Free Fishing Weekends are for fun, not profit

So the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has done these extra Free Fishing Weekends for a while now. I'm wondering if it's actually causing a rise in license and tag sales like they hoped for?

L.W., Medford

Well, L.W., the three extra Free Fishing Weekends now entering their third year has not corresponded in a rise in license sales to Oregonians, but that's not the intent.

The extra Free Fishing Weekends are a "legislative mandate," ODFW spokeswoman Michelle Dennehy says.

The 2015 Oregon Legislature passed a law allowing the ODFW to issue up to four two-day blocks where people can fish and collect shellfish without licenses or tags. The agency traditionally had one in early June; this year it's June 2-3.

Based on the new law, the agency added three more two-day sessions beginning in 2016. They have since settled on a formula for these extra days.

This year, the first Free Fishing Weekend will be Feb. 17-18 to coincide with Presidents' Day on Feb. 18.

After the traditional June date, the next one will be Sept. 1-2, which is the Saturday and Sunday of the three-day Labor Day Weekend. The final one of the year will be Nov. 23-24, which are the two days after Thanksgiving for those defying Black Friday fever.

"Those are popular opt-outside days," Dennehy says.

The ODFW actually saw a slight dip in license sales between 2016 and 2017, statistics show.

"But that wasn't the point," Dennehy says. "If we get more people out to fish, that's wonderful."

If anyone wants to track whether giving non-anglers a few freebies will turn them into paying folks, one year of data doesn't cut it one way or the other.

"If we're going to measure anything, we'll need more time," Dennehy says. "We'd need to look at long-term sales, and we don't have that yet."

— Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@rosebudmedia.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.

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