Naturally Speaking

Get a Friend to “Fish for Free”
Did you ever wonder how a person totally new to the sport of fishing ever gets involved? There are a wealth of decisions to make that us regular anglers might take for granted. Questions such as — What kind of license is required and where to buy it? What kind of a rod, reel, and line should I get? Do I need chest waders or hipboots? What bait, lures or flies work best? Do I really need a boat to fish Canoe Lake? And the all important: Where do I go? — all need answers.
So how do people totally new to fishing ever get started? I’m afraid that often the answer is that they just never do, at least certainly not on their own. The questions are just too overwhelming for many and the answers difficult to find.
Even if the would-be angler had the answers to the proceeding questions, other obstacles, “green” obstacles, loom just as large for many. Tackle and other equipment is expensive and, if you tack on the price of a fishing license, $17 and maybe add another $5.50 for a trout stamp, the cost becomes too much for many just to try a day’s fishing.
Although I’m not a beginner at fishing, I’ve been fortunate enough over the years to be shown new places and exposed to different fish species and fishing techniques by those more experienced than I. What a pleasure it is to have someone share their expertise and knowledge, allowing me to learn the easy way. I, in turn, have shared my love of trout angling with others. Nothing substitutes for a little personal advice and local experience.
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission will help eliminate one obstacle — the license. Today, Saturday September 28, which is also National Hunting and Fishing Day, is designated as this year’s second Fish For Free Day. Any adult, resident or non-resident, as well as children can fish all day for any legal species without purchasing a fishing license. Bass, sunfish, catfish, pike, carp, trout and others are all available for the catching.
The Commission did their part, now the rest is up to you. Think about that friend who has mentioned a desire to try fishing. Call him or her up and get them out on the stream or lake. You probably have an extra fishing rod (maybe an extra dozen) as well as other equipment suited to the fish you are targeting. Invite them along, provide the tackle, and enjoy a morning or day on the water. If your friend has a fun day, he or she will then know exactly what tackle to buy.
While I might begrudge having extra anglers on the stream when I’m jockeying for a spot on the Little Juniata River, that’s really a short-sighted view. All of our local waters could sure use more friends the next time that they are threatened with development or pollution. By introducing a friend to fishing, you could be responsible for adding another ally in the fight for clean water.
I realize that this column is short notice (very short) for today, but here’s an opportunity to really plan ahead. The PFBC is planning two Fish For Free days in 2003. The Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, May 24, as well as Saturday, June 7, will be your next opportunities to expose a friend to the joys of fishing without making them purchase a fishing license. According to PFBC Executive Director Peter Colangelo, the extra day in May, a new addition for 2003, is based on suggestions from anglers.
New anglers are cautioned that all other regulations apply and, if you plan to harvest fish, all size and creel limits are in effect. Anglers can obtain a free copy of the 2002 Pennsylvania Summary of Fishing Laws and Regulations at any license issuing agent.
“Fish For Free Day is the perfect opportunity to introduce a friend or relative to the lifelong sport of fishing. There is no better way to enjoy the beginning of fall in Pennsylvania’s great outdoors than a day of fishing with the entire family,” said Colangelo. I couldn’t agree more.
Mark Nale can be reached at