In a world gone mobile, fishing education is following the same path.
At least that’s the plan.
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission plans to roll out a mobile “first catch center,” or fishing-themed recreational vehicle, by fall. The plan is to drive it around Philadelphia, and later Pittsburgh and other cities, taking fishing to the people.
Though specifics are still being finalized, the catch center might include an aquarium full of live fish, mounts of fish, reptiles and amphibians, a fish identification laboratory, a wet lab focused on water chemistry and, most importantly, fishing tackle available for loan.
Commission staff and volunteer fishing education instructors will operate it, teaching people – and especially children in urban areas – to fish.
“A lot of people really don’t know how to get started in fishing even if they want to try it,” said commission executive director John Arway. “The idea is to make it easier for people to try it.”
What’s behind it
The idea for the vehicle comes from a national effort to recruit anglers.
Steve Kralik, director of the commission’s bureau of outreach, education and marketing, said the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation approached states recently, suggesting that they develop “brick and mortar” fishing education centers.
But the commission proposed the RV idea instead.
There’s a good reason, one veteran fishermen understand, said Arway.
“As anglers we know you don’t always go to the same place and expect to catch fish every time. You have to go where the fish are biting,” he said.
With the mobile catch center, the commission can do just that. It can do fishing programs on a stocked trout lake one time, move to where crappies are biting another, hit rivers when stripers and shad are running a third and so on, Arway said.
The reasons behind the choice of Philadelphia to pilot the vehicle are twofold.
For one, the commission not long ago received a donation of nearly $1.2 million from an angler’s estate. The only condition on the gift is that the money be spent in southeast Pennsylvania.
So it’s some of that money that will be used to buy the motorhome, Arway said.
The second is that Philadelphia is a huge potential market. It’s America’s fourth largest city, yet the commission sells few licenses there, Arway said. He’d like to change that.
The hope is that a large RV, wrapped with logos and sponsor names, much like a pro bass angler’s boator a NASCAR race car, will help bring that about.
“Whenever we go and we take one of our wrapped vans, people go crazy,” Kralik added. “You can imagine taking a 24 or 26-foot mobile home through an urban area.”
While it’s unknown yet how much the motorhome will cost, financial partners are being sought, said press secretary Rick Levis.
But if using the motorhome proves successful in Philadelphia, Arway it might next turn up in Pittsburgh, Erie or Scranton.
“This kind of concept gives us flexibility we’ve never had before,” Kralik agreed.