Published March 17, 2023

Fishing Tournament Fee Kerfuffle 

Written by
Kim Fundingsland
| The Dakotan
Geremy Olson, Washburn, testifies before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. (Photo: submitted)
Geremy Olson, Washburn, testifies before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. (Photo: submitted)

Senate Committee Hears Testimony 

BISMARCK – Since 1984 the North Dakota Game and Fish Department has assessed state fishing tournaments a 10% conservation fee and required that 75% of entry fees be paid out to tourney competitors. A bill that passed the House, 90-2, asks for a change in Game and Fish policy regarding fishing tournaments. 

Testimony on HB1538 was heard Thursday by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Geremy Olson, Washburn, primary author of the bill, asked the committee a very direct question. 

“Why do we have to pay out so much money for a charity event?” asked Olson. “We are required to give away 75% of the money to participants and give the state 10%. The way this rule has been applied for 40 years only hurts charities and non-profits.” 

The 10% conservation fee is returned to the sponsoring organization of the tournament to be, as per Century Code, “expended on fishery conservation projects or for providing public access to fishing areas and the intended project must be identified on the permit application form.” 

The conservation fee was capped at $5,000 until June of 2020. The removal of the cap dramatically increased the cost for high entry fee events. Supporters of the bill say the result has been that national fishing tournaments, some of which had previously staged events in the state, have removed North Dakota from tournament consideration, instead opting for nearby states that charge $250 or less to hold a fishing tournament. 

According to testimony from Perry Kapaun, Valley City, an opponent of the bill, the Barnes County Wildlife Club is currently working with Game and Fish and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to install a single fish cleaning station at Lake Ashtabula at cost of $50,000. However, fishing tournament conservation fees statewide generate only about $85,000 annually. The 10% fee comprises only a small fraction of the cost of “fishery conservation projects or for providing public access to fishing areas.” 

Greg Power, NDGF fisheries division chief, was among those who spoke in opposition to the bill during the Senate committee hearing. Power said the conservation fees spread “overall good will” and that he had received “no negative comments regarding conservation fees”. Power added that the conservation fee “reduced conflict between tournament and non-tournament anglers.” 

The committee made no recommendation on the bill following the hearing. The deadline for bills to be reported out of committee is April 5.

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