The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission gave tentative approval to several significant changes in seasons and limits on members of the pike family at its meeting last week, and made some adjustments in snake-hunting regulations.

But it will probably get more headaches down the road because of something it merely discussed at length – and doesn’t have the power to do – than all the other actions it took combined.

That one thing is agreeing to create a proposal for a $2 youth fishing license, paralleling the junior hunting license long required by the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

There have been numerous, futile attempts to float the idea of a youth license. The most recent was about a year ago, when it was included in the original request for across-the-board fishing license increases.

But, the matter proved just as controversial then as it had in the past, and it was dropped out of fear it would bring defeat of the whole package.

But this time, the idea may be more palatable because it originated not with the fish commission, but with the Governor’s Youth Council for Hunting, Fishing and Conservation.

The youth council formally asked that proceeds from youth licenses be dedicated to youth programs, which it hopes will be expanded through the availability of more funding. It asked that law enforcement of the new license be conducted to make it a positive educational experience between officers and youth. And while it specified that the license be inexpensive, it also asked that clubs and other groups be allowed to buy licenses for youth who cannot afford them.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2001 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Association Recreation estimated that 578,000 people from 6 to 15 years of age fished in Pennsylvania.

Thirteen states have mandatory licenses for those younger than 16, and while the projected $2 cost of a Pennsylvania youth license would bring minimal return through actual sales, it could reap millions in federal Sport Fish Restoration funds, which are given to states on the basis of how many licensed anglers they have.

The commissioners voted on Tuesday to have its staff prepare a youth-license proposal, although it would have to be approved by the state Legislature before the commission could create such a license.

In another action on Tuesday, the commissioners affirm-ed their commitment to youth by approving a $50,000 program that will award educational grants of up to $5,000 – and perhaps more – to groups that conduct programs that teach fishing skills or train instructors to do so.



Joe Gorden can be reached at 532-5080 or jgorden@tribdem.com.

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