TLP: States Drop Trout Stamps, Keep Angling For Revenue
State governments casting about for ways to save money and close budget gaps have set their hooks in fishermen. The traditional trout stamp is disappearing, even as states continue to reel in the revenue.
To fish for trout in Wisconsin, you have to pay $20 for a fishing license and another $10 for something known as a trout "stamp." The stamp used to look like a postage stamp. You had to lick it and stick it onto your license. On its front, the stamp always had a nice painting of a trout.Even as states do away with trout stamps, the federal government continues to issue the Federal Duck Stamp, required for all duck hunters. Sure, it's mandated by law, but, unlike fisherman, duck hunters carry shotguns.
About 10 years ago, Wisconsin's 150,000 trout anglers began receiving artless printouts instead. Asked to see one, Joe Schwartz dug into his vest. Knee-deep in the Wolf River, 175 miles north of Milwaukee, he was fly-casting on a Saturday afternoon. He pulled out a green paper. All it said was: "404-Inland Waters Trout Stamp."
"It means you paid your $10," he explained.
For fly casters with a deeper feel for tradition, the state kept printing its sticky stamps—until last year. Mr. Schwartz, 28 years old, could have ordered one by mail. But he didn't, and hardly anyone else did, either. So this season, Wisconsin has done away with its sticky trout stamp altogether. Only the revenue remains.
"Trout art fell to the bottom when we looked at all the stuff we do," says state trout specialist Larry Claggett. "We've got to concentrate on the things that make a real difference for fish."