Published January 24, 2010, 12:00 AM

Time to increase Minnesota fishing license prices?

Is a limit of walleyes worth a few more bucks? Some anglers and angling groups think it’s time to raise the price of a Minnesota fishing license. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has been discussing that question but so far has not taken a position.

By: Sam Cook, Duluth News Tribune

Is a limit of walleyes worth a few more bucks?

Some anglers and angling groups think it’s time to raise the price of a Minnesota fishing license. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has been discussing that question but so far has not taken a position.

“There’s some question about how a license fee increase would be received,” said Jason Moeckel, DNR fisheries operations supervisor in St. Paul. “If you raise fees, do you price some people out of angling?”

Currently, a Minnesota individual fishing license costs $17. The license fee was last raised nine years ago, in 2001, when it went from $15 to $17.

In recent decades, license fees typically have been increased about every six years just to keep pace with inflation and rising costs of doing business.

The fisheries section of the DNR spends more than it takes in, and the difference is made up with revenue from hunting licenses.

In recent years, the DNR has added a $2 surcharge to the fishing license of nonresidents to defray the costs of dealing with invasive species.

But the agency has lost revenue since it dropped the requirement for anglers to license temporary fishing shelters that are removed from the ice each night. The DNR this year for the first time offered a conservation license at $12 for resident anglers willing to take home half a day’s normal limit of fish.

The DNR sells about 1.4 million resident fishing licenses each year.

Raising license fees has been proposed by the DNR’s Fish and Game Budget Oversight Committee, a private citizens’ group, for the past several years. A new group called Anglers for Habitat also favors raising license fees.

Some have proposed a fee increase of $4, making a license $21.

“Obviously, it comes back to what kind of operating budget we need to have to maintain the recreational fishing economy we have in Minnesota,” Moeckel said.

Tom Neustrom of Grand Rapids is a member of the DNR’s Walleye Advisory Council, which supports a fee increase.

“You’re looking at 10 years ago [for the last increase],” Neustrom said. “Even with $4, they’re still going to be in the red, but at least it’ll help. I don’t want people losing their jobs and programs cut. The price of a hamburger is a trivial amount.”

Scott VanValkenburg, who owns Fisherman’s Corner in Pike Lake, agrees.

“I don’t think you’d lose any fishermen,” he said. “I think most guys realize the price of the world has gone up, and licenses haven’t gone up for a while.”

VanValkenburg said he would favor a two-tiered license fee structure that would offer a price break for low-income residents.

Some are concerned that an increase might cut some people out of fishing.

“Especially the elderly,” said Sue Chalstrom of Chalstrom’s Bait & Tackle in Duluth. “[Senior citizens] were getting them free. Then it was $5 and they could get their money back if they asked. Now, it’s full price.

“People will grumble. They will still fish. But the elderly — I would be concerned about.”

Talk of a license fee increase comes on the heels of the DNR’s decision two weeks ago to reduce the stocking of lake trout and stream trout in some lakes and streams in Northeastern Minnesota.

“They stopped stocking Burntside [Lake], and they stopped stocking a lot of the trout lakes. Now they want to raise licenses? I got a problem with that,” said Jim Maki, owner of the Great Outdoors, a bait shop in Ely.

The DNR’s Moeckel said a fee increase would have to be part of the governor’s proposed budget.

“With the general-fund challenges we face and the economy in general, we’re anticipating it has a dampening effect on support for increasing fees,” Moeckel said.

Tags: