New fishing waters may one day be available in towns and cities across Utah after the Utah Wildlife Board approved a one dollar fishing license fee increase that would start in 2003.
Money raised from the increase would be used to develop and manage fishing waters, called community fisheries, in towns and cities throughout the state.
The board approved the one dollar increase at its Dec.18 meeting in Salt Lake City. The Utah Legislature must approve the increase during its upcoming session for it to become official.
During the session, the legislature will also decide whether to approve a two dollar increase approved by the Wildlife Board in May. Part of that increase would be used for a Blue Ribbon Fisheries program. The goal of the Blue Ribbon Fisheries program is to improve fish habitat and angler access at selected waters throughout Utah.
The proposal to increase the fishing license fee by one dollar was brought to the board by the Utah Angler's Coalition, a group of angler and outdoor organizations.
"There is not a town or city in Utah that doesn't have a need and wouldn't benefit from this type of program," says Ed Kent of the Utah Angler's Coalition. "Currently, there are about 121 surface acres of ponds located in cities and towns throughout Utah, but the need for these waters is much greater.
"In the last two years, the Division of Wildlife Resources has received tremendous interest from city and county governments throughout the state in developing additional, local fisheries."
Kent says the dollar increase would raise about $480,000 yearly that could be supplemented, on a three-to-one basis, by grants from the Federal Sport Fishing fund. "This would be a tremendous source of funding to improve, develop, and manage community fisheries," he said.
Randy Radant, Aquatic Section chief for the Division of Wildlife Resources, says the additional money would be used to create new community fisheries, to manage existing community fisheries, and to purchase fish for stocking into these waters.
Money would also be used to promote and enhance habitat and riparian areas that border these fisheries and to develop management plans to fortify the ongoing vitality of existing and newly created community fisheries.
Drew Cushing, urban fisheries coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources, says anglers would enjoy many benefits if there were more community fisheries in Utah.
"More families would have close to home opportunities to fish, which would give parents a chance to spend quality time with their children," he said. "These fisheries would also be easily accessible, which would give more young, elderly, and physically challenged people a chance to fish."
Kent says some senior citizens have stopped fishing because of the difficulty in reaching fishing waters, and that additional fisheries would get many of them back into the sport. He envisions a mentor program that would pair these senior citizens with youths who want to learn to fish. "I can also see young people introduced to fishing at these waters through special programs hosted by the Division and local fishing groups," he said.