A lakewide fishing license has been a baited issue among Lake Wylie anglers for years. Now one group is looking to set the hook for good.
The Catawba-Wateree River Basin Advisory Commission wants a reciprocal fishing license, meaning anglers could purchase one license to fish Lake Wylie rather than being required to have two licenses for the Carolinas. The commission is made up of local, state and federal legislative and administrative representatives to the water and other natural resources along the river.
The idea sprung from a comment by then Lake Wylie Marine Commission member Smith “Smitty” Hanks when the bi-state group met last spring. But it was discussed when the group reconvened in September. The commission has drafted a letter supporting co-licensing and sent it to directors Alvin Taylor with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources and Gordon Myers with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.
The letter notes South Carolina’s reciprocal arrangement with Georgia on the Savannah Basin and North Carolina’s agreement with Virginia on the New River and Kerr Reservoir. The letter asks both state’s natural resource departments “for a similar agreement to be put in place” between the Carolinas for Lake Wylie.
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The issue is on the commission’s March 21 agenda in Rock Hill.
“It’s a big change for both states,” Hanks said. “Each state is going to be contingent on the other state passing it.”
Hanks said there are “economic factors” and a “significant amount of money” to be accounted for with a co-licensing arrangement. “There is some opposition and there always has been,” Hanks said. “Everything is simple until you start talking about what it costs.”
A basic, in-state fishing license in South Carolina costs $5 for 14 days, $10 for a year, or $30 for three years. A lifetime license is $300. Out-of-state prices are $11 for 14 days, $35 per year and $105 for three years.
A basic North Carolina fishing license costs $5 for 10 days or $15 per year. Those prices double for those who aren’t residents. There’s also a $10 annual license for county residents and a $250 lifetime license in-state, or $200 to $1,000 out-of-state based on age.
Several years ago, S.C. Rep. Ralph Norman, R-Rock Hill, considered reciprocal license legislation, but he ran into concerns about determining residency and allocating money between states. At the time, Department of Natural Resources struggled to operate with reduced funding during the economic crisis.
“There was a sense they already had more than they can do,” Norman said.
S.C. Sen. Wes Hayes, R-Rock Hill, now is working on the issue with the bi-state group. He will meet with a sportsman committee at the state level.
“It’s something we need to look at,” Hayes said. “It can be done if we decide to do it.”
When the late S.C. Rep. Herb Kirsh served, he was “so strongly opposed” to a reciprocal license that other legislators didn’t bother, Hayes said. Kirsh believed money from license sales could be lost, and that it was needed to preserve hunting and fishing property and for other uses by S.C. DNR.
Hayes, however, sees reciprocal licensing as positive for South Carolina anglers, making it easier to access North Carolina waters on Lake Wylie. But, he admits, a negative is South Carolina will “probably lose some money” in the deal. North Carolina has two counties on Lake Wylie as opposed to one in South Carolina. Also, Charlotte has a larger population. So there is potential to lose higher-priced out-of-state license fees.
“Those are the issues we’re going to have to wrestle with,” Hayes said.
Making the move
North Carolina is on a short session so it likely will be next year before both states could pass mirroring legislation, something Hayes and bi-state group members say is necessary to make the move.
A law change likely would be specific to Lake Wylie, where the state line runs lengthwise down the middle of the lake rather than separating it north and south.
David Campbell began fishing at 16. Now he’s 73. He’s been fishing Lake Wylie for at least 40 years and has a lifetime license from North Carolina. He buys another each year from South Carolina.
“One license should be good for the whole lake,” he said.
Robert Childers lives just outside of Clover and buys a license from North Carolina to fish Wylie. Childers doesn’t like that an annual license is good for 365 days in North Carolina, but only until June in South Carolina, regardless when it’s bought.
“I don’t agree with it, but what can you do?” he asked.
Childers agrees anglers won’t need much coaxing to get hooked on the idea of a reciprocal license.
“Man, that would be great,” he said.