When something works, why restrict it?
Last year the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission tested the waters on a Mentored Youth Trout Fishing Day. The event was held in late March — a week before the regional trout opener and three weeks prior to the start of the statewide season. The program was limited to 12 waters in the southcentral and southeast, and afforded anglers younger than 16 a chance to fish without competition from adults.
Still, those young anglers had to be accompanied by an adult mentor — much like the Game Commission’s mentored youth hunting program, and they had a creel limit of two trout.
But most importantly, those kids had the day, and the water, to themselves.
According to the PFBC, 5,110 youth registered for the pilot program last year and 90 percent of them participated. They were accompanied by 3,846 mentors and the kids caught and released 4,405 trout, and kept slightly more than 1,180.
The program, while tested on a limited basis, worked.
On Monday, at their quarterly meeting, the PFBC board removed the regional restriction and opened the Mentored Youth Trout Fishing Day on a statewide basis for next year.
The first Mentored Youth Fishing Day will be held on approximately a dozen waters March 22, the Saturday before the regional opening day of trout season in 18 southcentral and southeast counties. The second one will be held on approximately two dozen waters April 5, the weekend before the traditional statewide opening day of trout season.
The locations of the 36 waterways where the youth fishing days will be held will be announced in December.
The board saw that the program worked in its test run, and because it attracted youth to the sport of fishing, they decided not to wait any longer and expand upon a great idea. Not only does the program attract kids to fishing, it can also bring back adult anglers who now had a good reason to get back into the sport. After all, who can say no when a child asks to go fishing?
The PFBC’s mentored fishing program is different from the Game Commission’s hunting version. That program allows children of any age to hunt squirrels, woodchucks, deer, turkey and coyotes as long as they’re accompanied by an adult mentor. The adult mentor needs to obtain a permit from the PGC, but the child does not have to take a Hunter-Trapper Education Course if they are under the age of 12.
While I have concerns regarding just how safe it is to have no minimum age when it comes to using a high-powered rifle to hunt deer or a shotgun for turkey, such objections are a moot point when it comes to fishing.
What harm can come from an inexperienced child with a fishing pole in his or her hands? Well, you might have to bait their hook and untangle a few snagged lines.
I think we can all live with that.
Under the statewide version of the Mentored Youth Fishing Day, the agency’s executive director can designate several days each year for the program, along with species, waters, and creel and size limits. In addition to trout, kids may soon have their own opening day for bass, panfish or anything else the PFBC believes is a good idea.
And best of all, a concept that started out as a good idea but limited to one part of the state, will soon be enjoyed by children everywhere.
Kids and fishing? It’s something that doesn’t need to be restricted.