Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

November 29, 2012

Members of local fishing club concerned about future of dam

KATE COIL
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

FALLS MILLS, Va. — While officials with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries say they have no intention of taking over control of the Falls Mills Dam, members of the Falls Mills Fishing Club are still concerned about the future of the dam and state permitting processes.

Gary Martel, deputy bureau director of wildlife resources with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, said the state has no intentions of taking over administration of the Falls Mills Dam.

“There was discussion a long, long time ago about the state parks taking the area over, but the state declined the offer,” Martel said. “There is no change other than the Falls Mills Fishing Club was given a fishing permit even though fishing clubs are not allowed to have that license. They need a fishing license to administer the dam, just like any other organization or club in the state of Virginia. They should have never been issued the permit they had for a catch-out pond because it isn’t a catch-out pond.”

Martel said the Falls Mills Fishing Club will continue to administer the fishing site to the best of his knowledge, though there are some state regulations all fishing clubs must follow.

“Everything is the same as it is every where in the state,” he said. “Basically, they need a fishing license to fish. They can charge membership fees. They can charge a daily fee and rent boats if they choose to. They can operate their club just like everyone else does. They do have to have a fishing license. They do have to comply with the bag limits, just like you do on private property. If you have a hunting club, you comply with hunting season, bag limits and licenses. Fishing clubs are the same way.”

Charles Scott is past-president of the Falls Mills Fishing Club and a present club member said requiring a fishing license for the club is still an issue.

“The whole point of the club is that you didn’t need a fishing license,” Scott said. “They always had permits before. In the last 12 years, there was no license required. The state granted this license, so why change it now? The state has never stocked the dam or the creek above it. Why would we charge a membership fee if people already have pay for a license?”

 Scott said many people in the community are worried the fishing club will no longer be operating the dam as a result of the permit change.

“This is never been closed to the public or been a members only club,” Scott said. “There are things with this law that doesn’t seem right. The club gives most of their proceeds to charity and builds things like the playground there. The community is very upset and are starting petitions.”

Martel said the Commonwealth is rarely involved with privately owned fishing spots, like the Falls Mills Dam, and usually only takes an advisory role when called in by property owners.

“The state has helped them manage the reservoir,” he said. “I myself was a biologist who was called in to the dam there to help them with some assessments. They have called up the state and asked for advice about if they should harvest more of one type of fish and other issues. The state is more in an advisory role. The state doesn’t provide stocking of fish, but can help with law enforcement and advising the owners. Our permit people said they don’t need any permit from us at all unless they want to stock certain types of fish. They can continue to have their club and charge people for whatever they do. They do have to comply with bag limit regulations.”

Scott said many in the club do not feel the state is treating them fairly.

“The club is protesting the need to have a license as far as I know,” Scott said. “In the past 12 years, no license was required, so why do we need it now? People are worried this will lead the fishing club to disband, the state will take over the area, and the place will go to pot. This isn’t a good thing. The club had a good thing going as far as taking care of this place. The club had to get their own insurance in case someone got hurt. The club has spent a lot of money on this, and it is a good place for people to trout fish. People love to trout fish. There is no place in the state of Virginia that has a club like this.”

— Contact Kate Coil at kcoil@bdtonline.com