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Trout fishing drives license sales

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Fish and Boat Commission officials are hoping one particular event can help them grow license sales in a big way.

The Bassmaster Tournament Trail, which culminates with the Bassmaster Classic, is holding one of its Elite Series events in Philadelphia this year. It's set for the Potomac River from Aug. 7-10.

Pro fishermen's last trip to Pennsylvania, for the Bassmaster Classic in 2005, resulted in the lowest winning weight in the event's history. Many are said to be afraid that the tidal Delaware will prove equally challenging.

Commission officials are hoping to use the event to sell fishing to an underserved market. Southeastern Pennsylvania is home to a large percentage of the state's population, yet relatively few people there fish, executive director John Arway said.

If the commission can grow license sales there by 1 percent, it would go a long way to meeting the goal of boosting sales overall by 10 percent within the next few years, Arway said.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014, 10:45 p.m.

If you don't believe your eyes, believe the numbers: Opening weekend of trout season is a big deal.

Statistics from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission show that eight days of the year — the Thursday to Sunday surrounding the regional opening day of trout season in 18 southeastern Pennsylvania counties, and the Thursday to Sunday around the regular opening day across the rest of the state — account for almost one-fifth of the fishing licenses sold each year.

Bernie Matscavage, director of the agency's bureau of administration, said the agency sold, on average, 142,215 license during that span over the previous five years. That's 17 percent of the total sold annually, he said. This year, buoyed by wonderful weather for opening day in Western Pennsylvania, the commission sold 150,773.

“Pennsylvanians love their opening day,” Matscavage said.

But that has been questioned, said commissioner Bill Sabatose of Elk County. Through the years, the commission has debated the possibility of doing away with opening day and letting people fish for stocked trout year-round.

“That should be closed now,” Sabatose said. “We need an opening day.”

Matscavage said typically by April 30 of each year, when trout season is still in full swing, the commission will have sold a little more than 61 percent of the licenses it will in a year's time. License sales get a smaller bump around opening day of bass season in June, for example. But the weekend trout season opens is “far and away” the commission's main sales engine, Matscavage said.

Executive director John Arway said 57 percent of license sales occur after opening day, and 39 percent after May 1, he noted.

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

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