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  • Tom Billings

Lake Enhancement Fee

The month of February brings for me the renewal of my vehicle and boat registration. This year it cost me $180.00 to renew my boat and trailer registration. Ironically, that was more expensive than any of my three vehicles. While reviewing my paperwork there is a “Lake Enhancement Fee” added to the boat registration. This fee has been part of the registration for several years, but I don’t like it.

It sounds like a great way for the DNR to help improve our fisheries. Of course this fee is in addition to your fishing license. That really makes me wonder. If you don’t own a boat and still buy a fishing license does that person get charged with a “Lake Enhancement Fee?” I don’t think so. Ok so the fee is for improved lake access for people that have a boat, right? I mean that would be a logical assumption by a reasonably intelligent person. However, I haven’t noticed any real improvements in the access to the lakes. Case in point, Lake Michigan. Is there any where for us to launch for free on our end of the Lake? The answer is no. Currently, the only access site to Hudson Lake is up for sale and was offered to the DNR first. The DNR has replied that they don’t have the money to buy this land. WHY? What is being done with this money?

Maybe it’s for the access to places like Monroe or Patoka reservoirs. Wait a second don’t we have to have a DNR launch sticker (cost of $22) to put in at these places?

So let’s do the math for me, $180 to register my boat and trailer, $22 for the DNR launch sticker, $40 for a yearly state park pass (Potato Creek is in a state park), $20 for a fishing license including trout and Salmon stamp. In total $260 to get on the water. That just doesn’t seem right to me. Considering the quality of water that most of us region fish heads find ourselves fishing in. It doesn’t seem to me that the product we are being given is worth the price.

Now I could be wrong and all my opinions are based solely on my own observations. I think I’m fairly good at observing and I just think the money isn’t being used for the enhancement. It seems to me that the money is being spend on enforcement. I have seen this numerous times while on the water. DNR law enforcement checking every bass boat on the water while routinely by passing beer guzzling pontoon party boats. In fact, I’ve been checked more than once in the same day by the same guy. Enforcement seems to me to be the only part of the Indiana DNR that is working, because other than enforcement, I don’t see any improvements or enhancements.

Recently, a new organization has emerged called Bass Unlimited. This organization is trying to improve the habitat for bass and organize the bass fisherpeople into a political force, as well as, do something for ourselves to improve our fisheries. I encourage everyone to look into this organization and form your own opinion. However, the simple fact that we have to do this re-enforces my thoughts and observation that the Indiana DNR is not being very good stewards of the money they are collecting from us.

Whether perception or reality the DNR needs to address some serious issues with their customer base. Basic capitalism says customers will go to where they can get the best bang for their buck, and for me, that certainly isn’t Indiana waters. However, given the fact that the DNR has the oligarchy on the fishing opportunities, we are forced to accept the product. Maybe the DNR needs to do a better job of promoting what improvements they are doing. Either way I think there is a huge dissatisfaction level with the Hoosier Fisherpeople.

Tom Billings

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