From July 1, 2013, through June 30, 757 people statewide and 26 in the Augusta area have been caught fishing without a license.
Richmond County leads its 22-county region with the most citations at 17, while Columbia and McDuffie counties trail with eight and one violation each, according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
“With residents being able to easily purchase a license online, in retail stores and at ranger stations, it’s almost to the point where everyone is legal, but sometimes people chance it,” said Capt. Mark Padgett, who heads the regional ranger station in Thomson.
According to the Georgia Administrative Office of the Courts, fishing without a license carries a $74 fine for residents and a $138 fine for non-residents, and could result in a person’s permit being revoked.
Padgett said state-owned fishing areas are common for anglers without licenses, which is ironic because permit proceeds help pay to maintain more than 2,000 acres of water at nine public ponds that provide fishing for bass, bream, crappie and catfish.
Profits also benefit boat ramps, children’s fishing events and warm water hatcheries, along with 500,000 acres of reservoirs and small lakes.
Except on private property, anyone 16 and older must have a fishing license in their possession while fishing in fresh or salt water in Georgia.
Proof of residence, such as a Georgia driver’s license, is required when purchasing a fishing license, which are available in lifetime and combination hunting permits to senior citizens and disabled residents at a discount.
Rangers can require identification when checking fishing licenses. The state has 183 rangers, with 21 patrolling the Augusta region.
“It’s pretty tough to cover the entire area, but every time we get close to someone fishing, we try to stop and chat with them to see if they have a license and are abiding by state wildlife laws,” Padgett said. “Most are playing by the rules.”