Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission misusing trout stamp money – or so I was told

As an outdoor writer, I talk with many anglers, hunters and other users of the outdoors on a regular basis. Invariably, some of those conversations begin with – "Hey, do I have a good story for you to write about." I've received some great leads over the years, and I appreciate them. However, often such beginnings only go on to highlight a lack of knowledge and understanding.

Since I author this blog, and write columns for several newspapers, I am usually "all ears," even though I know that many of these stories do not pan out. I listen politely, because … you just never know. Recently, I got a column "tip" that was so far away from reality that I was left shaking my head and wondering how or where some people get their misinformation. And asking myself … do they do any thinking on their own?

I was called aside, away from all other people, by a man who wanted to share something – something that, in his words, "you should investigate." He told me two things – one was partly true and the other almost made me laugh out loud. I'll deal with the latter.

He said, "You know, they [referring to the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission] sold us sportsmen on the idea that they needed money for a trout stamp. First it was $5 and now $8 – but not even half of the money goes toward raising trout."

I smiled and listened … and bit my tongue. He claimed to have an "inside source" for his information.

I didn't have the facts and figures in front of me, but I knew that raising and stocking millions of trout is a very expensive operation. My understanding was that the $8 per permit didn't come close to covering the total cost of the Fish & Boat Commission's stocked trout program. Some of you may know that the agency is currently asking for the fee to be increased to $14.

Eric Levis, press secretary for the agency, helped to pull some facts together for me.

The "trout stamp" program began in 1991. Today, about 70 percent of the fishing license buyers purchase Trout-Salmon permits. Including multiple-year permits and $8 from each Lake Erie/ Trout-Salmon permit sold, the income generated during the past fiscal year was about $4.6 million – a lot of money.

However, the cost of the stocked trout program for fiscal year 2014-15 was approximately $8.5 million – almost double the income.  Therefore, not only is all of the money from the trout stamps going toward stocked trout, but an additional $3.9 million – also a lot of money – is coming from general license sales and other revenues.

If the anglers who don't fish for stocked trout stopped subsidizing the program, and if the purchase of "stamps" had to pay for the program, the true cost of a trout-salmon permit should be somewhere around $16 – and that was at last year's costs.

This should tell us that the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission does need to raise the cost of the permit. If you fish for stocked trout, then you should support this.

And what about some people's lack of knowledge? I don't want this to seem like a commercial, but I have two suggestions. Subscribe to Pennsylvania Outdoor News. Less than 10 percent of the paper's content can be found online. Two – consider joining a statewide sports or conservation organization. Some of these do an excellent job of educating their members.


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