Mentored fishing program expanding
ERIE — Mentored youth trout fishing is coming to Western Pennsylvania next spring.
At their quarterly meeting Tuesday, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commissioners gave preliminary approval to a proposal that allows the executive director to set aside certain waters for youth fishing programs. The board is expected to give final approval when it reconvenes in January.
The proposal most immediately will allow the commission to hold a mentored youth trout day in Western Pennsylvania on April 5. Between 8 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. on that day — one week before trout season opens — kids younger than 16 who register in advance will be able to fish for stocked trout on 35 to 40 waters statewide. They and their adult mentors will be able to keep two fish each.
The goal is to get families fishing together.
Educational, learn-to-fish programs have their place, said Laurel Anders, director of the commission's bureau of boating and outreach. But mentoring programs “differ significantly” in that they get kids and adults involved in planning the trip, fishing and then talking about it afterward.
That's important because surveys have shown that kids want to learn to fish from and fish with family members, she said. They also show that adults are more likely to fish if children ask them to.
“If a child asks dad or grandpap to take them fishing, they're not going to say no, right?” Anders said.
The commission held its first mentored trout day last spring on 12 waters in southeastern Pennsylvania. A total of 5,110 kids registered, along with more than 3,800 adult mentors.
Surveys done afterward revealed nearly all saw it as a positive experience, Anders said.
Children were required to register before participating. Next year, they'll need to get a permit, like a mentored youth hunting permit, through the same automated licensing system adult anglers use to buy a fishing license. It will be free, though families will be given the option to pay for it.
Requiring families to use the license system will allow the commission to capture their contact data, “basically so we can stay in touch with those folks,” Anders said.
Starting in 2015, the plan is to have the permit cost $1 to $2, commission officials said. That would make the agency eligible for additional federal reimbursement.
Some board members asked why the agency didn't start charging for it now.
“We were going to take it a step at a time,” executive director John Arway said.