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Recreational saltwater fishermen found to be unregistered in New Jersey are being given warnings at first. But if they are subsequently found to be unregistered, they will be fined.

The fees won’t begin until next year, but the fines will kick in soon.

Recreational saltwater anglers across the state are supposed to provide their contact information to a free federal registry before casting this year. The annual fee of $15 to $25 is scheduled for 2011 — either to the state, if the Legislature establishes its own registry, or to the federal government.

The idea is to gather information on where and when fish are being caught, so that authorities can set better catch limits — an idea that, of course, will work only if the registry actually receives the information it needs.

So what will the penalties be for scofflaws? And do enough people even know about the registry in the first place?

“My understanding,” said Forbes Darby, the recreational-fishing coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, “is that this is now going to be enforced just like any other fishing ordinance.”

The Marine Service Bureau of the State Police, the NOAA and the U.S. Coast Guard will patrol as they usually do — no special patrols were scheduled for this weekend — and any anglers found who have not yet registered will get a warning, at first.

“The first time, you’ll get a fix order that says ‘Go back and make sure you get registered,’” Darby said. “Subsequently, if you’re found (without having registered), you will be given a fine.”

As for whether the public information campaign is working, “We certainly hope so,” he said. “We worked with the state to get the word out. Fishing clubs and tackle shops have gotten the word out and have talked about it with their members.”

At the Absecon Bay Sportsman Center in Absecon, owner Dave Showell wasn’t too sure.

“I don’t know too many people who lnow about it a whole lot,” Showell said. “I don’t know a whole lot myself.”

There was, he said, “a lot of discussion about how they’re going to track it. ... They’re very ambiguous about who needs one anyway.”

Commercial boats and party vessels — and people who limit their angling to those kinds of boats — are exempt, including Ed Collet and his boat, the Captain Collet, which operate out of Atlantic City.

“We haven’t received anything in the mail about it,” Collet said, “and nobody’s said anything to us.”

Collet’s colleague Cindy Meloy said she was told commercial boats with permits did not need a license because authorities were already receiving information about where their customers were fishing and what they were catching.

“It’s the recreational (anglers) they need,” she said. “They haven’t got any info on the other people who just go out on weekends.”

Sam Craver, meanwhile, a boat technician at the Blackwater Sports Center in Vineland, said most anglers he has talked to have heard about the registry, many of them asking for the phone number and Web site.

“They’re actually a little bit excited about it,” he said. “(Authorities) are acting like they’re going to care a little bit about saltwater fishing.”

In any event, the weather should ensure that any warnings probably won’t be coming any time soon.

“Timewise, nobody’s going to be fishing for the next few months anyway,” Showell said. “There’ll be plenty of time to figure this out.”

Staff writer Eric Scott Campbell contributed to this report.

How to register

Fishermen can register in one of two ways:

For more information on the registry, visit: www.noaanews.noaa.gov

Contact Steven Lemongello:

609-272-7275

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