If you think there’s anger about Washington fishing and hunting license fee increases today — why pay more for less! fire all the back-office hacks first! not until they get rid of all the wolves! — it’s safe to say not much has changed in the past 112 years.
A February 1907 article states some anglers weren’t all that excited by a new-fangled proposal to start charging them to fish in state waters.
“One sportsman characterizes the law as an attempt to deprive a man of the right to take his family out once a year for a day’s fishing,” the Tacoma Daily News reported.
The cost: $1 for your home county, $5 for anywhere in the state.
“No man will want to take out a license for every member of this family for the privilege of catching a few fish while on a picnic or camping trip,” the brief article quotes an unnamed fisherman as saying.
“If he happens to take them outside the county in which he resides, he will be up against the proposition of paying a state license fee of $5. The law is the worst ever proposed and if it is passed, fishermen should unite to test it in courts,” the man continued.
Five bucks is how much I paid our sales manager after she won our March Madness pool — truly no big loss — but for a dad during the days of the Teddy Roosevelt Administration, $5 actually represented a helluva lot more:
$135.21 in today’s dollars, according to officialdata.org.
(The US Department of Labor inflation calculator only goes back to 1913, when $5 would have been worth $129.69.)
So you can understand the backlash from a guy suddenly having to contemplate outfitting the whole fam damily with licenses.
But another fisherman saw it differently.
“There was much objection when the hunting law was passed,” they said during a time when the county license was also $1 and the statewide one was $5, “but nobody now denies its good effects.”
To add a little more perspective, today’s freshwater-saltwater combo license plus the Columbia River salmon steelhead endorsement, a pair which essentially let you fish anywhere, runs $64.10 after dealer fees, or $2.37 in 1907 dollars, per officialdata.org.
If somehow WDFW’s fee bill unrolls itself from the Senate gillnet it’s caught in and is passed and signed into law, it would raise the price of those two licenses to a total of $72.34, or $2.68 back then.
“I’m willing to pay $1 a year for my fishing,” the enlightened and apparently frugal angler, who lived at a time when you didn’t have to travel across county lines to find good fishing, told the Daily News. “Why should not fishermen and hunters be treated alike? One thing is sure — that is that we’ve got to do something very quickly if we are to have any trout at all.”
Indeed, some things never change.
I couldn’t tell you if the proposal was approved that year– my mom, who found the old article while doing genealogy research, is currently napping or something.
And I couldn’t tell you what hunting and fishing fees back then went towards — I assume wardens, county game commissions buying elk to restock overharvested herds, perhaps the budding hatchery system and maybe printing super-brief regs books (just four pages for the 1905 big game pamphlet, four-deer limit but closed for elk statewide and pheasants and quail on the Eastside), and I believe the coffers were also raided by the unscrupulous.
But I do know that today all of my license dollars — Every. Last. Penny. Of. Them — by state and federal laws go to the management of fish, wildlife, angling and hunting opportunities, NOT the General Fund.
And I cannot deny that “good effect” as we struggle to maintain and try and grow the opportunities we still have against a king hell tide of habitat destruction that’s come on since and even before 1907, politicians’ and even sportsmen’s apathy, and the roller coaster of bust-and-boom game cycles.