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Minnesota Fishing Reports
News : Fishing Guide Rules Get Some Clarification
Posted by LSF on Mar 27, 2010 (2072 reads) News by the same author

Sam Cook, Duluth News Tribune
The ongoing saga of Coast Guard licensing requirements for inland Minnesota fishing guides continues, but some issues are becoming clearer.

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources officials met with a Coast Guard working group about 10 days ago, and the DNR hopes to offer concrete guidelines to fishing guides and other Minnesota boaters who carry passengers for hire within about a week, Bob Meier, DNR assistant commissioner, said this week.

“We’ll be issuing a fact sheet so these guys can have an understanding of what they need and how to get it,” Meier said.

Beginning last summer, the Coast Guard indicated it would begin enforcing the requirement that any boater carrying up to six passengers for hire would need a “six-pack” license, formally known as an Operator of Uninspected Passenger Vessels license. The licenses have long been required of charter fishing captains on Lake Superior and the St. Louis River, but until last summer, the Coast Guard had not enforced the requirement on most inland waters considered federally navigable.

That license typically requires up to a week of classroom instruction. That and other requirements of the license can put its cost at about $1,200.

But Meier said the Coast Guard is considering allowing fishing guides and others carrying passengers for hire on inland waters to operate with a restricted license of some sort. Lt. Dave French, external affairs officer with the Coast Guard in Cleveland, confirmed that on Thursday.

“We’re looking at developing a restricted license for inland waters,” French said. “At this point, we don’t have that yet.”

And don’t look for it soon, Meier said. He anticipates the Coast Guard’s final decision on this matter will come in “months rather than weeks.”

The DNR has no jurisdiction in this issue.

“We’re caught in the middle,” Meier said. “We’re just trying to help our guides.”

It’s unlikely any change in licensing requirement would take effect before 2011. Meanwhile, French said, the Coast Guard will not enforce the “six-pack” license requirement for inland guides.

“Our general approach for this year is education and outreach rather than penalties,” French said. “We’re not looking to impact this season. We’re looking at helping them [guides] gain compliance once we’ve decided what form of credential we’ll be using.”

In the meantime, Meier said, guides should start the process of getting a TWIC (Transportation Worker Identification Credential) card, which is a port security clearance. The cards are available from the U.S. Coast Guard station in Duluth and cost about $100.

Obtaining the card requires two trips, one to apply for the card and another to pick it up a couple of weeks later.

Second, a guide should pay the initial registration fee for a Coast Guard OUPV license, Meier said, a cost of about $145.

“Our understanding is that once you’re in the process of getting your TWIC card and you’ve paid your registration fee for a license, they [the Coast Guard] will consider you in compliance,” Meier said.

“That’s what I’m going to do,” said Grand Rapids fishing guide Tom Neustrom, who has followed the issue closely and testified at the Minnesota Legislature. “I’m going to get my TWIC card.”

Eventually, guides would be required to take a physical exam and a drug test, even for a restricted license, Meier said.

Story Courtesy of www.duluthnewstribune.com



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