Over 17,000 Bought Permits to Fund Fish Habitat and Conservation Projects

Over 17,000 Bought Permits to Fund Fish Habitat and Conservation Projects

The following by Timothy Schaeffer, Executive Director of the Fish and Boat Commission, appears in the Nov./Dec. Angler & Boater Magazine--

Much has been written about the dramatic increase in outdoor activities during 2020. Anglers and boaters have flocked to the water for fun, safe, convenient, and affordable recreation.

As of this writing, fishing license sales are up nearly 20 percent for the year, and launch permits among those discovering and rediscovering the joys of unpowered boating have skyrocketed by nearly 40 percent.

We are already looking forward to welcoming everyone back to the water in 2021.

These numbers are likely not a surprise to anyone who had an eye outside this year. Fishing rods, boats, and laughter on and along Pennsylvania water seemed to be everywhere you looked and listened.

When comparing figures to 2019, the one that saw the largest percentage increase may come as a surprise.

Collectively, the four Voluntary Permits introduced in 2019 have seen an impressive 146 percent increase in sales, generating more than $280,000 for projects dedicated specifically to four categories: Bass, Musky, Habitat/Waterways Conservation, and Wild Trout and Enhanced Waters.

To the over 17,700 of you who voluntarily contributed to this budding program that directly supports the long-term viability of aquatic resources in Pennsylvania, thank you!

We were not sure of the degree to which anglers would make contributions to such a voluntary program, and we have been pleased with the response and implicit faith that it reflects in our stewardship of the funds.

It is important to emphasize that this program is allowing us to do more for the species and habitats you care about than we normally would have been able to accomplish.

We are not simply using the Voluntary Permit proceeds to supplant other funds. They are additive, allowing us to install more habitat, conduct more surveys, acquire better equipment, and make a significant difference for the resource.

By far, the most popular offering has been the Voluntary Bass Permit, with sales of 6,791 permits so far this year. That is nearly double the numbers for Habitat/Waterways Conservation (3,878 permits) and Wild Trout and Enhanced Waters (3,448 permits). The Voluntary Musky Permit has been supported by nearly 2,413 people so far this year.

We pledged to transparently invest these contributions, and we have been doing just that with your support.

Despite the trying circumstances of a field season like no other, our staff have been hard at work across the Commonwealth investing the proceeds from the permits.

If you are one of the generous donors to this program, here are some examples of how we are implementing it on your behalf.

Lake Marburg, York County, is a 1,275-acre lake located in Codorus State Park and is a regional fishing destination.

With support from the Voluntary Bass Permit, we completed a large-scale habitat project that added fish habitat, improved angler access, and stabilized an eroding lakeshore. Habitat features included stone deflectors, rock rubble humps, and felled shoreline trees.

I was happy to join our team at the lake to see them in action, and, as always, it was great to be a part of the energy that the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) staff bring to their jobs every day.

From the biologists who design the projects to the crew who operate the heavy machinery, the PFBC staff are working for you.

Bass projects also included fish habitat improvements in Lake Arthur, Butler County; Woodcock Creek Lake, Crawford County; and Blue Marsh Reservoir, Berks County.

Special thanks to the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, which manages the waters at Lake Marburg and Lake Arthur, and to the United States Army Corps of Engineers for their cooperation at Woodcock Creek Lake and Blue Marsh Reservoir.

With support from the bass funds, we are also conducting an opinion survey of tournament bass anglers to help determine fisheries management decisions statewide.

Other 2020 projects include stream habitat improvements in the Keystone Select Stocked Trout Waters section of First Fork Sinnemahoning Creek, Potter County; unassessed wild Brook Trout surveys in the Delaware and Lower Susquehanna Basins; deployment of Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT) tags and arrays to assess wild Brown Trout and Rainbow Trout movement in the Upper Delaware River; removal of five culverts to restore connectivity to 4.3 miles of Ott Fork, Lycoming County; acquisition of portable power winches used in the placement of large wood debris statewide; and the purchase of minnows and an inline water heating system to assist efforts to raise larger muskies that have a greater chance of survival and, ultimately, of being there for anglers to enjoy.

All of these projects were supported by Voluntary Permits sold in 2019. With more than twice as much funding being generated in 2020, anglers should expect to hear about even more exciting and meaningful projects being implemented in 2021.

We will be featuring more success stories in e-mail messages, social media posts, and other outlets.

If you read about something you like, please share it with fellow fishing and boating enthusiasts who may like to learn more about what we are doing for them.

Thank you again for the trust and confidence that is reflected in every Voluntary Permit contribution. You are making a difference.

[Voluntary Permits

[Four new Voluntary Permits were introduced in 2019. These optional permits provide anglers with an opportunity to provide financial support to specific programs and projects.

Each is available as an annual, 3-year, 5-year or 10-year permit.

-- Habitat/Waterways Conservation Permit: For anglers and non-anglers alike, this voluntary permit is for all who utilize the waterways of Pennsylvania. From bikers to trail walkers to birders to anglers, the Voluntary Habitat/Waterways Conservation Permit benefits those who appreciate the resources of Pennsylvania.

-- Wild Trout & Enhanced Waters Permit: This voluntary permit will benefit wild trout fisheries, improve habitat, and maintain and enhance the existing Pennsylvania's Best Fishing Waters for wild trout.

Wild trout projects may include instream habitat work designed to improve a population from a lower biomass class to a higher biomass class, as well as fund further research needs for wild trout. Funds from this permit will not be used on trout stocking programs.

-- Bass Permit: The monetary resources raised from the Voluntary Bass Permit allow the Commission to manage bass fisheries in multiple ways.

Efforts and initiatives include improvements to boat area access in key bass fishing waters, habitat improvement to increase natural bass reproduction, maintaining and improving Pennsylvania's Best Fishing Waters for bass, and financial support for PFBC hatcheries to improve bass culture methods and increase the size of bass fingerlings stocked.

Funds may be used to study tournament fishing methods and ways to improve how they are operated and how fish are handled. Furthermore, permit monies going into bass habitat work may also benefit flowing water bass populations.

-- Musky Permit: The PFBC will use the Voluntary Musky Permit funds to expand muskellunge fishing opportunities. Some funds will be used to purchase additional hatchery equipment, allowing the Commission to raise more musky fingerlings and update rearing tanks.

Like the Pennsylvania's Best Fishing Waters for bass, PFBC may also establish enhanced and designated Musky Waters for anglers.

[Click Here to purchase or learn more about Voluntary Permits.

[Visit the Fish and Boat Commission website for more information.