Hopefully it tastes like Chicken

I suppose it’s a study on trade imbalances and deficits, but California may lead the nation in Sushi consumption –  yet is dead last in angler participation.

According to the U.S. Census, 10% of California’s population fished in 2001, tied for the 46th place in participation. Ten years later, California’s fishing participation rate plummeted to just 6% and ranks dead last in the nationCalifornia Sportfishing League

The California Sportfishing League points to the high cost of fishing licenses coupled with our license’s validity being based on the calendar year versus 12 months from the date of purchase like other states.


But I’m not so sure.

My casual contact with non-sportsmen suggest blood sports are on the way out. The evening news points to every gun owner shooting up his workplace, and fishermen killing what they can, and the uninitiated lack balance and counterpoint to this steady barrage of mis-information.

Television and the Internet don’t seem to be aiding us much. Most of the angling available to general broadcast channels feature commercial tuna and Alaskan King Crab boats – and everything coming aboard is stuffed below decks immediately.

Angling organizations and clubs have lamented for at least a decade on our inability to appeal to youth, and us longtime practitioners dwindle as age and frailty catches up with us.

Waters are polluted and wild fish don’t come snuggled in antiseptic Saran Wrap, and despite doctors urging us to consume anything with fins, non-anglers are wary and unlikely to replace a hamburger and fries with farm-raised Tilapia.

Now that we’re fixated on Invasive species and fish farming, from the public’s perspective it may reinforce the notion that GMO, tanker bilges, and salmon lice merely prove we’re as inept at breeding as we are at long term conservation.

Fly fishing hasn’t helped with our dogged insistence that the buy-in of gear, outer wear, and titanium vest fodder requires us to dump $5000 before we can learn to cast.

… and don’t forget the “end game” for all that capital investment is a 10” trout that was fed dog kibble prior to being shat into the creek for your pleasure. Five Grand for a wriggling fish you’d as soon toe into the underbrush in not a compelling proposition.

Add into this mix a half dozen agribusiness-friendly Governors and their attendant legislatures, a Fish and Wildlife organization reeling from declining anglers and dwindling license revenue, and the systematic extinction of every species worth catching. Add four years of drought, the high cost of lodging and gasoline, and a 50% reduction in home prices, and you’ve a better reason why the recent economic swoon has rid us of 40% of our numbers.

Since 1980, when annual licenses were sold for as little as $5.00, California’s annual fishing license sales have dropped by more than 55% (1980: 2.26 million; 2014: 990k), while our state’s population has increased by nearly 60%. In 2014, 40,000 fewer annual fishing licenses were sold compared to 2013.

If the 35-year trend remains constant, annual fishing license sales could fall below 500,000 by 2027, or another 49% over the next 12 years. Should this occur, between 1980 and 2027, annual license sales will have dropped 78%. This downward trend could accelerate if fees are increased substantially, or new regulations are imposed that increase costs or barriers to fishing.

The 2014  population of California was 38 million, which is a net increase of about 50% over the self same period wherein we lost or disenfranchised 40% of our fellow anglers. That is damning evidence that the high cost of licenses is only part of something much worse.

By 2027 I’ll be telling fish stories instead of fishing, so my being inconsequential will sting less then folks recently introduced to the sport. Our lack of voting clout will mean dark days for our conservation ideals and organizations.

Figure 1-2 percent of anglers are fly fishermen, and if the overall numbers drop to 500,000 as above – that suggests we’ll be in rarified company …

… and fishing for Pikeminnow.

10 thoughts on “Hopefully it tastes like Chicken”

  1. How much does a fishing license cost in California? Just askin’, because I’m thinking it’s still a bargain in outdoor sport!
    And don’t make me come there with my Featherlite 4/5 and my Pfluger and my Keds to find out if Pikeminnow tastes like chicken…

  2. With all stamps possible (including second rod, steelhead & salmon, inland waterways and all the trimmings, a California fishing license is about $130. With no stamps – and the ability to fish for trout, it’s about $45-ish …

    It is only valid until December 31st, so if you buy it in June you only get six months of fishing.

    The California Sportfishing league is proposing legislation to make it ” .. a year from the date of purchase” like the other 49 states.

  3. “With all stamps possible (including second rod, steelhead & salmon, inland waterways and all the trimmings, a California fishing license is about $130. With no stamps – and the ability to fish for trout, it’s about $45-ish …

    It is only valid until December 31st, so if you buy it in June you only get six months of fishing..”

