Hunters and fishermen need to keep an eye on our legislators

January 14, 2017

The Delaware General Assembly began their work this week, and the large budget deficit will take up a great deal of their time. As hunters and fishermen, we need to be vigilant and make sure they do not try to divert funds earmarked for hunting and fishing to some other purpose.

The money collected from the General Fishing License must be used for projects approved by the federal government in order to be eligible for the 3-to-1 match from federal funds provided by the excise tax on fishing tackle. If any part of the license money is used for anything else, the state would lose all federal funds.

You might think this law would deter any politician from trying to use fishing license money in an inappropriate manner. If so, you don’t know much about politicians. In Florida, one member of the general assembly decided since he was on the committee that oversaw the fish and wildlife division, he could use the license money to redecorate his office. He did so, and when the feds found out, they put a halt on all matching funds until the money was paid back.

As recently as last year, the Virginia legislature decided they could take the license money used to support the citation program and other recreational uses to help cover their budget deficit. The recreational community stood up to them, and the license funds remained safe.

Hunters also receive money from the feds to match projects paid for with their license funds. To politicians looking for ways to cover expenses without raising taxes, this money will also be very tempting.

Just last year, we had an increase in our boat registration fee with those funds set aside for dredging projects. To the best of my knowledge, there are no federal restrictions on this money, so it could be even more at risk than the hunting and fishing license fees. On the plus side, this bill was introduced by Sen. Gerald Hocker and supported by Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, so it had pretty strong bipartisan support.

I plan to send an email to my state senator and representative asking them to keep an eye out for any attempt to use fishing or hunting funds to decrease the budget deficit. I would ask you to do the same. While some of these politicians are concerned about hunters, boaters and fishermen, there are others who could not care less. Letting them know you are watching their actions may give them pause should a proposal to attack our money be raised.

The real test will come during the break in the legislative year when the budget committee gathers to work out the details before sending the bill to the House and Senate. Then there will be the rush to vote on the final budget June 30, the last day of the legislative year. Much mischief is about on that day.

Fishing report

Tog continues to be caught over ocean wrecks and reefs. As is always the case in winter, finding a day with good weather is a major problem. The best thing to do is contact your favorite captain and let him know you want to fish for tog. Then reserve several days in hopes that one will be suitable.

There will be white and yellow perch in the local creeks, rivers and spillways. A live minnow on a small jig fished under a bobber or allowed to work across the bottom is a good technique for perch. When minnows are unavailable, earthworms will make a good substitute.

January deer seasons

This Saturday, Jan. 14, will see the opening of the shotgun deer season. The weather looks pretty good, and there should be a good number of hunters in the field. I hope to be one of them.

I am seeing some photos of successful waterfowl hunts. I also hear stories from less-successful hunters who just picked the wrong day and/or place to set up shop. I do believe I am seeing more Canada geese this year, but the white birds remain dominant.

ASMFC flounder hearing

Just a reminder that the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission will hold a hearing on the proposed 2017 summer flounder regulations Tuesday, Jan. 17, at the Richardson and Robbins Auditorium at 6 p.m. The information gathered at this hearing will be used by ASMFC members to decide the best way to implement the mandatory cuts in the recreational and commercial flounder take. A good turnout at this meeting will demonstrate how important the flounder fishery is to recreational anglers and the numerous businesses they support. See you there.

  • Eric Burnley is a Delaware native who has fished and hunted the state from an early age.  Since 1978 he has written countless articles about hunting and fishing in Delaware and elsewhere along the Atlantic Coast.  He has been the regional editor for Salt Water Sportsman, Field and Stream, Outdoor Life and the Fisherman Magazine.  He was the founding editor of the Mid-Atlantic Fisherman magazine.  Eric is the author of three books; Surf Fishing the Atlantic Coast, The Ultimate Guide to Striped Bass Fishing and Fishing Saltwater Baits.  He and his wife Barbara live near Milton, Delaware. Eric can be reached at