Pennsylvania anglers can expect to pay more to fish next year, now that the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) has voted to increase the costs of licenses for the second year in the row, after license prices had not changed since 2005.
At its meeting on Wednesday, the agency’s Board of Commissioners gave final approval to a license-fee package that would increase all fishing license and permit fees, with the resident annual license and trout permit going up $2.50 each. The new price for a resident annual license in 2024 will be $26, while a trout stamp will cost $13. The senior resident annual license will increase $1.25 to $12.50, while the resident senior lifetime license will go up $10 to $85. In addition, non-resident and 1-, 3- and 7-day angling licenses will also increase.
According to the PFBC, increasing license and permit fees could generate $2.9 million in additional revenue for the agency. The increases are needed to offset inflationary pressures, maintain and improve existing programs, and address anglers and boaters’ desires for infrastructure improvements and strategic, timely fisheries management to protect and enhance the state’s aquatic resources.
Funds generated from the price increases would help support infrastructure improvements and maintenance efforts at state fish hatcheries, hazardous dams, boat launch access areas and other PFBC-owned facilities; upgrade and replace agency equipment, vehicles and watercraft; improve field and classroom educational offerings and more.
“If new revenues are not in place for the 2024 license year, the commission will not be able to maintain adequate levels of services to Pennsylvania’s anglers, let alone respond to angler desires for expanded efforts in many program areas,” the agency has said.
Lenny Lichvar, president of Pennsylvania Trout Unlimited, which represents more than 15,000 anglers and conservationists throughout the state, said his organization strongly supports the license fee increase.
“Even with this very nominal increase, the fees required for fishing in the state are incredibly small when compared to the costs associated with other recreational endeavors,” said Lichvar, who is also a former PFBC Commissioner. “A PA fishing license is still the best bargain in outdoor recreation. The increase will not necessarily provide ‘extra’ revenue given the much higher costs of doing business in any field in today’s world, but enable the agency to just keep up with the increasing level of inflation and escalating costs.
“Prior to the other, very recent, past small increase, the agency had not been granted a fee increase in over 15 years, which forced the agency to make cuts (and) reduce its WCO (Waterways Conservation Officer) contingent, as well as compromise other essential services, all of which had a detrimental impact on anglers and angling and the aquatic resources of the state for years.”
Although the PFBC has finalized plans to raise license prices, it’s a safe bet that many anglers aren’t even aware of the change yet. Mike Dlugos, owner of Mike’s Bait & Sport in Nazareth, said none of the anglers who come into his shop are even talking about the topic.
“I haven’t heard a thing,” Dlugos said. “This is the first time I’m (even) hearing about it.”
While the Fish and Boat Commission has given final approval to the license fee increase, there is one more step to the process. The PFBC is required by state Act 56 of 2020, which gave the agency the authority to set its own license fees, to turn over the final rule-making proposal, a transcript of the public hearing held in April in regard to the license-fee hike and all public comments associated with the proposal to the Pennsylvania House and Senate Game and Fisheries Committees for review. Upon receiving the materials, the committees have the ability to report a resolution disapproving of the regulation within 30 days or 10 legislative session days, whichever is later. However, if there are no concerns from either committee, the fee increases will go into effect starting Dec. 1, 2023.