Bi-state panel leans toward support for dual fishing licenses

jmarks@lakewyliepilot.comApril 19, 2013 

— A bi-state proposal cast on Friday could grow into the long-awaited lunker on the line for Lake Wylie anglers.

The Catawba-Wateree River Basin Advisory Commission, which met at the Rock Hill Operations Center Friday, appears poised to push for reciprocal fishing licenses. Anglers need a state license to fish either in North Carolina or South Carolina. Someone fishing all of Lake Wylie must have both.

Commissioner Smitty Hanks, representing the Lake Wylie Marine Commission on the bi-state panel, said it’s common sense to create a single license. He said South Carolina has such an agreement in waters bordering Georgia, and that North Carolina has one with Virginia.

“I don’t think you could find two residents in both states who wouldn’t agree to it,” Hanks said. “It’s strictly a political problem, not a real one.”

For years, anglers have been asking groups like the marine commission why they can’t purchase and carry just one license for both states. For years, the case against a local reciprocal license has been the revenue generated by each state requiring and selling its own version.

Advisory group member and state Sen. Wes Hayes said former state Rep. Herb Kirsh of Clover was a champion of that thinking. Kirsh lost his seat of more than 30 years to Tommy Pope in 2010.

“It might be timely to look again,” Hayes said. “Lake Wylie is probably the most impacted of all the lakes. It may be worth trying again.”

The advisory group didn’t discuss potential economic repercussions Friday. State Rep. Ralph Norman, a new appointee to the advisory group, said a crossover deadline in May for legislation in South Carolina means this year’s session will be too soon. Both states would have to agree on the license.

“It would be tough to take up, but next year it would definitely be something to look at,” Norman said.

A late legislative session the day prior prevented several North Carolina legislators from attending Friday’s meeting, so a full resolution wasn’t pursued. Group members did call for natural resource agencies from both states to be invited to the next quarterly meeting, when a resolution could come.

Tim Meade, advisory group member and North Carolina resident, said his state traditionally hasn’t been opposed to the notion of a reciprocal license. “Historically,” he said, “North Carolina has supported that.”

Former York County Councilman Rick Lee, a Rock Hill resident and admitted non-angler, is chairman of the advisory group. Only just prior to Friday’s meeting did a conversation between Hanks and Lee spark the license issue, which wasn’t on the group’s agenda.

Yet the consensus quickly rose that the idea has merit, and that anglers on lakes like Wylie should get the same treatment as those on other waterways where states border.

“It would seem to me that this is kind of an odd situation,” Lee said.

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