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In 2011, California fishermen will find that the procedure for purchasing annual fishing licenses has changed. And if one waits to buy their license once they arrive at a local lake, they may be out of luck.

For three years, the California Department of Fish and Game has talked about converting the traditional paper licenses and special-area fishing-permit stamps to an on-the-spot printed license. The licensing method introduced this year involves what’s been dubbed the Automated License Data System (ALDS), which makes possible licensing via the Department of Fish and Game's website and is in place at most large sporting-goods retailers and local saltwater sport-fishing landings in Mission Bay and Oceanside.

Such is not the case at Lake Cuyamaca in Julian and other Southern California freshwater lakes, such as Lake Hemet near Idyllwild. The small stores were unable to get the State's equipment installed by January 1 and cannot sell 2011 licenses. (Theresa at Lake Cuyamaca says they are waiting for training and that they have no idea when the State will have the equipment up and running.)

Along Highway 395 in California's Eastern Sierras, home to the West's premier trout-fishing lakes, none of the numerous fishing stores in the fishing-based economy towns (Lone Pine, Bishop, Mammoth, June Lake, Lee Vining, or Bridgeport) are listed on Fish and Game's website as being able to offer the new licenses. However, the fishing season on lakes north of Bishop doesn't open until April 23.

The State provides the equipment and training at no cost to the retailer if the store can sell a minimum of $5000 a year in licenses and permit stamps. License fees have gone up 3 percent to help pay for the system — what Fish and Game describes as the “world's largest wildlife management system.” High-speed internet is required and may be an issue with some rural retailers.

For years, fishing licenses were sold by looking at one’s driver’s license to prove state residency. Retailers will now scan the magnetic strip on the back of a driver’s license, downloading age, height, weight, eye color, etc.; they will be responsible for matching up the identity of the purchaser before printing a new license.

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