By Kevin Boneske
The 2016 Wisconsin inland fishing opener next weekend will also debut changes to the state’s licensing system as part of the state Department of Natural Resources’ “Go Wild” program.
The wallet-sized green fishing license of recent years is no longer in use with the Go Wild system, in which proof of a license may be in forms such as the original paper document issued at the point of sale, a paper reprint, an optional conservation card, a valid Wisconsin driver’s license or a DNR-issued digital file displayed on an electronic device.
DNR information systems supervisor and Go Wild spokesperson Mark Rappe said the purpose of the new licensing system is “mostly about providing convenience to the end user” who no longer has to deal with “six feet of green paper.”
In addition to purchasing licenses in person, he said they are now able to be obtained online by patrons who have established an account with the DNR by previously purchasing a license.
Rappe said a fishing license becomes valid as soon as someone purchases it online, though he cautions for those last-minute license purchasers before the May 7 opener, “Do it before you walk out to fish.”
To check whether someone has a valid fishing license, he said wardens have an application on their cell phones to be able to scan a driver’s license, for example.
In instances where a valid driver’s license may be used as proof of having a fishing license, Rappe said that will be confirmed on the purchase receipt.
Given that not everyone who may be fishing has the most recent type of driver’s license and some of those still in use won’t scan, he said those driver’s license numbers could be entered manually by a warden to check for a fishing license.
Rappe said wardens will also be able use their mobile devices to store driver’s license information obtained while checking for fishing licenses in parts of the state without cell phone service, and then determine, when back in a cell phone service area, whether the angler has a valid fishing license and to follow up if necessary.
Absent having a valid state of Wisconsin driver’s license, the DNR is also accepting the original paper document issued at the point of sale as proof of having a fishing license, while reprints also accepted as proof are available in three ways by either having licensees obtain reprints from their online DNR account, requesting a reprint at no charge from a DNR service center or purchasing a reprint from any license agent for $2.
For those who don’t want to take a driver’s license with them while fishing, Rappe said the optional Go Wild Conservation Card that is debuting in 2016 may be purchased for $3.50 and also be used to show proof of license purchases in subsequent years as long as the bar code on that PVC plastic card remains readable.
He said anglers purchasing the conservation cards, which may be ordered online at GoWild.Wi.Gov, should allow two weeks for delivery.
Rappe said a downloaded PDF file obtained from an online DNR account for proof of a license would be used to display an image on a smart phone or other electronic device.
He said attempts to falsify a fishing license under the Go Wild system would subject the offenders to prosecution for counterfeiting.
Though anglers in Wisconsin’s Northwoods wouldn’t necessarily have to have a paper document with them as proof of a fishing license, Rappe said those fishing in the state’s boundary waters should bring along a paper form as proof of a license because law enforcement officers in another state don’t have the electronic scanning capabilities of Wisconsin’s wardens and wouldn’t be able to otherwise determine if someone has a fishing license.
Rappe said the Go Wild licensing system, which was also used this spring for turkey hunting in addition to the 2016 fishing season, is being refined “on a weekly basis” to fix any errors and to simplify it.
He said the program is also using an incentive program for those 18 and older in Wisconsin who are first-time anglers, or haven’t purchased a fishing license in 10 years, by offering them an annual resident fishing license for only $5 in the first year, compared to the usually $20 per year.
Also under Go Wild, Rappe said an experienced angler who recruits three new people to buy a fishing license would be able to qualify for a discount on a license the following year.
He said the program is seeking to get more people excited with Wisconsin’s outdoor resource.