Take off the tags and go fish – Times

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Take off the tags and go fish

Catch this, displaying fishing licenses may soon become thing of the past.

By Tom Venesky tvenesky@timesleader.com
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Earlier this month the state legislature passed a bill that removes the requirement for hunters and trappers to display their licenses and anglers may not be far behind.


The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission board may look to remove the license display requirement this year as part of a package of changes.

PENNSYLVANIA FISH AND BOAT COMMISSION

Gavlick

Gov. Tom Corbett signed HB 735 into law on Dec. 15, meaning as of Feb. 13, 2012 hunters and trappers will no longer need to pin their licenses on the back of a coat while in the field.

Pennsylvania Game Commission executive director Carl Roe said the new law will make hunting less complicated and limit the inconveniences that come with lost or misplaced licenses.

“Since 2003, the Game Commission has been supporting various drafts of legislation to remove this antiquated requirement,” Roe said.

Members of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission board have had preliminary discussions to remove the display requirement with fishing licenses as well, although such a change likely wouldn’t take effect until 2013 at the earliest.

Removing the display requirement for a fishing license could be just one facet of a three-part process, however.

PFBC commissioner Norm Gavlick of Kingston, who represents the northeast region, said there are financial considerations along with enforcement issues that need to be considered when removing the display requirement.

“We were shown stats from another state that went from display to not having to display a fishing license, and they lost sales,” Gavlick said. “I don’t know if it was solely because of the removal of the display requirement of if there were other factors.”

One of the concerns, according to Gavlick, is if anglers aren’t required to display their fishing license, some will take their chances and not buy one.

But the package of proposals that Gavlick supports could resolve the issue.

Gavlick would like to see a proposal that gives anglers the option to display their license or not, along with a lower license fee and increased fines for those who fish without a license.

All those proposals together would encourage anglers to still purchase licenses after the display requirement is removed, he said.

Gavlick added the PFBC board has the ability to remove the display requirement, while there is pending legislation to lower the cost of a fishing license. An increase in fines would have to be approved by the legislature, he said.

Gavlick doesn’t believe the display requirement does much to aid enforcement because each year’s license looks the same and anyone can copy one and display it, creating the appearance of a valid license.

“The Waterways Conservation Officers used to be able to look at the color and year digits on the license, even from a distance, to determine if it was valid,” Gavlick said. “To me it’s more likely if somebody doesn’t want to buy a license, they can copy one and display it.

“Just because you have something displayed doesn’t mean it’s valid. The potential for fraud is still there.”

An increase in the fine for fishing without purchasing a license would put a little more bite in the law, Gavlick said, while reducing the cost makes it less likely that anglers won’t want to purchase one even if they don’t have to display it.

“If we can get a license package like this through, we’ll have the ability to come up with new license options down the road,” Gavlick said.

While Gavlick doesn’t anticipate a formal vote on the display issue when the PFBC board meets in January, he does anticipate the issue being discussed and possibly voted on this year.

The earliest that could happen, he said, would be the April meeting.

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