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State readies for new fishing rules
Trish Wooten has yet to start issuing free saltwater information program permits with fishing licenses at the St. Simons Island Bait and Tackle Shop she owns near the St. Simons Island Pier Village, but she plans to soon.

The permits will be required for all licensed anglers fishing in saltwater starting Jan. 1.

Wooten said the permit does not pose much of a problem because it is free and could be of some help during fish surveys.

"It's just another way to figure out who is fishing in saltwater," Wooten said.

According to Kathy Knowlton, a fisheries biologist with the Department of Natural Resources' Coastal Resources Division, keeping track of who is fishing in saltwater is precisely the reason for the permit.

Having an updated list of those who fish in saltwater is something required of the state by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration under the Magnuson Stevens Act that governs marine fisheries, Knowlton said.

The free permit will make gathering the information for NOAA much easier, she said.

It will also help Knowlton with surveys she conducts to gather information about the health of Georgia's saltwater fisheries.

"We are very dependent on the information we collect from those surveys," Knowlton said.

The permit will also help the DNR examine the economic impact of saltwater fishing on the state, she said.

Collecting an updated contact list of saltwater fishermen will make the information collected more accurate and trustworthy, according to Spud Woodward, director of the Coastal Resources Division.

"Georgia's saltwater anglers can help by complying with this new requirement and by participating in these surveys when contacted," Woodward said in a release announcing the permit.

The idea behind the permit is already a proven success. A similar program, the free hunter information program, has worked for tracking hunters of migratory birds.

Knowlton said the permits will be easy to access online or at stores where fishing licenses are purchased.

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