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Frye: Champing at the bit to hit the outdoors

| Saturday, March 2, 2013, 8:00 p.m.

Have you been doing it, too? Getting your tackle box ready?

There's still some ice out there, maybe fishable. Trappers have a month of prime-time beaver trapping remaining. And there's still some coyote chasin' to do.

But with the trout-stocking trucks rolling and the calendar, if not the weather, promising that spring is closer, the fishing bug is biting — hard.

We all have visions of landing that 18-inch trout, that 5-pound bass or that 50-inch musky. Now, in the midst of sorting our gear and respooling reels, we tell ourselves that, because of some new lure or technique or strategy, this might be the year we do just that.

Some anglers got theirs last year, though.

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission posted its list of the biggest fish reported caught in 2012. It's not the end-all, be-all of lunkers. It only includes fish that were reported. If Uncle Lou caught a 10-pound bass but never told anyone, it's not a part of the rankings. But the list offers potential and hope.

It shows that Lake Erie is, no surprise, a big fish bonanza. Three of the five largest smallmouth bass caught across the state last year came from there. Erie also gave up the five biggest white bass, the five biggest yellow perch — one of them 2 12 pounds — one big white perch, three of the five biggest brown trout and three of the five biggest walleyes. Throw in two pink salmon, one coho and one Chinook, and Lake Erie produced a smorgasbord of finny trophies.

Makes you want to charter a trip right now, doesn't it?

It's almost time.

A reader writes

Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission officials are desperate for new revenue, but they've rejected an offer from lawmakers to increase the cost of fishing licenses. Every time that happens, they lose anglers, they've said.

At the same time, Pennsylvania Game Commission officials are actively seeking the first increase in hunting license fees since 1999.

Won't they lose hunters just like the Fish and Boat Commission might lose anglers?

— Damien Boland, Apollo

“I know several people that did not hunt at all last year because they could not afford a license. You want to talk about losing hunters. Sure, let's raise already ridiculous fees and see what happens,” he said.

I asked the Game Commission if it in fact lost hunters when prices went up or whether that was a worry. Here's what spokesman Joe Neville said.

“We know we lose a very small portion of our hunters the first year after a license increase. Historically, those hunters return in subsequent years. With both (the automated license system) and a human dimensions specialist to analyze data, we're learning that many of our hunters are fairly casual about participation. A fee increase may simply expand the churn, but then they return in later years,” Neville said.

Given that, the commission “enthusiastically” supports the license fee increase bills expected to be introduced in the state House of Representatives and Senate this session, he said.

So there you have it.

Bob Frye is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at bfrye@tribweb.com or via Twitter @bobfryeoutdoors.

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