I have my multi-year fishing license – did you get yours?
I’m looking at the fishing-license/trout-salmon stamp combination license pinned to my camouflage fishing vest – it has a big number 15 boldly printed on it. Of course the 15 signifies that my license and trout stamp are valid until the end of 2015. I hope that I’m still fishing by then. Unfortunately, a very real question is whether there will be a Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission as we know it today.
Last year, the state Legislature gave the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission the opportunity to offer anglers package license deals at reduced rates. The agency’s initial three-year and five-year fishing licenses, trout-salmon stamps, and Lake Erie permits were first available on Dec. 1, 2012. A tree-year license only saves the buyer two year’s worth of issuing agent fees ($1.70 per license) – not much of a savings for a $90 up-front investment.
I mainly purchased a three-year license/trout stamp combination for the convenience of not having to worry about it again for three years. I selected the three-year license because I will be eligible to purchase a lifetime license when this one expires.
The commissioners thought that this flexibility would attract anglers to the multi-year licenses and increase the meager percentage of anglers who purchase licenses year after year. The savings is minimal for the buyer and comes at a loss to license-issuing agents – those folks who make a few bucks a year selling fishing and hunting licenses because it brings more customer traffic into their establishments.
If you haven’t heard, the pressure is clearly on the commission to cut $9 million from its annual budget by 2017. The agency’s response includes closing at least two trout hatcheries, stocking at least 700,000 fewer trout annually in the future, no new waterways conservation officer class, considering permits for non-powered watercraft, and multi-year licenses for starters.
Without a new significant stream of revenue, I worry if the commission will actually be able to survive.
According to Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission Executive Director John Arway, as of this writing, about 10,000 three and five-year licenses had been sold. Since the agency’s peak license sales period will just be beginning as you read this, it is too early to measure the multi-year license program’s success.
“Because our biggest license sales occur just before trout season begins, it is too early to make a judgment,” Arway said. “One thing for sure, we’ve sold 10,000 more multi-year licenses than we have ever sold before.”