Hook, Line & Thinker

by Steve Chaconas

  On a warm January day, a Virginia bass tournament angler checked out a few Potomac River spots. The Maryland Natural Resource Police pulled up and checked the angler’s registration and safety gear. When asked for his license, the angler presented his Virginia Freshwater license. The officer informed the angler he was required to have a Virginia Saltwater License, but gave a verbal warning followed by the promise of a ticket should the angler show up again without the “correct” credentials. 

   Interestingly this story is true, but the angler was in compliance with licensing regulations.

  The angler did indeed possess the proper license. The DNR realized this and is passing the correct information to all officers. For now, this situation has been resolved. 

   Tidal Potomac licensing is a quagmire requiring only two of three licenses. Maryland residents purchase a Maryland Tidal Fishing license and Virginia anglers purchase a Virginia Freshwater License. These licenses are reciprocal. To fish in the waters of the District of Columbia, a DC Fishing License is required. The Potomac River Fisheries Commission chart answers most licensing questions. http://prfc.us/reciprocity_guidelines.html

  Boating in DC waters requires a unique Coast Guard Approved Safe Boating Course. A different course is needed in Virginia (required for vessels over 10 hp) and another for Maryland (required if born after 1972). Virginia and Maryland reciprocate; however, courses must be equivalent. (Thankfully, BoatUS.org has free online safety courses.) 

  In 2010, Potomac River anglers were required by the Federal Government to sign up with the National Saltwater Registry. States were given the option to participate in registry data collection… or the Government would charge anglers a $15 fee on top of local licenses. Virginia and Maryland developed data collection processes to exempt their license holders from registering with the National Saltwater Registry, avoiding a $15 Federal fee. 

  In Virginia, to fish the Potomac and tributaries, anglers must purchase a Virginia Freshwater License just as before but must additionally register with Virginia’s Fisherman Identification Program (FIP) annually. It’s free to register online(www.mrc.virginia.gov/FIP). You’ll be given an identification number. Virginia State Law requires carrying this number to prove registration.  If you provide an email address, Virginia will send an automatic reminder every year to register.

   Maryland DNR makes the registry a seamless part of the Maryland Tidal Fishing License system. Through the purchase of a Maryland Tidal Fishing License, Maryland automatically enrolls purchasers in the National Registry at no extra cost. Purchasers of Maryland or DC licenses will not be required to register with NOAA. 

Author Capt. Steve Chaconas is Potomac bass fishing guide & freelance writer. Potomac River reports: www,nationalbass.com. YouTube video channel NationalBassGuide.

  However, both Maryland and Virginia Potomac River anglers must register with the other state to fish across state lines. Holders of a VA fishing license must also register online at no cost with MD, https://compass.dnr.maryland.gov/dnrcompassportal. MD anglers must register with VA, http://www.mrc.virginia.gov/FIP. 

   To fish in DC…everyone needs a DC license, except those over 65 or under 16, to fish and you DO NOT need to register elsewhere.

  Don’t forget, USCG approved PFDs, a throwable, working fire extinguisher, whistle, and current boat registration are required for everyone. 

  I hope this primer helps. Good luck this spring and enjoy getting licensed BEFORE you hit the river!

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