The Virginia Marine Resources Commission has launched its new Fisherman Identification Program to register saltwater anglers who fish legally without a saltwater fishing license.
Anglers who do not need to buy a license under state law must register with the new Virginia Fisherman Identification Program for free and supply their contact information before they fish every year, according to John Bull of VMRC.
Anglers who buy a saltwater fishing license will be automatically registered.
The intent is to create a Virginia-wide "phone book" of saltwater anglers, which will be given to the National Marine Fisheries Service in order to improve fishing effort surveys and to exempt Virginia anglers from having to sign up directly with the National Saltwater Angler Registry and pay an annual $15 federal registration fee.
Since Virginia has been exempted, the state’s saltwater anglers will not have to pay the fee or sign up with the national registry. However, in order to maintain that exemption, the VMRC will collect contact information when anglers buy an annual saltwater fishing license as of Jan. 1, 2011, and from unlicensed anglers when they register with the Fisherman Identification Program.
In effect, all Virginia adult saltwater anglers now will need either a valid saltwater fishing license or to register with the Fisherman Identification Program before they go saltwater fishing every year, Bull said.
Anglers may register annually with the state Fisherman Identification Program by going to www.mrc.virginia.gov/FIP now or by calling 800-723-2728. There is no charge.
Anglers with a valid Virginia saltwater fishing license, or a Potomac River Fisheries Sport Fishing License, do not have to register with the state FIP. Their contact information will be collected when they buy a license.
Anglers under the age of 16 also are exempt from registering. Also exempt from registration are paying customers of licensed charter boats or head boats.
Virginia anglers who must register each year with the Fisherman Identification Program include those who fish legally without a license (such as on a boat licensed to cover all anglers; from a commercial pier or private property; who are age 65 and older) or who fish in tidal freshwater for anadromous species such as striped bass or other marine species.