As of June 30, Floridians older than 65 will have to buy an out-of-state license to hunt or fish in Georgia. Likewise, Georgians older than 65 will have to buy an out-of-state license to hunt or fish in Florida.
In April, both states’ wildlife agencies agreed to terminate the 20-year-old reciprocal agreement that allowed holders of no-cost, senior-citizen licenses to fish in freshwater or hunt in either state without purchasing an out-of-state license. Georgia WRD pointed to basic inequality of the agreement as the cause for termination. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWCC) said it no longer made sense financially.
So, both states’ agencies will benefit financially from the termination of the agreement, and non-resident senior citizens will foot the bill.
“We’ve got the fishing; y’all have the hunting,” said Robert Soltysik, a senior Florida resident who comes to Georgia twice a year to hunt and trout fish. “I left $4,000 in the state of Georgia this year for gas, hotels and food. Now, since they want my $300, I ain’t coming.”
Trout stamps were not covered under the agreement.
According to WRD Assistant Director Todd Holbrook, there was some back and forth between the two states before Georgia decided to terminate the agreement. He said Florida hunters were able to take advantage of Georgia’s premium resource, whitetail deer, at no cost, while Georgia sportsmen had to pay regular non-resident fees for Florida’s premium resource, saltwater fishing. He also said Florida sent three times more sportsmen to Georgia than visa-versa, and the financial difference was 10-to-one in favor of Florida. According to Georgia WRD’s numbers, Florida lost about $50,000 a year in freshwater-license fees, while Georgia lost more than $500,000 in hunting and freshwater license fees.
Georgia proposed that Florida include saltwater fishing in the agreement to make it more equitable, but Florida did not accept.
“We made that approach to Florida. They didn’t want to include the saltwater part of the equation, so we put an end to it,” Todd said. “Should Georgia hunters and taxpayers subsidize Florida seniors at that kind of rate?”
Henry Cabbage with FWCC said including saltwater fishing in the agreement would cost Florida $193,000 annually. Georgia also presented a freshwater-only proposal, which Florida declined.
“These reciprocal agreements just cost too much in hard times like these,” Cabbage said. “It follows the trend for most states.”
The termination of this agreement does not affect reciprocal agreements on border lakes or rivers.