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Modern fishing tackle, boats and electronic equipment make it possible for anglers to catch many fish. People are also learning about fish and fishing by watching TV programs and reading books and magazines. In addition, students study fishing and others attend special fishing courses. Because so many people are now learning how to fish skillfully, there's a danger that anglers may catch too many fish from some bodies of water. Fishing laws or regulations protect natural resources and help anglers enjoy more success. The fact that most anglers must have fishing licenses is a common example of a fishing law or regulation. In most states, however, very young anglers and those of retirement age are not required to purchase a license.

Other Fishing Regulations may:

  •    Set a limit on how many fish of a certain species you can take in one day.

  •    Set a starting and ending date for a fishing season.

  •    Set a limit on the number of fishing lines and hooks you are allowed to use.

  •    Regulate the type of tackle and fishing method used.

  •    Set size limits for fish.

There are good reasons for such fishing laws. All are intended to conserve and improve fish populations. Often, fisheries biologists study bodies of water to check on fish numbers and the health of fish populations. Sometimes, they suggest a new law if it will help keep the fish population healthy. For example, if there is a fishing season in your state, it may have been introduced to protect fish during spawning or as a way of limiting the number of fish caught on heavily fished waters. Size limits are also meant to protect fish of spawning size before they are caught. Some states have fishing laws that apply throughout the state. Other states may have different laws for different bodies of water. No matter where you fish, check the fishing regulations carefully before you cast you line. Daily fish limits are meant to keep people from taking too many fish at one time. This makes it possible for more people to share in a fishery. Plus, limits enable conservation officers to arrest “poachers” for stealing more than their fair share of the resource. You can help conservation officers protect your fish, forests and wildlife by obeying the laws and reporting any violations that you see.

Fisheries Research

Fishery biologists are scientists who manage fish populations. To do their job, they need as much information about a fishery as possible. They try to learn the needs of anglers and the condition of fish populations. Biologists also need to know how many fish are being caught. They sometimes do this by taking information from anglers after a day of fishing. Sometimes, biologists study fish by collecting them with nets or in other ways. Biologists also mark fish with special tags or by clipping one or more of their fins. When marked fish are collected later, the biologists learn how fast fish are growing, how many are caught and how far they have traveled. After studying this information, biologists try to decide the best ways to produce more and better fishing for anglers while still conserving resources.

Financing Our Aquatic Resources

Do you know who pays for most of the research and other efforts to improve sport fisheries? Anglers do—the same people who use and enjoy them. Some money comes from the sale of fishing licenses and special-use stamps, while some comes from a special government program called the Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Program. Some people also refer to this program as “Dingell-Johnson” or “WallopBreaux.” Here's how it works: When an angler buys fishing tackle and a boater buys fuel, they each pay a tax that goes into a fund. Other money comes from the sale of tackle and boats imported from other countries. All of this money is then shared by the states to help pay for certain projects, such as building a public fishing pond or a large fish hatchery. The money can also be used to pay for managing fisheries; fisheries research; or for teaching people about the environment, conservation, water safety, and fishing. Your purchase of hunting and fishing equipment and motorboat fuels supports Sport Fish Restoration and boating access facilities.

Your Role

You can help those whose job it is to protect and improve our waters and fish populations by knowing and obeying the laws for the waters you fish. You can also:

  • Practice catch-and-release if you don't plan to eat a fish.

  • If you catch a tagged or fin-clipped fish, you can report it to your state's natural resources agency.

  • After fishing, leave the fishing spot cleaner than you found it.

  • Never litter and do your best to remove any trash left by others.

  • Get involved and support good conservation laws and programs.

  • Teach others about our valuable aquatic resources and how to help conserve them.

  • Report poachers to your local conservation officer.

  • Through your efforts, we will all have good places to fish for years to come!