Catch-and-release fees are necessary to support Minnesota’s habitats

by Jasper Johnson

Minnesota lawmakers have proposed a bill that would allow anglers to fish without a license provided that âÄúany fish caught are immediately returned to the water,âÄù a practice also known as catch-and-release fishing. Considering that catch-and-release fishing is on the rise and Minnesota ranks first nationally in sales of fishing licenses per capita, this bill has significant implications. As an avid angler for the past 14 years, I have fished everywhere from Iceland to the Seychelles. Though I practice only catch-and-release, I felt no reluctance paying for my Minnesota fishing license this spring. This is because the fee for a license is not simply a form of payment for the fish you catch âÄî it supports the habitat and gives access for anglers to fish. The fees from Minnesota fishing licenses and stamps are singlehandedly the largest source of funding for the Department of Natural ResourcesâÄô fishery sector. The DNR conducts lake and stream surveys, fish stockings and habitat improvement. These operations are critical to maintaining a healthy fishery. The proposed bill glosses over that fact that these operations are necessary even if anglers only catch and release their fish. Anglers use fishing docks and erode the banks of rivers and streams regardless of whether they release fish. Also, some anglers practicing improper catch-and-release methods may accidentally kill fish even though they return them to the water. This proposed bill could cause great harm to MinnesotaâÄôs $1.58 billion sport fishing industry. Licenses are necessary for supporting a healthy fishery. They need to be required for all fishermen, even those who only catch and release.