Saturday, February 4th, 2023
Saturday, February 4th, 2023

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PF&BC ponders license flexibility

Harrisburg — The Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission plans to get creative with fishing license fees, beginning next year when it begins to offer discounts to anglers.

By signing Act 66 into law in late June, Gov. Tom Corbett has paved the way for the commission to reduce fees and market family and group packages. The bill does not allow the commission to increase fees.

Rather, it is aimed at expanding license sales, which in turn would generate more funding from the federal government, since a portion of the excise tax on tackle is distributed to states.

Allocations are based on the number of licenses states sell. In Pennsylvania, federal funding currently makes up $14.4 million, or a quarter of the Fish & Boat Commission’s budget.

With license sales in Pennsylvania falling over the past 20 years to a current low of 800,000, the commission has identified lapsed anglers and teens as among groups it wants to target with special pricing, said Devin DeMario, the agency’s legislative liaison.

“We know that in any five-year period, just 10 percent of anglers buy a license in all five years.”

The first incentive under Act 66 will be a three-year license for 2013 that goes on sale Dec. 1, and lets buyers save on processing fees, said DeMario, who indicated anglers will pay $63 for the license, but just a one-year processing fee of $1.70, thus saving $3.40.

A five-year license also may be in the works, along with other promotions, but they will be introduced gradually, she said.

“We know that parents of young children are so busy parenting, they may give up fishing, so we’d like to develop some sort of family package,” she said.

“Another important group is 15- to 20-year-olds. Kids get busy with baseball, soccer and a lot of other things, and we want to find a way to compete for their interest even if they’re heading off to college.”

The commission may use a new license now being sold in Kansas as a model for a teen license here, said Tim Schaeffer, the commission’s director of policy and planning.

“Kansas identified 16- to 20- year-olds as the anglers they were most inclined to lose, so they reduced the cost just for that age group.”

Kansas residents 16 to 20 now can pay a one-time fee of $42.50 that allows them to fish until Dec. 31 of the year they turn 21. The same one-time fee also includes hunting during those years. Kansas’ hunting and fishing agencies operate under one umbrella.

Here, the Pennsylvania Game and the Fish & Boat commissions are separate agencies, and it isn’t clear if Fish & Boat would try to partner with game on a joint youth plan.

In fact, Act 66 is so new, the agency is only certain about the three-year license for now, Schaeffer said.

“We’re still sorting out the mechanics, and thinking about how to ‘roll this out’ and explain the benefits to people in terms of saving them time and money.”

Although it will take time to gauge benefits to the commission, Schaeffer expects that, among other things, flexible licensing will provide some insurance against big drops in revenue during years when trout season gets rained out.

“Last year, we were behind in sales because of the rainy spring. If licenses sales are locked up in advance, we remove weather from that equation,” he said.

The commission has traditionally sold the vast majority of its licenses in spring, but flexible licensing could be used to boost the usual summertime slump in sales.

Although there are no plans at this time to offer a discounted license midyear, Schaeffer said, “the great thing is, we now have the ability to do it if we choose to.”

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