Friday, March 29, 2013

The Big Chill: On-going cold weather hits fishing license sales/revenues

The on-going and unseasonably cold weather has put a chill on more than just the angling.

It’s also frozen in place the sales of both fishing and hunting licenses. Distribution of these documents have taken a hit and along with them, income earned for the Ohio Division of Wildlife’s Wildlife Fund.

Not to worry, however, agency officials say.

The reason is because the Wildlife Division has contingency plans in place to weather this current fiscal mini-Ice Age or any other that might arrive.

Still, the fall-off with to-date license sales when compared with those for the same period in 2012 are noticeable.

The current to-date sale of Ohio resident fishing licenses – the tail that wags the Wildlife Fund’s angling dog – stood at 67,382 documents issued compared to the to-date March 25, 2012 comparable figure of 163,931 documents.

Virtually all other types of fishing licenses also saw precipitous declines.

The bottom line on the bottom line shows this year’s revenue stream is now a trickle when compared with the same period last year.

Respectively, these to-date figures are $1.52 million so far this year and compared to the $3.61 million collected through March 25, 2012, the Wildlife Division’s figures show.

Yet the prowl is on for hunting license sales as well.

Bundle all of the various hunting/trapping  licenses and like documents  together – and there is a slew of them – and the 2013 to-date issuance totals 139,422 documents.

Impressive maybe but the comparable 2012 to-date document issuance was 287,679.

Understandably then the income generated by sales of the various hunting/trapping licenses is down also.

The to-date collection of hunting/trapping-related documents stands at $2.08 million. Last year for the same period the figure was $4.29 million.

Thus is there reason to run in circles, scream and shout because the Wildlife Division is on the verge of bankruptcy?

Nope, not by a long-shot says Tom Rowan, the Wildlife Division’s assistant chief.

“We’re always mindful of such spikes in license sales. This is why we have a carry-over of funds from one year to the next,” Rowan says. “And once the weather improves we’ll see an improvement in fishing license sales, too.”

As a result, says Rowan, the agency has never, and will never, default on paying its bills and on time.

“We have money put aside,” he said.

Asked about a possible request delivered to the Ohio General Assembly for increases to fishing and hunting license fees, Rowan also nixes that idea.

At least as it applies to resident anglers and hunters, anyway, says Rowan.

Non-residents may be a different matter, however.

“We saw a lot of requests for increasing non-resident license fees at our recent open houses,” Rowan said. “And we are at the low-end of charging non-residents to hunt and fish when compared to other states.”

That claim may especially apply to the 40,000 or so non-resident deer hunters who find Ohio is an inviting and relatively inexpensive place to search out a trophy buck, says Rowan.

Rowan then was asked just how high the Wildlife Division believes a non-resident deer hunter – or angler – would be willing to shell out cold cash for a license.

“I’ve heard officials in other states respond this way: ‘You know it’s too much when they stop coming,’” Rowan said.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

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