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Guides seek licensing revisions

Published (3/4/2010)
By Sue Hegarty
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Fishing guides are asking legislators to support a resolution for more targeted licensing requirements by the U.S. Coast Guard.

Proponents told the House Game, Fish and Forestry Division March 1 that current federal licensing for operating six-passenger boats on inland lakes is the same, as costly and lengthy of training as for larger sea-worthy vessels.

The division approved HF3162, a resolution to Congress, sponsored by Rep. David Dill (DFL-Crane Lake), and referred it to the House Environment Policy and Oversight Committee.

The Coast Guard requires captains of uninspected boats with up to six paying passengers to have operated their boat for 360 days. At least 90 of those days must have been within the past three years and on border waters.

Tom Neustrom, a Grand Rapids professional fishing guide, said Coast Guard licensing requirements are too rigorous for some of the state’s 500 guides, many of whom may only lead 20 or 30 inland boat trips a year. Because the courses may not be available locally, training and testing expenses can exceed $2,500. For a small resort owner or an independent fishing guide who carries liability insurance, the expense of obtaining the necessary licensing can cause financial hardship, Neustrom said.

John Edman, director of Explore Minnesota Tourism, said guides provide a great service to the state’s $11.2 billion leisure and hospitality industry, which supports the resolution. Ideally, guides would like new Coast Guard regulations in place before the governor’s fishing opener weekend, scheduled to begin May 14 on Lake Kabetogama in Voyageurs National Park.

U. S. Rep. James Oberstar is scheduled to meet with a Minnesota delegation March 10 to discuss the issue.

Sen. Mary Olson (DFL-Bemidji) sponsors the companion, SF2780, which awaits action by the Senate Rules and Administration Committee.

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