    Which is why I know more and more people who continue to occasionally fish but who no longer bother to purchase a fishing license.

    Game wardens are far and few between, and the risk of getting caught is almost nil. And if you are caught, pleading ignorance before a judge with a courtroom full of violent offenders to deal with often results in case dismissed.

  4. A few points:

    1. Holy hell, those licenses are too expensive for what you get. $45 bucks to fish for trout for possibly a few months? I live in North Carolina, a license to fish for trout is 25 bucks and that is for 12 months from when I bought it. There is no “closed” season either. I can fish year round and get a full 12 months out of it.

    2. Lots and lots of people don’t buy a license. I fish a well known catch and release fly fishing only trout stream, and without fail, I see someone fishing with live bait or lures. Pretty regularly, I see people getting written up for not having a license. I think for a lot of people the thought of buying a license doesn’t even occur to them. I’ve seen it in the east, and I’ve seen it in the west as well. Now, where they think the right to just pluck your line in any water and pull out as many fish as you want comes from, I have no idea.

    3. Fly fishing needs to stop worshipping at the altar of “catch and release, no exceptions”. I think this actually is turning off some people to picking it up. Fishing is a blood sport. What is the ultimate point in fishing if you can’t take one or two home once in a while? Taking that out of the equation, you are solely just annoying fish. How do I talk a non-fisherman into doing that? I bet most fly-fisherman who have been at it for a while actually have a history of eating what they catch at some point, they just came into the dogma of catch and release in the last 20 years. Fishing doesn’t have to be “keep every single fish you catch, no exceptions”, and I don’t know why we haven’t mellowed out with the “throw back every fish you catch, no exceptions”.

    Disclaimer: With the poor health of many fish stocks, obviously I do not support keeping wild steelhead or other such trout species in peril. However, when I am fishing and pull out a dozen or more 12″ rainbow or brown trout in a river that they aren’t native to, do we REALLY need to be throwing all those fish back?

  5. Here in N.C. we can purchase a lifetime license. My inland/coastal/trout license was just under $500 several years ago (I seem to recall that combo for a year was just under $50). We also do the “it’s good for a year from the date you purchase it”.
    On the other hand, last time I was out I saw 4 game wardens (two pairs of two).
    It’s interesting to hear about how y’all do handle such matters.

  6. Kevin, I think your point well taken. I would suggest that the “release every fish crowd” is actually hiding behind the fact they hate the taste of a mushy trout recently dumped into the creek – and are opting for the “don’t kill nothing” option so they don’t have to bring dead stuff home.

    I remember (to my horror) dating a big city gal here in CA, and when she found out I fished I went the ” … but I don’t kill freshwater fish ” angle thinking it would appeal to her gentile refinements.

    She countered with, “Oh, so you like torturing them?”

    By mutual agreement there was no second date.

  7. I pay $130 a year and have to work 30 hours for the club to fish 3 miles of a mediocre trout stream in the Black Forest (Germany). I could not believe when I arrived in CA that I can fish the entire state with hundreds of bodies of flowing water, lakes and a beautiful ocean for that cheap. What a bargain.
    People who love to fish are easily willing to pay that or more.
    Btw: I was license checked by a very friendly and helpful warden 4-5 times a year when fishing the ocean in the SF Bay Area

  8. All this doom & gloom reading about fishing. I assure you that the sky above you is not falling anytime soon. Somewhere, someplace, perhaps your favorite stream, fisherman are fishing. I just think that something deep inside of us buried, calls out- “I sure would like to catch a fish today”. As for the price of a license, what’s it cost to go see a movie with popcorn and drink? Price paid!…Love your blog.

  9. I’m beginning to see the light!?!
    My senior citizen’s license here in Tennessee was a one time charge when I graduated.
    But, I’ve gladly paid all across the country for the privilege to wet a dry, nymph, streamer fly in whatever state or commonwealth that I’ve stopped to fish, even if only for a few hours. And, I don’t think I’ve ever seen the EP’s or game wardens.
    I’m just glad we aren’t as strict as the Brits…

  10. I do wonder sometimes about how costly it is to fish in other places and what some of the rules are. I remember a series on “Buster wants to Fish” when he mentioned an English stream costing $1000 for a days fishing.

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