NAVAJO DAM — Carlos Murillo of Farmington is a member of the San Juan Fly Fishing Federation and has been fly-fishing in the San Juan River for 18 years. He introduced his son Anthony, 9, to his favorite pastime Saturday.
Starting in April, Murillo, his son and every other angler in New Mexico will have to get their fishing licenses online. Murillo said he's OK with the new policy.
"It is beneficial for anglers," he said. "It saves time."
Purchasing fishing licenses online through the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish website has been an option for a couple seasons, but, as of April 1, it will be the only way to acquire the license. This means that when you go into Abe's, Fisheads, Float 'N Fish, or Soaring Eagle Lodge, the four businesses in the community of Navajo Dam that sell fishing licenses, the person helping you will no longer fill out the carbon-copy pad — they will either direct you to a computer set up for customers for this purpose, or input the information themselves through a "license vendor name."
"(The change) has the potential to be a good thing," said Jay Walden, who has managed Abe's Motel and Fly Shop for four years. There will be less record-keeping, he said, which will save the business time and money. The business will hold less liability. According to current New Mexico code, the vendor is financially liable for any missing paper records of licenses.
However, Walden, Ray Johnston, owner of Float 'N Fish, and Peggy Harrell-Nesbit, manager at Fisheads Lodge, share one concern — the Internet access at Navajo Dam is unreliable.
"At least once a day, we are without Internet — maybe for a couple of minutes, maybe for a couple of hours," Harrell-Nesbit said.
Abe's sells about 4,000 fishing licenses per year, Walden said, and some mornings must dedicate three staff members to writing licenses. Only one transaction at a time can be done under the license vendor name with the online format, and Walden sees this as a potential bottle-neck.
"The first year is going to be tougher — lots of people haven't dealt directly with the Department of Game and Fish. But this will change as we input information," Harrell-Nesbit said.
"If someone has purchased the same license for many years, it is easier to bring up their information and purchase the same license," said Rachel Shockley, spokesperson for the Department of Game and Fish.
"Also, if someone loses their license, then you can log in to the online account and reprint it on any paper with any printer. (With the hand-written system), sometimes you need to pay a fee to have a second copy, this is no longer the case."
Shockley said that people should still carry paper licenses and not rely on the ability to pull up the information on their smartphone, since cellphone service is not always available.
Ray Johnston of Float 'N Fish said he has been trying to let all of his customers know about the change. However, he is worried that out-of-town customers will not know and will not be able to buy a license if the Internet is down.
"We are going to be the ones catching the flack," he said. He plans to provide a phone number for the Department of Game and Fish in case problems arise.
Johnston said he appreciates the money he will save with the new system.
"Our problem is being able to provide service to our customers, given our remote location."
To purchase a fishing license online, go to www.wildlife.state.nm.us. Necessary stamps and hunting licenses can also be purchased this way.