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Coast Guard rules bad news for inland guides

This past summer, the U.S. Coast Guard decided to extend the "Six-Pack" license designed for small ship captains on the Great Lakes and international waters, and apply it to inland fishing guides who operate for hire on small lakes and rivers in Minnesota.

I can understand needing to know about commercial vessels on commercial waterways, but landlocked waterways with dams that can't be navigated around will never have commercial boat traffic and don't need to be regulated.

A veteran, I have a good full-time job, but for more than a decade I have been guiding part time, filling in for some local full-time guides when their schedules are full. I wouldn't mind having to take some classes on safety or first aid and pay a little extra for a guide license. I already buy guiding insurance, but do I really need to take the same courses and meet the same requirements it would take to get into the Coast Guard, which is basically a branch of the military, to guide a small fishing boat on an inland lake?

The cost to the fishing guides is prohibitive, costing several thousand dollars to take the courses, pass the tests and take the physicals and jump though all the other hoops, with no guarantee they will be able to continue guiding once they finish the process.

This is not just a problem for fishing guides in Minnesota. The tourism dollars of the whole state are in jeopardy. Do people realize how important fishing is to the economy of Minnesota? The best resorts have their own network of fishing guides, who must produce for their clients every day, or they don't get called back.

Tourists who come to Minnesota to go fishing spend big dollars on licenses and spread their money across the entire local economy. If they have a good time, they will keep coming back year after year. If they can't hire a competent fishing guide to take them fishing, they will go spend their money somewhere else where they can.

This is just another example of government trying to kill a fly with a sledge hammer and disrupting the activities of free enterprise in the process.

People should contact their representatives and have them tell the Coast Guard to leave the fishing guides alone and concentrate on keeping our borders safe and stop interfering with our tourists.

Chris Haley