Three Norwalk residents were cited for fishing without a license Tuesday after police found them fishing at the mouth of the Saugatuck River without the proper permits, according to Marine Division Officer Bob Myer.
Connecticut instituted a law in 2009 that requires sport fishermen who fish in saltwater purchase a $10 Marine Waters Fishing License, according to Town Clerk Patricia Strauss, who issues all licenses in Westport, including marriage/civil union licenses, dog licenses, and fish and game licenses.
“It used to be you needed a license to fish in fresh water only. Just recently the law changed,” Straus said, adding that some fishermen are still unaware of the new law.
Eric Johnson, owner of , a one-stop shop for all marine and fishing needs, said he had three customers from Michigan come into his store for fishing equipment Wednesday.
“I asked them, ‘You guys have licenses, right?’” Johnson said.
The fishermen were completely unaware they needed licenses, but purchased three after Johnson informed them of the law.
“I think part of the issue stems from how the licensing program was instituted. The marketing of it has been very lax in my opinion,” Johnson said. “People just are not aware.”
After the law was enacted in 2009 it was eliminated prior to the end of that fishing season and many fisherman, according to Johnson, thought that they were entitled to a refund. The price for the license was about $40 at the time. In 2010 the law was reinstated at $10, which is where it stands today. Johnson said many fishermen have some resentment about how Connecticut fisherman licensing laws have been carried out recently.
“Unless you were proactively looking to see if you needed a license or not, it (licensing information) was hard to come by,” Johnson said, adding that the information is on the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection website.
The demarcation line in Westport is at the Route 1 overpass, meaning that any part of the Saugatuck River south of Route 1 is considered saltwater. As a rule of thumb for most towns in Connecticut, the demarcation line for saltwater fishing is any portion of a river that is south of I-95, according to Johnson.
Westport police ticketed Alberto Dias, 39, Mario Gonzales, 38, and Eutiquio Pacheco-Flores, according to a police report. They were found at the mouth of the Saugatuck River, police said. That location is well below the demarcation line, according to Johnson.
Johnson said Westport Outfitters does its part to make sure fisherman are properly licensed, although they benefit nothing from the transaction. The town of Westport receives one dollar for every license that they sell at town hall, according to Strauss.