Editorial: DFW Overcharges

Editorial: DFW overcharges and under provides

Western Outdoor NewsPublished: May 28, 2019

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife has some good folks working in it, but the management and oversight of the department is worse than miserable: It’s downright pathetic. In fact, if the DFW were a company, they would have gone bankrupt decades ago.

Let’s take a look at what has happened with freshwater fishing license sales and costs, remembering that the trout limit dropped from 10 fish to 5 fish some years ago, with the promise of larger trout being planted by the DFW. We’re still waiting for that to happen statewide.

In 1970, there were 19.97 million people living in California, a fishing license cost $3, and there were 2,093,696 licenses sold. In 2018, 48 years later, there were double that number of inhabitants in California at 40.01 million, a fishing license cost $44.75 and less than half as many fishing licenses were sold: 1,015,789 in 2018, down from 2,093,696 fishing licenses sold in 1970. Does anyone see anything wrong with this?

The cost of a fishing license was $3 in 1970 and went to $4 in 1972 and remained there until 1978. Then, it began incremental increases in cost every single year from 1980 until the present.

Licenses were $5 in 1980, $20.50 in 1990, $26.75 in 2000, $39.50 in 2010 and $44.75 in 2018. And during that same time period, the limit for trout went from 10 fish a day to 5 fish a day. Dramatically increased cost with less opportunity.

Obviously, there was — and continues to be — a direct and measurable decline in participation as there were and are increases in license cost, despite a huge increase in population numbers. Of course, the Department of Fish and Wildlife has been saddled by more and more responsibilities, especially non-consumptive activities, and that has taken away from trout plants dramatically. Rising costs of raising trout has also been an issue for the DFW, but trout costs have not been commensurate with the increase in license cost, and fishermen are not on the top of the DFW list of “importance.”

There are a couple of things that need to be done to “fix” the problem within the DFW. First, they have to stop cutting back on hatchery trout, and increase the production rather than cut back on it. Certainly, every fisherman in the state would rather have “wild” and “native” fish to catch, but that’s not a reality, and will not bring back the number of anglers the state should have. Plus, some fishing streams and lakes are so heavily pressured that wild trout would never succeed.

Second, the cost of a license has to not only stop going up, but needs to be cut in half. The increased sales would more than make up for the lowering of the price. Currently, there is an “automatic” increase in the cost of all fishing and hunting licenses every year, and that has got to be stopped! Eventually, we would all be paying $100 for a fishing license. The automatic increase in cost, passed by the California legislature, is unsustainable.

A short overview is this: California has one of the most costly fishing license in the United States, provides the least in planted trout per capita, and is losing a huge revenue source by not “fixing” the problem. The problem? Those who are appointed to head up the DFW: None of them have California sportsmen at heart, since they are all political appointees. Their first allegiance is to the Governor that appointed them, not the sportsmen of California.


* * *

We hope you enjoyed this article on our no-charge website Of course, this site contains only a small fraction of the stories that Western Outdoor Publications produces each week in its two northern and southern editions and its special supplements. You can subscribe to the print issue that is mailed weekly and includes the easy flip-page full-color digital issues, or you can purchase a digital only subscription. Click here to see the choice.

Luna Sea Sports Ad
Advertise with Western Outdoor News