The big news in Georgia fishing this week has to be the announcement by DNR that an out-of-state firm has been hired to process fishing license purchases and renewals (along with hunting licenses and small boat registrations). I’ve read reports on this development in several Georgia newspapers (links can be found at the end of this article) and there appear to be three main complaints: fee increases for license processing, fees being sent out-of-state, and the loss of 80% of the license retailers who are going to be booted out of the system by Missouri Central Bank.
The first two complaints could probably be dismissed if not for the third. The addition of “convenience fees” of $2.75 to $4.00 probably won't deter anyone from getting a license, and most Georgians would probably accept it if it meant that DNR was upgrading its systems, investing in its infrastructure, and adding convenience. And if DNR was doing that, I don't think anyone would give a second thought to the use of an out-of-state firm. But it's that third complaint that has real validity and should cause all Georgia anglers (as well as hunters) to complain loudly to the Governor and to their legislators.
According to the Gainesville Times, DNR spokeswoman Robin Hill stated that 1,039 Georgia vendors issued hunting and fishing licenses and boat registrations last year. However, she said that Missouri Central Bank is planning to retain only the top 20% of those vendors. That would mean over 800 small businesses losing a source of revenue and, even more importantly, a source of customers. In one example cited by the Gainesville Times, Kerry Hicks says that license sales are crucial for driving traffic into his Smokin’ Fisherman shop near Clermont. Mr. Hicks is quotes as saying that "While they’re here to get a license, they buy bait, they buy some rods and reels." I’m sure the same thing is true for small businesses all over Georgia. When I renewed my license at a local business last year, I also took the opportunity to stock up on fishing line and lures while I was there.
This all at a particularly bad time for small shop owners following last years declining lake levels in many parts of Georgia. Boaters were already staying away from many of Georgia’s lakes, such as Lake Lanier, because of the low water levels. Now, this new system is one more blow to many lakeside businesses.
This action is also a poor show of support for Governor Sonny Perdue’s Go Fish Georgia initiative. Just as Sonny is investing millions of dollars in promoting fishing across the state, he tells the local folks who have been supporting fishing for decades that they aren’t important to the future of fishing in Georgia.
So what can we do about this? Representative Barbara Massey Reece, in her March 21 column in the Rome News-Tribune, advises sportsmen to call the Governor’s Office at 1-404-656-1776 or email to
or by letter to the Governor’s office: 203 State Capitol, Atlanta, GA 30334. Please let the Governor’s Office know that you think this shows a terrible lack of support for the Go Fish Georgia initiate, and also contact your own state legislators to let them know that this contract needs to be canceled and that we need to support our small businesses who have supported for fishing, hunting, and boating in Georgia for many decades.