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The Marine Registry has been in effect since 2011 but there are still anglers who have not registered for what is for all intents and purposes a free license.

By Fred Golofaro  |  March 24, 2019
Information from the registry is incorporated into the National Marine Fisheries Service database and plays a role in setting quotas and fishing regulations.

It seems simple enough. You can go online, walk into a license issuing tackle shop or town hall, or simply pick up the phone and be registered for the free marine registry administered by DEC in a matter of minutes. Yet I continue to run into people who are not registered or question why they need it. Others don’t seem to be aware that you need to renew the registry every season.

All saltwater anglers 16 years or older need to register with New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) if you are planning to fish anywhere in New York’s marine and coastal district, including all the waters of the Atlantic within three nautical miles from the coast and all other tidal waters within the state, including the Hudson River below the Tappan Zee Bridge. You are also required to register if you plan to fish for anadromous species such as striped bass, hickory shad, blueback herring or alewife in the Hudson, Delaware or Mohawk River and their tributaries, or when taking any marine baitfish.

Those fishing aboard party or charter boats in the marine and coastal district do not have to register if the boat carries the $250 party or charter boat license and has filed with the marine fishing registry. Others exempt from the registry are New York State licensed party/charter boat owners and Connecticut or Rhode Island residents that have a valid marine fishing license from their resident state. The marine registry is not necessary for crabbing.

Information from the registry is incorporated into the National Marine Fisheries Service database of recreational marine anglers. The database helps obtain fishing activity information, which plays a role in setting quotas, size and bag limits, and fishing seasons each year. The latest figure I was able to obtain showed approximately 360,000 registered marine anglers in the state. That figure seems low considering that everyone 16 and over who wets a line in the marine district except when fishing aboard a party or charter boat, should be registered. Many tournaments are now requiring anglers show their registry when they enter. Both New York State and Suffolk County parks now require a current marine registry when purchasing fishing access permits.

Concerning the issue of reciprocity, both Connecticut and Rhode Island are in agreement that our recreational marine fishing registry serves as an equivalent to the recreational marine fishing license, for which a reciprocity agreement was in place. Under this agreement, New York’s registered anglers (resident and non-resident) are able to fish in the bordering waters of those states without having to purchase a non-resident Connecticut or Rhode Island marine fishing license. Unfortunately, no such agreement was reached with our neighbors in New Jersey who are insisting that New York anglers who fish across the border must also be registered in that state. The New Jersey registry is currently free and can be accessed by going to www.saltwaterregistry.nj.gov.

The no-fee recreational marine fishing registry was legislated on March 31 of 2011 with a sunset clause that expired in 2013, when the legislature permanently suspended any angling fees.

Fines for failure to register with the New York DECALS system are relatively steep, beginning at $250, and up to $1,000 for repeat offenders, but I have not heard of anyone being subjected to such fines. Registering is mandatory, and if you have not yet done so, you can apply through the DEC's automated licensing system (DECALS) by going to www.dec.ny.gov/permits/54950.html or by calling 1-86-NY-DECALS (1-866-933-2257) weekdays during normal business hours. You can also register for no fee through any DEC licensing agent such as tackle shops and town halls.