By JACOB PERRYMAN
A unique opportunity for young anglers is coming to Warren County in 2014.
Following a successful 2013 trial run, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) is expanding its Mentored Youth Fishing Day program statewide.
Last year, the pilot year for the program, 12 locations in southern Pennsylvania were opened to young anglers and their adult mentors for a single day in March prior to the first day of trout season.
This year, the event will spread to 40 locations over two days, including 11 locations on March 22 and 29 locations on April 5.
One of those locations opening on April 5 will be Chapman Dam Reservoir.
The dates reflect the Saturday prior to the opening weekend of trout season in each respective location.
"We piloted the program on a small scale," Laurel Anders, PFBC Director of the Bureau of Boating and Outreach, said. "We got great response. People just thought the mentored fishing day was outstanding. We got 7,000 people in that one day. So we decided to take it statewide and see what type of response we had."
In 2013, approximately 3,700 adults and 5,100 youth registered for the event. Using Anders' figure of 7,000 participants, that equates to nearly 80 percent of registrants actually participating. According to Anders, the youth participation rate, calculated using post-event survey data, was even higher at approximately 90 percent.
Anders noted the benefits of the day go beyond an extra chance to go fishing, although she did point out the day is less crowded than opening day of trout.
"Mentoring programs have existed in the hunting arena for quite some time," she said. "Adults can act as mentors and that's a role that we (the PFBC) can't play. We can't provide that personal experience, that time together. It's more than just the act of fishing that generates excitement. Planning for the day - where are we going to go, what are we having for lunch... something that's much more personal, sharing the memories of the day."
The day also provides incentive for adult anglers to get back out on the water. According to Anders, polling indicates adults are more likely to go fishing if a child asks them to and children are more likely to go with an immediate family member.
"If a child asks an adult to take them fishing, it's a request they're not likely to say 'no' to," she pointed out.
Anders also noted last year provided a chance for multi-generational activities.
"We saw some groups with grandparents, adult children and those adults children," Anders said. "In some cases the grandparent was still mentoring the adult child while the adults were mentoring their own kids."
To participate, adult anglers must possess a valid fishing license and a trout/salmon permit and be accompanied by a youth. Youth anglers must have a PFBC permit for the day, which will be available free-of-charge beginning Feb. 1, 2014, at www.gonefishingpa.com or at any of the more than 900 licensing agents across the state authorized to provide fishing licenses and permits.
Adult anglers are defined as those 16 year-of-age or older. Accompanying youth need not be the adult's child.
Participants may keep two trout each on the day of the program.
"We (the PFBC) see this opportunity as a way to reactivate adult anglers who may have fallen away from fishing, create and additional opportunity for existing anglers and retain them and then for recruitment of youth," Anders noted. "we feel this is an opportunity to do all three of those things that are very important to the agency."
For more information on the program, a list of waterways and accompanying dates for the program, or information on licensing and permitting including authorized licensing locations, visit www.gonefishingpa.com