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Fishing license buttons make return

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Sr. licenses tweaked

Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commissioners are moving ahead with a plan to tweak their senior lifetime fishing license program.

Under existing rules, anglers 65 and older can buy one fishing license good for the rest of their lives. Buying one trout stamp at that same time allows them to fish for stocked trout forever, too.

The commission has decided it can't sustain that. With the cost of raising stocked trout accounting for one-third of its fish fund budget, it can no longer “afford to allow anyone required to purchase a senior resident lifetime fishing license to fish for trout without paying for the privilege to do so annually,” reads its agenda.

The board Thursday gave preliminary approval to a proposal that would require seniors who buy a lifetime license after Jan. 1, 2105, to buy a trout stamp each year. Senior anglers who already possess a lifetime license are exempt.

Some on the board wondered if perhaps all lifetime license holders shouldn't be required to get an annual trout stamp. That wasn't the deal when they bought their licenses, though, said commissioner Bob Bachman of Lancaster County, and to go back on that would “be kind of a breach of faith.”

The change must still get final approval at an upcoming meeting to become official. That's expected in May.

Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, 10:39 p.m.

HARRISBURG — Anglers will see something once old and now new along the water this year.

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission is going to sell fishing license buttons starting in March.

The buttons won't take the place of a paper license. Anglers will have to get one of those, as always, and carry it on their person.

Buttons won't be required to fish either. But, for an additional $5, anglers who want a license button can get one bearing their personal customer identification number. Wearing it on a hat or pocket will meet the requirement to display a license while fishing.

License buttons were the norm for decades starting in the 1930s, said Bernie Matscavage, director of the commission's bureau of administration.

The agency has long heard from anglers who wanted to see them brought back.

“We think this may prove popular with those people who fish or are just collectors,” Matscavage said.

Anglers will have a hand in determining what this year's buttons look like. In shape and size they'll be comparable to the “vintage” license buttons last seen in 1974, Matscavage said.

But from Friday through Jan. 31, the commission will conduct a poll on its website,, to determine their color. Visitors to the website will get to pick from seven options. The color that gets the most votes will be the one available this spring.

The buttons will be available at a limited number of locations initially, such as through the commission's online “Outdoor Shop” and at commission offices. Outlets will expand to include all vendors over time, executive director John Arway said.

Seniors who hold lifetime Pennsylvania fishing licenses will have to buy buttons each year. A youth-oriented button may follow some day.

In the meantime, commissioners said this is a good start on something that could provide exciting to anglers.

“I think this is going to be fun. I think it's going to be popular,” board president G. Warren Elliott of Franklin County said.

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

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