Bob Frye / Tribune-Review
Might a “boat license” be the way to recruit more people into trying fishing in Pennsylvania?
A state lawmaker’s idea for getting more people to try fishing sparked a little concern on the part of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission’s executive director.
Speaking at a recent hearing, Rep. Barry Jozwiak, a Berks County Republican, said he’s considering introducing a bill that would create what he called a “boat license.” It would allow the operator of a boat and his passengers to fish without needing individual fishing licenses.
Such a bill would likely not pertain to charter captains on Lake Erie or others who take people out for a fee, he said. It would instead be aimed at “weekend” boaters.
Some of those people might never think to buy a regular license, but if they found themselves on a boat with a buddy, might be convinced to cast a line, he said.
“I think this would be an opportunity for someone who never fishes to go try it,” Jozwiak said. “I think that might be a good idea.”
Some surrounding states, notably Maryland and Delaware, have similar boat licenses already, he noted.
Fish and Boat Commission executive director John Arway said he’s not opposed to talking about the idea. But he’d want to be clear about its potential impact on the agency’s finances, he added.
It would have to be, at least, a “revenue neutral” proposition, he added.
“We can’t lose money on a proposal like that,” Arway said.
Jozwiak he expects the idea would be a money maker. A boat license would cost more than a regular fishing license – perhaps $75 – and bring in additional revenue because the people fishing would not be buying licenses otherwise, he said.
Those people wouldn’t be able to fish forever, he added. They might be limited to fishing under a boat license two or three times a year. After that, he said, they’d have to get a regular license.
Waterways conservation officers would have to enforce that, he admitted, “but I don’t see how you lose money.”
No other state has such a program, at least on an inland basis, Arway said. The other states Jozwiak mentioned have boat licenses, but they apply only to saltwater, he said.
“So maybe we need to be leaders here in Pennsylvania and test it out,” Jozwiak said.