Oceanic Libertarianism: The Massachusetts Saltwater Fishing License

Back at the dawn of InterWeb time I started an experiment in what I guess would now be called “long-tail community publishing.” Lotus founder Mitch Kapor suggested I think about creating an Internet news service, and I came up with the name “RealTime” as a play on the potential for constant deadline cycles and instant publishing (this was 1994 remember and everything was new). Then Chris Locke — one of the Cluetrain authors — threw me a contributing editor/columnist gig at InternetMCI (one of the first ballyhooed “portals”) and asked me to write about online journalism. As a stalking horse to prove my points about the potential to focus on micro audiences, I invented a fictitious news service for fishermen, then saltwater fishermen, then saltwater flyfishermen, and finally saltwater flyfishermen on Cape Cod; largely because it was a subject I knew something about first hand, could create content around, and seemed to make the point better than a service about knitting with one’s pet hair.

As it turns out there are people who knit sweaters with golden retriever hair ((but that thought disgusts me so I do not), and saltwater flyfishing was, for me in the early 1990s an obsession of late night surfcasting, prowling the back creeks of the local salt marshes, and learning how to fling a hook covered in fur and feathers 100 feet into the teeth of a howling wind. Thankfully I don’t have that time or endurance anymore, and now take out my frustrations on a rowing machine.

The fictitious fishing site I invented for InternetMCI because a real enterprise called “Reel-Time: The Internet Journal of Saltwater Flyfishing.”  With a partner, we launched the site in 1995 and were pleasantly surprised to see it quickly become the go-to source for local fishing information on Cape Cod and the Islands. Before I knew it I was a quasi-fishing journalist, delivering weekly reports on where the fish were in my local waters.

The bulletin boards for community discussion were very lively affairs — definitely a great example of community building and where I learned my lessons in moderation the hard way.

But I digress, that was a long way of backing into the comment that Massachusetts now requires me and my fishing brethren to pay a small fee ($10) for the privilege of fishing in the state’s territorial waters. This was a perennial pissing match starter at Reel Time

The perennial volatile topic that was guaranteed to start a pissing war was the subject of a saltwater fishing license in the Bay State. Freshwater fishermen have had to cough up $25 or more every year for the right to fish in a freshwater pond or lake, but saltwater anglers were able to roam the bounding seas and Big Briny for free, taking what they wanted from the water without having to pay the Man his due.  You would be astonished at the libertarian vitriol of the fishing fanatics over the subject of licenses.

So listen up friends and family who like to wet a line for the occasional bluefish, striper, fluke or scup: you need to pay your respects to the Commonwealth and go to this website to pay your dues. The governor argues that the state had to require a license, otherwise the Feds would have imposed a more expensive one. Oh well. I’m used to paying for the little piece of paper every time I go fishing in Florida, it was eventually going to happen here.

Author: David Churbuck

Cape Codder with an itch to write

One thought on “Oceanic Libertarianism: The Massachusetts Saltwater Fishing License”

  1. Love the dog knitting book’s subtitle! But I’m already “wearing” cat hair year-round.

    Is there a state budget to enforce this new licensing scheme?

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