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Update: Buying your 2011 California Fishing License: New Look -New Format It's easy says one angler

By Gary Heffley

Having heard the news regarding changes in the 2011 California Fishing License and the new format and purchasing procedure, I took the opportunity to stop by Phil’s Propellers in Shasta Lake and see everything for myself.

Gone are the days of filling out the license form from the packets, affixing any stamps to the back and sticking it in your wallet. Gone are also the days of buying a license for another person and having them fill it out later, such as purchasing a license as a Christmas gift, something that I have done for my nephews and even my mom in years past.

To get an actual license, the licensee must visit an authorized license agent/location, an office of the Department of Fish and Game or the DFG website – where you can LINK to the online purchase procedure for buying licenses and obtaining report cards. (Be sure to read the instructions and then click on the large green "Online Sales" link on the right side of the page. This will take you to the process of entering your personal information, credit card numbers, etc.)

Gift cards? Yes you can do that at most license-agent locations but the licensee still needs to visit a licensing location to secure the final copies. All licenses will be generated through a new computer system. No more license books period.

Online from home or office

You must have the following to purchase a license online from your home or office: 1) an authorized credit card, 2) a computer with the appropriate browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox or Safari are accepted), 3) a working printer and 4) complete and valid personal information on hand for yourself and/or the person for whom you want to buy a license. After you follow the procedure, you can print a temporary license. A valid permanent license will be mailed to you later. At this time not all report cards are available and must be purchased directly through a licensing agent. It's actually easy according to this license buyer.

Photo by Mike Mogler

Buying your license at an authorized agent

The new procedures at an authorized licensing agent include presenting your driver’s license to the agent to be swiped into the onsite computer system which will provide your basic info such as name, address, age, sex, weight, hair color, date of birth, eye color. If you do not have you license with you, the information must be entered manually by the agent via the interactive touch screen. The agent may then ask for phone numbers and even email information.

The agent will then ask for any other license related items such as a second rod stamp, enhancement stamps or punch cards.  These being selected, the printer then produces a light blue thermal paper copy, not unlike a cash register receipt that is the actual license. The copy will have all the above listed personal information as well as a readable bar code and a list of the fees and additional stamps purchased.

My license is 3 inches wide and 7 inches long. The basic license cost was $43.46 and the second rod stamp was $13.53. As it was last year a Bay Delta Enhancement Stamp is not needed to fish the waters of the Sacramento/San Joaquin River or the Bay Systems.

I also decided to purchase a Steelhead Report and Restoration Card, which cost $6.48. Again the printer produced another light blue thermal copy, actually two separate pieces of paper both of which were 14.5 inches long. One was the report card itself again printed with my personal information on it, the other copy with instructions, examples and fishing location codes to report the water on which the steelhead were caught.

Needless to say if you also secured a salmon punch card, a sturgeon punch card or any other report card, you are talking about quite a bit of paper to be folded into a wallet.

Buy now, save critical time later

Speaking with George at Phil’s we came up with a couple of recommendations. First off bring your California ID or Driver’s License with you; it can help speed up the process. Get the license as soon as you can. For example if you are heading out to a tournament and everyone decides to buy a license at the same time, be prepared to stand in line. With most places having only one terminal you may have a wait. Also because the system is on-line only any system glitches could mean long waits or even a missed day of fishing if the system or terminal crashes.

Also remember that vouchers purchased on-line or from an agent as a gift are not the actual license.  The licensee must go to an agent and present the voucher to secure the license.

An unsubstantiated rumor, but better safe than sorry, is that the thermal paper may be affected by direct sunlight and may degrade after long periods of exposure. Not that there is any reason too, but to be on the safe side don’t leave your license exposed on a car dash or in direct sunlight for long periods of time…just in case.

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