MOREHEAD CITY – Don't be surprised if, come March, the person selling you a fishing license at the bait and tackle shop asks for your phone number – even if he hasn't in the past.

The state is making telephone numbers a mandatory field in the computer program that issues Coastal Recreational Fishing Licenses. License agents will be required to collect and enter the numbers from those purchasing a saltwater recreational fishing license. Up to this point, telephone numbers has been a non-mandatory field on license applications.

 "This is part of an ongoing effort by the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries to improve its recreational angler harvest statistics," said DMF License and Statistics Section Chief Don Hesselman.

 The primary reason the state enacted the license was to get an accurate list of fishermen for telephone surveys; the surveys are the main way the division determines recreational effort for its harvest estimates. However, since the license was implemented in 2007, only half of the licenses sold included the holder's phone number.

 The requirement applies only for license transactions that include coastal recreational fishing privileges. It will not be required for inland fishing licenses or vessel registrations. The division, under federal and state law, is prohibited from distributing these phone numbers to the public.

 For more information, contact  Hesselman at (252) 808-8099 or