State slams door on the sale of panfish

It appears that the time-honored practice of selling panfish like perch, crappie and bluegill is a thing of the past. Legislation passed by both houses of the state legislature makes it illegal for recreational fisherman to sell their catch for public consumption. The ban awaits only the governors signature to be put in place - a move that is expected any day. I cant say I didnt see this one coming. A couple of notable arrests on Lake George last year of ice fisherman who had kept several hundred more perch than the 50-fish-per-day limit set the stage for this law change. It is a shame, though. Fisherman here have been selling perch, smelt, bullhead and other panfish to local commercial outlets for generations. Some made a wintertime livelihood from it, and consumers appreciated the fillets. A handful of businesses also relied on it to keep their lights aglow. Norms Bait & Tackle in Crown Point and Lake Champlain Fish Co. in Rouses Point are two such businesses. Both said the new restrictions will make it very difficult to remain open. You are talking about something that has been going on here for 100 years, said Norm St. Pierre, owner of Norms Bait & Tackle. They used to load smelt and sturgeon on the box cars in the 1920s to sell in the city, it has been a way of life, he said. This is sad news for the North Country. St. Pierre estimated that about 30 percent of his business came from the purchase and sale of fish. That was money that paid the utilities. Paid the taxes. I dont know how Ill make up for that loss, he said. Any business closures in an economically depressed area like the Adirondacks is bad news as far as Im concerned. Especially when it comes as a result of new state restrictions. But state DEC officials, as well as some anglers, have long advocated the ban on selling fish, saying very few other states allow recreational fisherman to sell their catch. They argue that market fishing promotes the over harvesting of certain species and caution that there is no way to determine if fish were caught in areas with consumption advisories, like certain sections of the Hudson River with high mercury toxins. I get that argument, but I think the state could have slammed the door on these loopholes without an outright ban on market fishing - especially in places like Lake Champlain where I believe it has made no dent whatsoever in fish populations. Kind of reminds me of the states proposal to do away with all outdoor burning in response to burn barrel complaints but that is a topic of conversation for another day. John Gereau is managing editor of Denton Publications and an avid outdoorsman. He can be reached at johng@denpubs.com.

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