Oregon Fishing License Fees Getting A Bum Rap

A recent series of online posts on the fishing website, Ifish.net, revolved around how many would be anglers would not be buying fishing licenses in Oregon because of the high price of non-resident fishing licenses.

Most of the posters were ill-informed. As somebody who works at a tackleshop that sells thousands of licenses each year, I can safely and accurately vouch that Oregon is at least as fair as it’s neighboring states when it comes to pricing its non-resident fishing licenses. A non-resident Oregon angler purchasing a yearly fishing license pays $106.25. If they intend to fish for anadromous fish such as salmon and steelhead or for sturgeon or halibut, they would need to purchase a combined angling tag for an additional $26.50 (which is the same for residents and non-residents) and if they would want to clam, crab or dig sand shrimp, they would need to purchase a non-resident shellfish license for $20.50 which would be good for a year. The total cost for all three items is $153.25. All of Oregon’s fishing and hunting licenses expire at midnight on December 31st.

When Oregon increases the fees for its fishing and hunting licenses, it tends to shock people – because Oregon only does so every five or six years and the jump is usually quite noticeable – and people tend to ignore the fact that they are able to purchase these items at a slightly reduced rate during the several years between actual increases. Many states raise their fees for their fishing and hunting licenses yearly, or every couple of years and the more frequent increases are much more nominal.

When Oregon raised its annual non-resident fishing license to $106.25 from the previous price of $61.50, it got the full attention of virtually every non-resident angler planning to fish in Oregon. After all, that increase was $44.75 or 72.8 percent over the old fee. However, at that time, I was doing some fishing in north-central California and I had purchased a non-resident yearly basic California fishing license for several dollars more than non-residents were paying for yearly Oregon fishing licenses. Although I had big plans to make several fishing trips to California, I actually only fished it one day that year. However, I kept the license in my wallet and took great delight in showing it to complaining Californians griping about Oregon’s license fees. It invariably shut them up immediately.

While selling hundreds of non-resident shellfish licenses to people visiting Oregon from the state of Washington, I decided to look into why so many Washington residents were doing most or all of their crabbing in Oregon. The answer I came to was that Oregon has a consistent limit on the numbers of dungeness (12) and red rock (24) crabs. In past years in Washington, the seasons may not be consistent, there was some varience in minimum size limits and different areas had different limits regarding numbers of crabs that may be legally taken. This year, Washington is charging $35.00 for a shellfish/seaweed license which is 70.7 percent higher than the $20.50 that Oregon is charging. Although the Washington non-resident shellfish license is $14.50 or 70.7 percent more than Oregon’s non-resident shellfish license – I strongly suspect that the big attraction of Oregon crabbing is the simplicity of it compared to Washington.

Please bear in mind that the licenses issued by the different states are usually slightly different and there will always be some comparing of “apples and oranges”.

To cut to the chase, a people from other states visiting Oregon and wanting to purchase yearly licenses would pay a total of $153.25 ($106.25 + $26.50 + $20.50). Someone purchasing the correlating non-resident licenses separately in Washington would pay $84.50 for their annual freshwater fishing license, $59.75 for their annual saltwater fishing license (which includes the report card/tag) and $35.00 for the corresponding shellfish license. In other words, an angler visiting from Oregon or another state to Washington would pay a total of $179.25 or 17 percent more than a non-resdient would pay in Oregon.

The cost of a basic non-residentishing license in California is $123.38 and there are numerous small additional charges for different things – but the cost for a sturgeon tag is $8.13, a steelhead tag costs $7.05 and a salmon tag is $6.22. A non-resident angler wanting to fish for all of these fish would pay at least $144.78 ($123.38 + $21.40). Since shellfish are included in California’s fishing licenses, an angler intending to fish and crab or clam would pay less than they would in Oregon. But if all they intended to do was fish, but for fish requiring the three additional tags, they would pay $12.03 or nine percent more.

Since most of our fishing spots are far less crowded than those in Washington or California and the fishing is often every bit as good, this writer/angler thinks Oregon that out-of-state visitors fishing in Oregon get a relative bargain when compared to the rates that non-resident visitors pay to fish in neighboring states – so let’s stop heaping abuse on the ODFW – they are very fair and if you think the licenses are too expensive . . . . FISH MORE! Isn’t it all about getting your money’s worth.

About Pete Heley

Writes and self-publishes Oregon and Washington fishing books.
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