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Fishing license sales flat, declining over past decade

Experts say fewer young people are interested in outdoor recreation like angling.

SPRINGFIELD, Illinois (Illinois News Network) — Fishing license sales have been either flat or declining in Illinois for the past 10 years.

The loss of sales have a direct impact on the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ ability to enhance environmental habitats and Illinois’ multi-billion dollar fishing industry.

Dan Stephenson, the chief of Fisheries for IDNR, said 650,000 to 700,000 fishing licenses are sold every year. IDNR is trying to get those numbers up, according to Stephenson.

Changing demographics is part of the reason for declining sales. Stephenson said younger people are not engaging in outdoor activities like older generations before them.

Getting anglers to renew their licenses has also been an issue.

“We’ve got what is called an R3 initiative,” Stephenson said. “It’s reactivation, retention and recruitment of anglers.”

The licensing fees along with an excise tax on fishing equipment provides most of the funding for IDNR’s Division of Fisheries, according to Stephenson.

License sales help run the hatcheries that supply fish to various fishing locations throughout the state.

“We’ve got 65 people in the division of fisheries,” Stephenson said. “We have three different hatcheries throughout the state, and we raise fish there to stock in our lakes and waters. In our hatcheries, we raise about 19 different species of fish and we raise about 10 to 12 million fish per year. These fish sustain a multi-billion dollar fishing industry in the state. The hatcheries that stock the fish and the biologists that work out there on the field on the lakes, the work that they do generates about $2 billion to $3 billion a year in the state of Illinois.”

Stephenson said those fishing license sales are an important driver of the state economy.

Fishing licenses went on sale March 1. Residential fishing licenses cost $15. People younger than 16 and people with disabilities do not have to pay for fishing licenses.