A decades old law said that 10% of all entry and participation fees for fishing tournaments and derbies be paid to the government, calling it a “conservation fee.” Seems reasonable, even commendable if the revenue was truly earmarked for improving North Dakota’s fisheries. But without any official reporting, the public never knew.
That same law also required that events pay 75% of the gross receipts back to the participants. So, employing a little guerilla math, that leaves 15%. Pretty small rake for the house, especially once you consider that most tournaments and derbies are charitable – put on to raise money for a cause.
Ever run an event? There are hard costs. Subtract those from the measly 15% and good luck breaking even. So much for charitable proceeds intended for fire departments and other community non-profit events.
“Originally, the rule was put in place with good intentions,” said NPAA member and advocate for sensible change, Geremy Olson of Washburn, ND. “But we needed to look at the facts and the effects of the rule today.”
“Everyone assumed those good intentions meant replacing resources after a tournament, like stocking fish,” Olson continued. “When the North Dakota Game and Fish went and administratively changed the rule during the covid epidemic, people started to realize how negative the current rule had become.
In reality, it was a boat ramp tax that led to keeping out of state anglers and tournaments from positively impacting North Dakota communities.”
The rule kept major fishing tours like the National Walleye Tour (NWT), Masters Walleye Circuit (MWC) and some of the large bass tournaments from investing in North Dakota. The new law is not only a big win for anyone who enjoys competitive tournament fishing across the state, but also small businesses, communities, charities, and future student anglers in North Dakota.
The new rule is cut and dry. Fishing tournaments and contests will pay a $75 permit fee. That’s it. Event organizers will have 100% control over the money. If a professional tournament wants to payback 90% to the competitors, they can. If a charitable fishing competition wants to split entries 50/50 between participants and the cause, they can.
Also included in the new legislation is an additional $5 conservation fee for out-of-state anglers to go into a fishery conservation fund. Olson expects this to raise around $300,000 annually. The fee goes into effect April 1, 2024.
According to Olson, who helped author the bill, it was grass roots activism, including individuals and communities that have been negatively affected by the current rule, along with backing from top level recreational fishing advocacy organizations such as the National Professional Anglers Association (NPAA), that culminated in the victory.
According to Patrick Neu, NPAA’s president, the organization immediately stepped in to initiate and coordinate a rapid and strong response, which included working with Olson and a committed group of anglers and community leaders to write and introduce the legislation that would stop hurting communities and businesses in North Dakota, while meeting the needs of those who run and participate in fishing tournaments across the state.
NPAA represents all who make a living in the sportfishing industry. Membership includes everyone from guides and captains to tournament anglers, fishing department associates/management/shop owners, manufacturing personnel, engine mechanics, professional rep groups, and more. In addition to superior networking opportunities, sportfishing advocacy and promoting entry into the sport, the organization offers a monthly member newsletter, a weekly industry NewsBLAST, and access to significant discounts on gear and services provided by many of its nearly 80 supporting partners.