Fish & Boat Commission not willing to go far enough with licenses

Mark NaleI applaud the Legislature and the governor for passing and signing Act 66 in June. This law gives the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission the flexibility to LOWER the cost of fishing licenses and create new license packages with the hope of attracting and holding more license buyers. For every license purchased, the state receives money from the federal government — a piece of the excise tax on fishing tackle.

The more licenses sold, the bigger the rebate.

Fishing license sales have dropped 30 percent in the past 22 years! That’s a loss of 350,000 anglers! Only about 10 percent of buyers purchased a license in each of the past five years.

I am disappointed, however, in the commissioners’ first offering under the new law – a three-year license that will allow buyers to save only the $3.40 in processing fees. Will I take advantage of this? Maybe, but I buy a license every year, anyway. Will it help sell more fishing licenses? I doubt it.

If the agency’s goal is to attract new license buyers and retain existing ones, they greatly need to come up with some creative ideas and they need to take a risk.  I believe that they are thinking too much about the meager 8 to 10 percent of us who buy a license every year – if we get a reduced cost, the agency loses money. They need to take a risk and think about the other 90 percent, because if they influence only 10 percent of the other 90, they will make money – well over what they might lose from people like me.

Two starting suggestions:

1.  All fishing licenses sold after July 1 should be 40 to 60 percent off — this is a “no brainer.”  After all, the year is half over — stocked trout fishing is mostly over and bass season has already started.  Will any of the 10 percent regular buyers wait until July 1 to save?  I doubt it.  If a family wanted to purchase licenses for a July or August vacation and saved a bundle — wouldn’t that be great? Maybe they would make the same purchase next year. Isn’t that what the commission wants?

2.  A package should be created to give 16-year-olds a serious break (I’m thinking less than half price) if they purchase a three-, four- or five-year license.  I taught 14- to 16-year-olds for 35 years. Many times I heard, “I’m not fishing next year because the licenses cost too much.”  My guess is that fewer than 2 percent of the teens who fish when they are 15 buy a license in all of the following three years. A little research could find out if my “guess” is correct.

Commissioners — take a risk — attract and retain license buyers.  My next blog will suggest eight more creative ways to accomplish this goal. In the meantime, I’d like to hear reader ideas. I hope that the commissioners would, too.

Categories: Pennsylvania – Mark Nale

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