Fishing license display rule likely going away

Posted on: July 12, 2017 | Bob Frye | Comments

Anglers have to display their licenses while fishing in Pennsylvania now, but that’s likely to change.
Photo: PA Fish and Boat Commission

Soon, Pennsylvania anglers likely aren’t going to poke any more pin holes in their hats, vests and t-shirts.


The rule that says they have to display their fishing license on an outer garment while on a public waterway is almost assuredly going away.

That rule’s been in place for decades.

At their meeting this week, though, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commissioners preliminary approved doing away with that.

The change isn’t final. It won’t be until the board votes on the idea again, presumably at their September meeting.

But barring any huge — and frankly unlikely — groundswell of public opposition, that’s all but a formality. That would put the new rule in effect for the 2018 license year.

Why the change?

“We’re following the technology,” said Larry Furlong, an assistant chief of the commission’s bureau of law enforcement.

Under the new rule, an angler could buy his license on a smartphone, download a PDF image of the license and show that as proof of being properly licensed, Furlong said.

A number of other states already have similar rules in place, he said. This is just Pennsylvania joining the crowd.

Judd Michael, a professor of business management for natural resources industries at Penn State University, believes it’s a good idea. He led a group of MBA students in developing a business plan for the commission.

One of their recommendations was that the agency become more “e-commerce” friendly. Electronic licenses are one way of doing that, he told board members.

The new rule could lead to one change, perhaps negative, for anglers.

With no way to tell at a glance if an angler has a license or not, “officers will need to do a field check on every angler,” the commission said.

Fishermen who don’t want bothered that way can continue to display their license if they want, though, Furlong said.

“Would you like to be in the middle of a stream, in a really hot hole catching fish, and have to be drug off the water to show me your license?” Furlong said. “I wouldn’t. I’d display mine.”

Bob Frye is the editor. Reach him at 412-838-5148 or See other stories, blogs, videos and more at

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