A proposal to increase fishing license fees is the hot topic on the agenda as the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission hosts a public meeting for the Crawford County area tonight in Vernon Township.

Currently, fishing licenses are $22.70 for regular residents; $11.70 for seniors age 65 and above; or $51.70 for a lifetime license, also for ages 65 and over. They are available at the Treasurer’s Office in the Crawford County Courthouse, via the Internet and at some outdoor retail outlets.

Tonight’s event will take place at the Vernon Central Hose Co. social hall, McMath Road, to discuss the new license-fee proposal the agency will offer to legislators this spring. There was no indication how much license fees might increase. It is clear, however, that the commission wants to have a small annual increase instead of waiting every couple of years to push through a larger increase.

The evening begins with an informal open house from 6 to 7; followed by various presentations, including fisheries updates, habitat projects, outreach and education activities, and boating and access programs from 7 to 8.

Licensing fees are a topic of high interest in Crawford County because of numerous freshwater lakes, reservoirs and streams well-used by local residents and tourists; as well as the county’s close proximity to popular fishing sites in Erie and Warren counties.

On hand to do the presentations will be commission Executive Director Doug Austen, region commissioner Sam Concilla and other commission staff.

According to the commission Communications Director Eric Levis, an annual incremental fee increase will be the main topic of discussion.

“Traditionally, the Legislature grants a fee increase every five to nine years,” Levis said. “With every increase, we experience a subsequent drop in license sales. With any increase, we are able to maintain our operations for a number of years, but eventually we have to seek another rate increase. We are proposing an annual, incremental increase in the license cost in order to establish stable funding and to stop the cycle of seeking large, one-time increases.

“We are also proposing habitat and access fund fee, which would be used solely for improving habitat and access points,” Levis said. “This would be similar to the Lake Erie access fund that we currently have in place. In our travels across the state, people consistently ask for more access points.”

According to Levis, pricing flexibility is also important, and those around the state who need several licenses (for various family members, for example) or are looking to target a particular time frame in their fishing will also be considered.

“We’d like to be able to provide a discounted family license; maybe multiple-year licenses; end-of-season discounts,” he said. “For example, maybe in October we sell a license at 30 percent off to individuals who want to fish for only a few weeks and who, without the discount, may never purchase a fishing license. Right now we can sell licenses only at the prices established in the law. We’re confident that pricing flexibility can help us retain current anglers and attract new ones.”

The proposed youth fishing licenses, which have been a topic of conversation for some time, will also be discussed in more detail tonight.

“We have proposed a youth fishing license (ages 12 through 15) for the last several years,” Levis said. “This money would be placed in a dedicated fund used solely for designing and promoting youth programs.



T.J. Turrisi can be reached at 724-6370 or by e-mail at tjturrisi@meadvilletribune.com.

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