The Lake Wylie Marine Commission is the latest group to put a line in the water asking: Why can’t anglers get one license to fish Lake Wylie?
Commissioner Ellen Goff, amid talk of forming a task force to look at changing laws to help lake patrol officers, saw an opening.
“If we’re working on getting both states to communicate and work together to recognize jurisdictions,” she said, “I’d hope we wouldn’t miss an opportunity to crack that door open.”
Goff lives in and represents York County. Commissioner Robert Biggerstaff comes from Gaston County in North Carolina. He agreed a reciprocal license, one good regardless which side of Lake Wylie someone fishes, would be good.
“I’d like to have a reciprocal license,” Biggerstaff said.
For now, the task force will focus on legislative work allowing officers to patrol the entire lake for all offenses, something officers say is a challenge with a long lake bisected by a state line. Lake officers aren’t crossing the line for misdemeanors, and enough boaters know it, making it hard time stop them before they cross the lake and into another state.
Commissioner Tim Mead, from Mecklenburg County, said he sees plenty of reason for a reciprocal fishing license. But he doesn’t want the fishing issue confusing the public safety one.
“It’s cost me a lot of money,” Mead said of needing two licenses to fish Wylie. “But I think it’s a separate issue.”
It’s also a tenured issue.
Three years ago, the Catawba-Wateree River Basin Advisory Commission called for a reciprocal license between the Carolinas. S.C. Sen. Wes Hayes supported it.
Before that, former S.C. Rep. Ralph Norman, now a U.S. Rep., supported it. Before that, the late S.C. Rep. Herb Kirsch opposed a bi-state license.
Reasons for it through the years include cost and convenience for anglers and simplicity for wildlife officers patrolling the lake. Reasons against involve money, and how the states might split proceeds based on where an angler lives and where the license was purchased.
When Hayes called for a new license in 2014, he admitted South Carolina could likely lose some money. North Carolina has two counties on Lake Wylie as opposed to one in South Carolina. Also, Charlotte has a larger population. For those reasons it’s possible South Carolina will lose higher-priced out-of-state license fees.
State Sen. Wes Climer, who was elected to succeed Hayes, said he is familiarizing himself with the issue.
"At least we ought to know with some precision why it won't work,” Climer said. “And I've yet to encounter that."
North Carolina has several reciprocal license agreements specific to bi-state waters. Anglers can fish the Chatuge Reservoir and its tributaries with one license in North Carolina and Georgia. North Carolina and Tennessee have an agreement for Slick Rock Creek and Calderwood Reservoir.
North Carolina and Georgia — the two states sharing waters with South Carolina — have agreements for the Dan, Little, New and Staunton rivers, along with the Gaston and Kerr reservoirs.
South Carolina and Georgia have a reciprocal agreement, allowing anglers with a valid license from either state to fish the Savannah River system, Chattooga River and lakes Hartwell, Russell and Thurmond.
"There is some precedent for what we're talking about here," Climer said.
Getting legislation passed in one state is difficult enough, he said, and working with two states can complicate the issue. Plus, it impacts a small portion of each.
"I cannot imagine that a legislator from Berkeley County is getting a call about fishing on Lake Wylie,” Climer said. “It only pertains to our community, and to Mecklenburg and Gaston counties.”
Climer said something like an extra few dollars for a stamp on a license allowing anglers to fish all of Wylie could be worth looking into, and he understands the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources would want revenue answers. He doesn’t know if there is enough political interest to make it happen, but he sees an issue worth looking into further.
"It just makes sense,” Climer said. “It makes sense for people fishing Lake Wylie . Let's see if we can figure this out and see if we can make it work."