By Steve Weisman
On Thursday, November 10, I attended the Iowa Great Lakes Fishing Club’s annual fall DNR night. Held at Godfather’s Pizza in Spencer, it was a great opportunity to hear DNR updates from Ben Wallace, Ia DNR fisheries biologist, who has been instrumental in the renovation of Black Hawk Lake; Jonathan Meerbeek, fisheries research biologist at Spirit Lake Hatchery in charge of a study on Big Spirit Lake muskie stocking; Greg Harson, Law Enforcement Supervisor for conservation officers in District 1; Jim Wahl, fisheries supervisor for the DNR’s northwest district.
It was also an opportunity to talk to John Wills and Megan Johnson, our representatives in the Iowa House.
To put it simply, the evening was filled with lots and lots of topics. I will share some of these topics over the next few weeks. One of the first things mentioned was the financial situation for the Iowa DNR. I’ve written about it before, but a lot of Iowans and elected officials don’t seem to understand is that the DNR is backed up to a cliff. Financially, revenue has remained stagnant for the past 10 years or so, while salaries and the cost to keep everything going has been going up. However, license increases have not increase during that time.
Meanwhile, cuts and consolidations have been made, but we’re at the point where we’re at a dead end…they are as bare bones as they can get. So, there was discussion about license increases and that a bill would be introduced. The sad thing is rumblings coming out of Des Moines that there is no way the increases will take place. My question is WHY? It is not a tax increase. It is a user fee for the privilege of being able to fish and hunt here in Iowa. These public lands and waters are ours to enjoy…all of these opportunities taken care of through the DNR’s Fish and Wildlife Trust Fund.
We need to let our elected officials and the governor know that WE are willing to pay more to hunt and fish. Again, it is simply a user’s fee increase that we as outdoor people believe in. These are our license dollars – our legacy! If we want it and send that message to our state legislators and officials, then it better happen!
Greg Harson, Law Enforcement Supervisor for our district, discussed the great fall fishing we have experienced in this area. He noted that conservation officers have been afield and visited with a lot of anglers. Unfortunately, when hot bites get going like this, anglers that haven’t fished in a while will get the urge to go and not get their license. As a result, Harson says that there has been a spike in license violations. At the same time, there is a problem, especially on Big Spirit Lake, where the perch bite has been so hot. Harson said, “We have gotten word, and we know that people are double dipping. They are catching a limit, leaving and then coming back later to catch more perch. I encourage anglers to contact us if they see things that they know are not right. There are not enough conservation officers to go around, so these anglers are our extra set of eyes and ears.”
From my perspective, it’s frustrating to see anglers take a limit and then come back in the same day and take more home! Yet, these are often the same people that will complain when the fishing goes bad, and the perch cycle is down. They will complain about the DNR and other anglers…really?
It is our responsibility as licensed Iowans to take care of our resource. Yes, we are entitled to take home fish. That is the law, and those laws are designed to give anglers that opportunity and to also protect the resource.
So, I encourage all of us follow Harson’s plea: abide by the limits set and watch for those breaking the law!