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Bag limit violator wants fishing license back

SIOUX FALLS (AP) -- A 75-year-old South Dakota man whose arrest for a fishing violation prompted a change in state law says he doesn't want to wait a year to get his license back.

Jim Peters, of Dell Rapids, was cited in October for exceeding his limit after a day of fishing with a friend on Lake Madison. The two men thought it was legal to combine their bag limit, but Peters was arrested after a game warden saw him catch 21 of the 30 fish, or six above the single limit.

"I didn't do anything everybody else doesn't do," Peters told the Sioux Falls Argus Leader.

Lawmakers were surprised to learn there wasn't a law regarding group fishing and small-game hunting and passed a bill allowing for combined bag limits. The measure states that the amount of fish or small game a single person catches or shoots doesn't matter, as long as it doesn't exceed the group's combined total limit.

The change does not apply to big game, turkey or waterfowl.

"I was on the Game, Fish and Parks Commission for seven years, and I didn't realize we didn't have this down in statute," said Democratic Rep. Spencer Hawley, of Brookings. "It was always assumed that it was legal."

The bill is awaiting the governor's signature.

Peters said he's disappointed it took his arrest to change the law.

"They could make it all better with the price of a postage stamp," Peters said, referring to hopes of getting his license back early. "I might not have too many years left, you know, and this deal here ain't making it any better."

State wildlife officials say Peters is likely out of luck, citing the fact that the measure is not retroactive and pointing out two previous limit violations by the Dell Rapids man.