Gotten your federal user-fee tax stamp yet? If you want to start a fight at the local yacht club or waterfront eatery, all you have to do is bring up the subject of the recreational user fee.
As of yesterday, the stamps or stickers must be affixed to your recreational vessel. Commercial vessels are exempt, but they get nailed from another direction. More on that later.
I was terribly surprised Wednesday when a boater asked me about this user-tax thing. I said, "You mean the federal user-fee sticker?" He nodded yes.
FOR THE RECORD - In the Aug. 2 edition of the Anne Arundel County Sun, Bob Spore provided the wrong number for boaters to use to order the federal user-tax sticker. The number is 1-800-848-2100.
He, ofcourse, hadn't purchased the stickers and runs the chance of a stiff fine if the Coast Guard catches him. We don't often see the fearless "Coastees" here in the land of pleasant living, but now that they have a reason to run down sports fishermen we can expect to see their red stripe more often.
Someone told me he saw a sailboat with a Coast Guard red stripe last week so the storm is gathering.
The user fee was justified because the Coast Guard needs more money; however, these fees are not going to the Coast Guard. Congress once again has lied to us.
The feds have made extracting the money from your checking account easy. You may call 800-842-2100 and charge the new tax on your major credit card, or call 800-368-5647 and request a form.
The costs are as follows: for boats from 16 to 20 feet, $25; from 20 to 26 feet and change, $35; from 27 to 40 feet, $50; anything more than 40 feet is $100. What if you had a 41-foot Markley? That extra foot becomes expensive.
This tax is for recreational vessels. If the vessel is documented commercial, the owner is exempt; however, don't think he is getting away. If he is a charter boat captain, he will pay $197 for his license and $80 each time he renews it.
Documentation fees are going up, one source said possibly as much as $300, and inspection fees for all those charter and head boats who carry more than six passengers may cost as much as $700. The final costs are supposed to be decided in the next few months.
Many congressmen are having second thoughts about the user fees, and there is a strong movement to do away with it. Their efforts, if fruitful, won't save you this year, unless you feel lucky.
Ever wonder why charter-boat costs go up?
Here's one example. The Coast Guard requires the captain of the vessel and any employees who are responsible for the operation of the vessel or the safety of the passengers to be subject to random drug testing. The Coast Guard states that each marine employer is responsible for implementing the regulation for its employees.
When we are talking charter boats, who are these employees who are responsible for the safety of the passengers? The Coast Guard says if anindividual handles lines, he or she qualifies. In other words, mateson charter boats must be subject to random drug testing at least once every two years. The captain gets himself tested one year and the mate tested the next.
This is in addition to a written company drugplan, a laboratory to provide the drug testing service, training materials for the mate, recordkeeping for reporting to the Coast Guard annually, and pre-employment, periodic, license renewal and for-cause tests. Individuals and companies who are not in compliance are subject to fines and revocation of their licenses.
Fishing in our area is great. Plenty of bluefish range from Swan Point to Gum thickets on both sides of the bay. You might find them breaking off Baltimore Light or off the "checker board" red-and-white water tower at Matapeake.
Chumming action has been very slow for some reason. These fish haven't wanted to take bait. They like their lures trolled, which is good, because as fast as they are moving they sometimes can be hard to find.
White perch, which were just outside the Magothy, have moved their summer haunts in the upper bay. Fishing for both perch and catfish has been excellent.
Bob Spore is a Coast Guard-licensed charter boat captain from Pasadena. His Outdoors column appears everyFriday and Sunday in The Anne Arundel County Sun.