sport by offering locations in each county


CUMBERLAND — Legislation pending in the Maryland General Assembly would allow for free fishing in various fresh-water ponds, streams and lakes throughout the state.
“It’s a new vision, an attempt to bring more people out to try fishing so that they may want to fish in other waters and buy licenses to do so,” said Tom O’Connell, the director of the Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Division.
The legislation, House Bill 1305, was requested by his agency.
O’Connell said free fishing locations would be one more implement in the agency’s toolbox to create license buyers.
“A young person will go to one of the fishing rodeos and get interested and then want a nonfishing parent or grandparent to take him out again and they don’t know where to go,” O’Connell said. “If there is a place to take the child without having to buy a license and they have a lot of action, then a license may be purchased so that other waters can be fished.”
The first reading of the bill took place Feb. 15 in the Rules and Executive Nominations Committee. Further action has not yet been scheduled.
O’Connell said the goal is to have one, maybe two free fishing locations in each county. He envisions easily reached and safe locations such as ponds in public parks.
“We’ll have our staff suggest some possible sites and then have some discussion with our sportfishing advisers and the general public,” he said.
Early-stage thinking is that the program would be directed toward waters housing sunfish/bass populations, according to O’Connell. He said it is not the intent to create free angling at high-quality trout fisheries within state parks or other public holdings.
Jim Ritchie, Lonaconing, a former member of Maryland’s Sportfishing Advisory Commission, said he would withhold judgment about whether or not such an approach would work, but would not oppose it.

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