DUCHESNE, Utah (AP) -- Utah anglers might have to pay extra to dip their poles in streams in a few years.
The state Division of Wildlife Resources is floating a plan to hike license fees by 2013 to raise money to pay private property owners to open many of Utah's streams.
"The good news is we won't have to ask the anglers for money right now," agency director Jim Karpowitz told a legislative task force Thursday in Duchesne, about 90 miles east of Salt Lake City. "But down the line, we probably will."
The Utah Supreme Court in 2008 declared all stream beds publicly accessible, even where they cross private land.
But lawmakers didn't like the idea and passed a measure putting most of Utah's stream beds off-limits unless a landowner gives permission.
Now, the task force is looking at ways to restore broader public access to streams, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.
Karpowitz told the panel he can hold off higher license fees for two years while using a federal grant and some state money to buy fishing easements.
The leasing program counts only a handful of stream miles now at a cost to the state of about $1,000 a mile.
Karpowitz says the $26 resident fishing license will go up by $4 or $6 by 2013.
Lawmakers also are looking at authorizing separate fishing licenses for private streams, with landowners collecting half of the money. The rest would go to the state
Some lawmakers on the panel have said they were bracing for a lawsuit from anglers challenging a tradition of unrestricted access to Utah's streams. Current law allows them to float through private lands, but they can't get out of a boat or even touch the stream bottom.
Draper angler Chris Barkey said no leasing program could be funded well enough to reopen a significant number of streams.
"You'd have to expand it to 3,000 miles," he said.
Karpowitz has set a goal of adding 50 miles of stream access each year for five years at a cost of millions of dollars.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)