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Know the licensing laws before chartering

Chartering a fishing trip on area waters should be carefree fun. Anglers can avoid the high cost of buying expensive boat rigs, which come with additional costs for registrations, gas, insurance, maintenance and storage.

While a day of fishing for two to six anglers might seem steep at $400, add the number of selected trips you and fishing buddies can enjoy without purchasing a $40,000-$50,000 boat that has to be kept up and stored.

The carefree factor in chartering trips comes after some study not only of fishing conditions, but also licensing needs for your charter captain as well as yourself.

New York State fishing licenses renew Oct. 1 each year; Province of Ontario anglers re-up Jan 1. New York has automated its resident and non-resident license purchasing system, but Ontario has about another year to go, according to sources at Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR).

The province adopted a card system two years ago and plans to begin an online license purchasing system for non-resident anglers. OMNR officials said last week they hope to have the new system online in a year.

For now, area anglers -- resident and non-resident -- seeking information and wanting to obtain a province card may call the OMNR Card Center at (800) 387-7011.

Fishing border waters requires that fishermen obtain licenses for both New York and Ontario. Popular sauntering fish such as bass, walleye, perch, salmon and trout are sought by boaters working international waters.

Booking a charter on either side of the border can be testy for newcomers and even for some lake-savvy and river regulars. An e-mail string stretched sometime in early December regarding an Ontario charter captain who was ticketed this past fall in lower Niagara River waters with U.S. clients. That case is pending and could be adjudicated this week.

Most anglers presume charter captains have to have credentials. They do. But requirements differ in New York and Ontario. And conditions of service vary.

Ontario does not require a resident offering fish-chartering services to obtain a province guide license. New York requires all guides to obtain a renewable license to fish state waters.

When a DEC officer checks charter boats in state waters, a captain must possess at least a state license or a U.S. Coast Guard charter license. New York and all other state charter boaters can fish state waters along the border legally with all on board in possession of a current fishing license.

What's an angler to do when booking a charter? Ask if the captain is licensed to all waters you plan to fish. Also, along with knowing where all safety as well as fishing gear is located on board, ask about insurance coverage. Terms vary with departure sites, waters crossed, and charter captains' insurance coverage.

Do some checking before heading out for salmon, walleye, bass or trout. Free of care and uncertainty about lawful licenses and chartering choices, you can enjoy figuring out how the fish bite and fight.

e-mail: odrswill@gmail.com

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