As the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission searches for ways to save money and operate more efficiently, trout season has become as much about change as tradition.
The first day of the statewide trout season is equivalent to the opener of deer season when it comes to participation and popularity, but it is also a major undertaking for the PFBC. The agency is considering changes in the future that may help it maintain its trout stocking program while minimizing the impact on anglers. It won’t be an easy task, but there is hope a balance can be found. Commissioner Norm Gavlick, who resides in Kingston and represents northeastern Pennsylvania on the PFBC board, talks about some of the challenges when it comes to trout season, along with other initiatives the agency is may implement in the near future.
What are some changes trout anglers can expect to see in the near future?
NG: “At our meeting in two weeks we’ll consider a proposal to eliminate the early season trout stocking program. That will free up a bunch of stocking runs so we can spend more time putting fish into streams closer to opening day. It will take effect in 2014 and cut the trout stocking in the winter. As a result, we’ll have more fish to stock for trout season and by eliminating those stocking runs we’ll save money and improve efficiency with how we stock trout.”
There was a serious move to close two of the state’s trout hatcheries, but they’ve been granted a reprieve until 2015. Are you optimistic that other funding sources can be identified to spare the pair of hatchery closings and avoid a 750,000 cut in the trout allocation?
NG: “I’m hopeful the legislators will come up with additional sources of funding by 2015 - such as mandating that all unpowered boats have to be registered, make it so that seniors with lifetime fishing licenses still have to buy their stamps every year and implement the water usage fees. Some legislators are pushing for a license increase, but every time that’s been done we lose anglers for the long-term. I’d actually like to lower license fees because I believe we’d sell more licenses overall.”
Can we expect any changes in the number of trout stocked or the number of approved trout waters in the state?
NG: “We’re going to see changes, such as not stocking trout where wild trout exist, for example. Also, we currently stock some streams that don’t get a lot of angling activity. Perhaps we’d shift those fish to areas with higher usage. If any changes are approved by the board, they’re going to be gradual.”
The first mentored youth trout day was held on March 23 on 12 waterways in the southeast and southcentral regions. How did it go and are there plans to expand the program statewide?
NG: “Glade Squires, the commissioner for the southeast, went to a number of areas and said everywhere he went he got a phenomenal response. On the agenda for our quarterly meeting later this month is a proposal from staff to expand the mentored program statewide. If it gets final approval in July then it will be expanded next year. Here in the northeast I expect the mentored program to be popular. It gives adults the opportunity to take kids out fishing for trout without having to worry about crowds and battling a million fishing lines.
This is the first year that three and five-year fishing licenses are on sale. Are anglers taking advantage of the multi-year licenses?
NG: “I’m told that sales are going extremely well and the numbers are strong. I expect it’s still going to pick up as we’re just entering the peak of license sales with trout season and spring right around the corner.”
There’s been some concern from license issuing agents who are losing issuing fees from the sale of multi-year licenses. Is it a serious problem and is the agency planning on rectifying the issue?
NG: “I am a license issuing agent and it is an issue. License agents only get $1 per license sold, and if someone is paying with a debit or credit card, we basically don’t make any money on the sale. When it comes to fees for license agents, the multi-year licenses do take away some of that incentive. Plus there are a lot of internet sales anymore where there’s less of a need for those outlets. But most use license sales as a way to get people in the door, and they’ll come back every year to buy bait and tackle.”