Who Wants To Promote Hunting And Fishing Anyway?

April 23, 2008

Fly Fishing the Upper Androscoggin RiverI might be a rarity when it comes to the hunting and fishing industry, at least from the perspective of the “consumer”. Hey, I’ll cut right to the chase and come out and say that some? many? most? anglers and hunters aren’t that interested in sharing their fishing holes and highly productive hunting grounds with “outsiders”. Just pretend for the duration of this article that you actually did care and see if you can get beyond your personal feelings long enough to understand some odd reasoning. At least my form of reasoning is having trouble with this.

I would suppose that because I have a background in the tourist industry and that happens to be in Maine, it is difficult for me to get rid of that networking and marketing mindset that so much is a part of making it in the tourist business. With my background and this odd drive I have, I still find value in marketing Maine’s (or fill in your state) natural resources – in this case hunting and fishing.

I have a very good friend who lives in Maine. Her name is Wende Gray. I have a lot of respect for her expertise in the tourism/marketing industry in Maine because, 1) I think she understands it and, 2) she’s been at it for a long time. Wende wears many hats and one of those hats of late has been her involvement with the Upper Andro Anglers Alliance. The UAAA is a group of local businesses scattered throughout and along the watershed areas of the Upper Androscoggin. In this case from about the Maine and New Hampshire boarder south and westerly to the Rumford, Maine area.

The purpose of the Alliance is to promote the river as a destination fishery. Anyone who has been in and understands the tourism business knows that you are always scrambling for business and the competition can get fierce.

As Wende has done in the past, she invites prominent outdoor writers into the area and wines and dines them in hopes they will in turn publish some kind thoughts on their experiences. This all in hopes of luring others, often times “from away”, to the area obviously to spend some money and keep people employed and able to pay bills.

Wende recently contacted the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to inquire about obtaining some complimentary fishing licenses for visiting outdoor writers to the region. Here’s part of that email.

On behalf of the Upper Andro Anglers Alliance I am requesting a dozen complimentary fishing licenses for travel and outdoor writers visiting our region this summer. UAAA has joined the New England Outdoor Writers Association and attended the Media Marketplace in New York City. There is great interest in our emerging destination fishery and we expect up to a dozen writers visiting this year-in particular for the Two Fly Contest and Drift Boat Competition in June. Our pr efforts in the past have generated articles in Cabella’s Sporting Journal, Gray’s Sporting Journal, New England Fish & Game, Outdoor Life, the Boston Globe, and New York Sun to name a few. It is our understanding that due to budget cuts at IF&W, complimentary licenses are no longer available. With the emphasis on Maine’s fishing product in promoting Maine tourism this summer, we are in hopes that the Office of Tourism would be able to assist us with our request.

Regis Tremblay, the new Director of IF&W’s Public Information and Education Division, responded to Wende’s request saying that she could forward her request on to the MDIFW Commissioner, Roland “Dan” Martin and then he took some time to explain to Wende about the new policy concerning complimentary licenses in addition to having to be approved by the Commissioner.

…..we’d like to have some certainty that the writers are aware of a lose quid pro quo…i.e. IF&W and our mission as stewards of Maine’s Wildlife and Fisheries does not go unmentioned. We would also expect to receive copies of the magazines in which mention of us might appear. Also, just for your information, these licenses are not free, but are paid for out of my budget. We are happy to do this, but are hopeful of some return on our investment.

I have no idea what Commissioner Martin’s expectations are regarding who he will consider worthy of a Maine complimentary fishing license. The other expectations laid out by Trembley I really have no issue with and actually think it is a great idea to have some kind of guarantee that this small investment sees some kind of return other than willy-nilly handing out free licenses to anybody.

*Note* – For clarification purposes and to be as transparent as possible, I have no stake in this as a writer. There’s no sour grapes because I want a free license to go fishing in Maine and can’t get one. I do fish in Maine when I am there in the summer but I gladly hop on over to the local agent and purchase a non-resident fishing license.

Getting back to the guidelines about comp licenses, I was struck by the comment made by Tremblay that the cost of these licenses comes out of his budget. So, I emailed him for an explanation. I wanted to know what the actual cost of administering a comp license was and how many, on average, did MDIFW issue in a given season.

Tremblay was kind enough to take the time to answer my email but I can’t say I actually got the answer I was looking for, only raising more questions. He told me the retail price of a resident and a non-resident fishing license in Maine.

* Resident fishing licenses costs $21.00
* Non-Resident fishing licenses costs $52

Does this mean that if MDIFW issues a complimentary license to a writer who lives in Maine, Tremblay gets hit for $21.00 and $52 if the writer lives out of state? How does the cost of issuing a comp license to a writer change depending on where the writer lives? Before you jump all over me, I understand about having resident and non-resident licenses but if the idea for a complimentary license is for the purpose of advertising and promotion, does it matter?

What I was hoping to find out was what the actual real costs were in issuing a complimentary license – $1.00, $2.00, $3.00 or $21.00?

And why is Tremblay getting nailed out of his budget the full retail price of each license? And the money gets extracted from his budget and then goes where? Inquiring minds want to know. Is this Martin’s way of reeling in (sorry) the public relations people at MDIFW because he thinks they are issuing licenses irresponsibly? If so, why can’t he just simply approve or not any complimentary licenses issued?

Tremblay also told me that MDIFW typically issues “a few dozen” licenses annually. For clarification purposes, I don’t know if that “few dozen” is all complimentary licenses or just those issued for outdoor writers and those only to fishermen outdoor writers.

So what is a few dozen? And how much does this really cost the state of Maine?

Not to get mired in the questionable administrative methods of MDIFW but one has to at least question the expense and return. Remember, I asked you to pretend you don’t mind if people “from away” come to Maine (insert your state) to fish. If Tremblay says a few dozen licenses are issued, let’s see if we can guess what a few is.

I asked Wende Gray again if she had any idea about how many in the past MDIFW has given out. Her interpretation of a few dozen most closely resembled between one and two dozen.

As a country boy growing up in rural Maine, I seem to recall my grandfather telling me that a few meant twelve. Let’s say Wende says two dozen and Grandpa’s definition is twelve dozen and split the difference to seven dozen or 84 licenses. You do the math. Is it not worth it? Should the Maine Office of Tourism pick up the tab for the 84 complimentary licenses? Is this all tit for tat while losing focus on the big picture? I don’t get it.

Either there is legitimate value in the process of utilizing outdoor writers for advertising and marketing, or there isn’t. I concur that somebody should “approve” complimentary licenses and if MDIFW can’t afford to issue those licenses because of budget shortfalls and somebody needs to pay, should they be paying full retail price for each license?

Recently MDIFW teamed up with the Maine Office of Tourism to promote fishing on the MOT website. Who paid for that? Did MOT charge MDIFW the full retail value of creating web pages for that purpose? Regardless, MDIFW must be showing an interest in luring in out of state anglers by undertaking this action. Another indication is they still are willing to sell non-resident licenses, so there must be some value in their eyes, to bringing in outsiders to fish the waters of Maine.

It all seems quite silly if you ask me. The reality is that it cost the state of Maine virtually nothing to issue a complimentary license. Is this a viable advertising and marketing scheme for Maine or isn’t it? If it is, let’s get on with it. If not, it’s time to end the charade.

Tom Remington


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