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Long Island

State says anglers still on the hook to get licenses

Despite heated political rhetoric and legal challenges from seven Long Island towns, state environmental officials say that recreational anglers who want to fish in New York marine waters next year must still - technically - buy a saltwater fishing license.

Bills to modify or dismantle the program failed to pass the state legislature this year.

One would have extended licenses bought in late 2009 through 2010, instead of requiring residents to buy new ones beginning in January. A version backed by Sen. Charles Schumer would have replaced the license with a free registry.

"We would love to see a repeal of the license," said John Mantione of J & J Sports in Patchogue, who is chief administrator of the New York Fishing Tackle Trade Association. "Do we think that's likely? No."

Nearly 50,000 licenses have been sold since the program began in October, yielding $1.3 million, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

New York's recreational fishing industry and many anglers oppose the saltwater license, saying it will hurt business and unfairly tax a formerly free public resource. A license costs residents $10 for a year, $8 for a week and $4 for a day.

The DEC set up the program in response to a 2006 federal law designed to provide better data on the number of recreational anglers and the fish they catch.

Southampton, Shelter Island and East Hampton challenged the DEC's license program in court this fall and were granted a temporary restraining order.

Brookhaven, Huntington, Southold and Oyster Bay have joined in the suit, court records show, and Suffolk County has filed a brief in opposition.

DEC spokesman Yancey Roy said the restraining order only applied to the three East End towns. "It doesn't remove or block the license requirement," Roy said in an e-mail. He said the order prevents the DEC from citing unlicensed anglers in the waters of those towns.

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