We have thousands of miles of fine trout streams right here in New York, and yet many Empire State fly-fishers enjoy visiting the trout waters of neighboring states – the pristine upper Battenkill River in Vermont, the springs creeks of Pennsylvania, the Deerfield in Massachusetts. But those of us looking forward to trips to Connecticut, for the tailwater fishing of the Farmington or the big water and big trout of the Housatonic, will be paying more for the privilege.
Connecticut’s non-resident, full-season fishing license has doubled in cost, from $40 to $80.
Don Butler at Upcountry Sportfishing, the fly shop on the Farmington in Pine Meadow, Conn., said the increase in non-resident (and resident) license fees is cause for concern. Sharp license fee hikes in other places have led to sharp declines in licenses sold, and having fewer licensed anglers hurts business for the tackle industry, he said.
“It’s still a very good value for 80 bucks if you compare it against a golf membership,” Butler said. “That said, I think there’s going to be an effect on us. A little increase would be fine, but double is ridiculous.”
Indeed it is, although Butler makes a good point: even at $80, a Connecticut fishing license is a good deal. After all, admission to the rivers themselves is free. You could pay more than $80 for one round of golf or one day of skiing.
Mike Shafer of Gloversville, N.Y., a Housatonic regular, said the cost is reasonable – provided Connecticut uses the money appropriately.
“Will I pay the price? Yes, because the enjoyment I get from fly fishing far outweighs the cost,” he said. “A season on the Housatonic is well worth the cost of a dinner out. The problem I have is that this money is frequently raided by the state governments for other uses. Whether it is in Wyoming, where I paid $14 a day non-resident this past summer, or New York or Connecticut — dedicate all license fees to the management of the sport, period.”
Connecticut’s license is the most expensive among New York’s neighbors. But before we get indignant, let’s remember that Connecticut anglers who enjoy fishing the Delaware or other New York trout rivers have it almost as bad: A non-resident New York license has jumped from $40 to $70.
A non-resident license in Massachusetts costs $37.50. Vermont charges $41. New Jersey’s out-of-state license costs $34, plus another $20 for a trout stamp. Pennsylvania’s non-resident license costs $52.70, plus $9.70 for a trout stamp.
Why the urge to fish outside New York? After all, the branches of the Delaware offer a fine tailwater experience, and the Beaverkill fishes much like the Housatonic. But many New York anglers live closer to western New England than to the western Catskills. And besides, we tend to enjoy a change of scenery from our local waters.
Still, most of us are watching our spending a little more carefully these days, and state governments in the region may want to be mindful of the possibility of asking too much. These license fees are approaching levels that will convince some anglers to take the stay-cation approach and do their fishing at home.