Enhancing revenue for the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission
While many people question the Pennsylvania Game Commission's need for a hunting license fee increase, most agree that its sister agency, the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission, is in financial trouble.
Ben Moyer eloquently outlined the plight of the Fish & Boat Commission in the Aug. 14, issue of Pennsylvania Outdoor News. Since anglers and boaters contribute so much in sales tax revenue, Moyer suggested that the legislators consider sharing a piece of the sales tax pie with the agency. While I agree with Moyer, I'm sure that many other groups would think that they deserve a share of the sales tax revenue, too.
I suggest two other legitimate revenue streams that could help the agency. Both involve the creation of new "trout stamps," and both of these ideas would need approval from the Legislature.
The first offering is something that I first suggested to the commission about 20 years ago as a voluntary program. Now, Pennsylvania Outdoor News Person of the Year Bill Anderson suggests the same thing, but making it mandatory. I'll share Anderson's logic:
"My idea is to create a special 'Wild Trout Stamp.' This stamp would be offered as an alternative to (not a replacement for) the current trout and steelhead stamp. The new “Wild Trout” stamp would be required for all anglers who fish our listed “Class A Wild Trout” streams and stretches," Anderson explained.
According to Anderson, this approach would accomplish several positive goals. First, it will raise substantial new revenue from residents and non-residents who prefer to fish for wild trout. The second benefit: The agency will be incentivized to identify more miles of Class A Wild Trout Waters – decreasing expensive stocking – and encouraging even more Wild Trout Stamp purchases.
Anderson added, "Today, due to 'social' concerns, there seems to be a reluctance within the commission to list streams as Class A, even when they meet their own criteria.
"I have experience as a fly shop owner and licensed guide and I have fished for trout in many premier trout waters nationwide for over 40 years. Based on this experience, I submit that many trout fishers (and nearly all who fish with a fly) prefer wild trout over hatchery raised fish," Anderson continued.
"The opportunity to fish for wild trout is worth a lot to them and an extra fee of say $10 would deter very few. In fact, for some, the very fact that there is an extra fee will attract the non-residents to Pennsylvania waters when making their travel decision. The same logic is at work as for wine purchases. The more it costs (within reason), the better it must be."
The second idea would be the creation of a new "big trout" stamp in conjunction with the commission's yet-unnamed program that will stock eight stream sections with a large number of bigger trout in 2016.
Since a 16-inch trout costs at least $10 to raise and stock, would it be asking too much to require a special stamp for those who wish to fish in the "big trout" areas? I think not. If these areas prove popular with anglers, I feel that a new $10 stamp would be a no-brainer. This way, at least the program will pay for itself.
A general fishing license or trout stamp increase has been shown to decrease the total number of anglers. The creation of these two new stamps might not solve the commission’s financial problems. However, it would create new revenue for the beleaguered agency, while not decreasing the total numbers of license buyers.