Many North Carolina and visiting anglers have been clamoring for such a change for years.
The Legislative Research Committee recently created a joint study committee of seven senators and seven representatives that will study fisheries issues including the ill-fated game-fish bill that became a victim to a budget deal earlier this year.
The committee will be co-chaired by Senate Majority leader Harry Brown (R-Jacksonville) and Representative Darrell McCormick (R-Winston-Salem).
House Bill 353 would have made striped bass, spotted seatrout and red drum game fish, which would have put them off limits to netters or anyone else to sell commercially.
According to some sources, this bill had a veto-proof majority in the North Carolina House and Senate; however, one legislative source has since told North Carolina Sportsman that the Senate vote wasn't completely firm.
In any case, the bill never was allowed to come to a floor vote, a fate that also befell a similar bill in 2010.
The new joint study committee, which will begin in earnest during the legislative short session starting in May 2012, will examine:
• the potential impact to North Carolina fisheries resources and economy related to the designation of red drum, spotted seatrout and striped bass as coastal game fish.
• changes to the appointment process and qualification for membership on the North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission.
• creation of a hook-and-line commercial fishery.
• elimination of the trawl boat fishery in North Carolina.
• entering into reciprocal agreements with other jurisdictions regarding the conservation of marine and estuarine resources.
• regulating placement of nets and other sport- or commercial-fishing apparatus in coastal fishing waters with regard to navigational and recreational safety, as well as from a conservation standpoint.
• entering into agreements regarding the delegation of law enforcement powers from the National Marine Fisheries Service over matters within the jurisdiction of the NMFS.
• potential modification of the Fisheries Reform Act of 1997.
• whether Marine Fisheries should be a division of the Coastal Resources Commission or the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.
• other findings promoting the allocation of the state's resources to the optimum use.
Members of the study commission from the House include co-chair Darryl McCormick, co-chair Dan Ingle (R-Alamance), Ruth Samuelson (R-Mecklenburg), Danny McComas (R-New Hanover), Tim Spear (D-Chowan, Dare, Hyde, Washington), Pat McElraft (R-Carteret, Jones) and Bryan Holloway (R-Rockingham, Stokes).
Senate members include co-chair Brown, Jean Preston (R-Carteret, Craven, Pamlico), Stan White (D- Beaufort, Camden, Currituck, Dare, Hyde, Pasquotank, Tyrrell, Washington), Thom Goolsby (R-New Hanover), Bill Rabon (R-Brunswick, Columbus, Pender), Don East (R-Alleghany, Stokes, Surry, Yadkin), and Tommy Tucker (R-Mecklenburg, Union).
McCormick, Samuelson and Ingle were primary sponsors of HB 353.
Spears chaired the Marine Resources Committee in 2010 that wouldn't allow a similar game-fish bill to reach the House floor for a vote.
Sources indicate Spear exchanged budget voting support in order for Republicans to stymie Governor Beverly Perdue's veto this spring. That deal kept HB 353 from seeing a vote.
The topics the joint study committee will examine certainly differ from past legislatures, which have avoided these topics for the most part.
Here are e-mail links to committee members for anyone wishing to send messages:
• Senate Majority Leader and co-chair Harry Brown, email@example.com.
• Sen. Don East, firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Sen. Thom Goolsby, email@example.com.
• Sen. Bill Rabon, firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Sen. Tommy Tucker, email@example.com.
• Sen. Jean Preston, firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Sen. Stan White, email@example.com.
• Representative and co-chair, Darrell McCormick, firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Rep. Dan Ingle, email@example.com.
• Rep. Ruth Samuelson, firstname.lastname@example.org
• Rep. Danny McComas, email@example.com.
• Rep. Bryan Holloway, firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Rep. Pat McElraft, email@example.com.
• Rep. Tim Spear, firstname.lastname@example.org.
The joint committee is scheduled to meet four times and submit a report to the General Assembly before April 27, 2012.