It’s finally official— Louisiana residents will be paying an additional $7.50 for a saltwater fishing license.

HB 1082 passed its final vote in the Senate today by a vote of 36-1, and the bill is headed to the governor’s desk for his signature, according to Rep. Stuart Bishop (R-Lafayette).

Bishop authored the legislation with the support of Coastal Conservation Association Louisiana. 

The bill will raise saltwater license fees for residents from $5.50 to $13 and create a Saltwater Fish Research and Conservation Fund that could be used by the state for the LA Creel program.

Randy Pausina, head of fisheries for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, was pleased with the vote. 

“Clearly, it’s a great thing. It’s very important to the department and all it’s programs, and it will allow us to do real-time management and management by basin,” Pausina said. “It will put us way ahead of the game of anything remotely close that the federal government has and for that matter, most states.”

Because of the quantity and quality of data expected to be collected, Pausina said the department would be able to make more real-time assessments, not only state-wide but on a basin-by-basin basis. 

“The federal government can’t close or take action on anything until it’s too late. Their data will tell them, ‘We’re overfishing a habitat and we need to do something, but it’s too late.’ So everything is always after the fact. That’s why there’s always a big emergency,” he said. “This will allow us to be more real time and run a first class program.”

Exactly when the fee increase will hit anglers is not clear, Pausina said, indicating it all depends on when, or if, the governor actually signs the bill, and also how much lead time the state’s licensing contractors and vendors will need to implement the software changes to make the fee increase show up state-wide.

“If he doesn’t actually sign it, it might become law sometime in August,” he said. “But if he were to sign it between now and July 1, it (the fee increase) might be in place for the new license season.”

The bill includes a 4-year sunset provision which will allow legislators the opportunity to review the program’s progress in four years and determine if the increase will remain, and will not affect residents who turned 60 before June 1, 2000.