In 2012, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission sold 852,944 fishing licenses. Allegheny County, the fishing capital of the state, led the way with 57,088 licenses sold, followed by York (31,873) and Erie counties (30,369).
All anglers age 16 and older must be licensed ($22.70 for a resident license). An additional permit ($9.70) is required for trout and salmon. The few exceptions to license requirements and all additional regulations are listed at www.fishandboat.com.
A Pennsylvania fishing license, however, is more than just a license to catch game fish. PFBC also regulates the conservation and harvest of baitfish, reptiles and amphibians.
The state defines baitfish as, "all forms of minnows, suckers, chubs, fallfish, lampreys, eels between 6 and 8 inches in length, gizzard shad 8 inches or less, and all forms of darters, killifish, and stonecats." Furthermore, legally taken game fish may be used as bait, but using goldfish, comets and common carp as bait is illegal. Baitfish may be taken with rod and reel, dip net or a minnow seine with an area of less then 4 square feet.
Cast and throw nets are allowed by special permit for taking gizzard shad and alewives in waters determined by the executive director. Lake Arthur in Butler County is one such waterway.
Anyone who enjoys frog legs or snapper soup needs a fishing license to harvest bullfrogs, green frogs and snapping turtles. The daily limit for bullfrogs and green frogs is 10, the possession limit is 20. The daily limit for snapping turtles is 15, possession limit is 30.
And for the truly adventurous, the annual limit for both timber rattlesnakes and copperheads is one, though it escapes me why anyone would hunt venomous snakes.
Finally, a fishing license is required to catch and possess any amphibian or reptile in the state. Many species such as hellbenders, box turtles and wood turtles are completely protected and have no open season.
Species such as toads and painted turtles that may be caught have a possession limit of one. The sale of any native amphibian or reptile is illegal. Amateur naturalists who enjoy catching amphibians and reptiles should study the appropriate PFBC regulations.
Biologist, author and broadcaster Scott Shalaway can be heard 9-11 a.m. Saturdays on 1370 WVLY-AM (Wheeling) and noon-2 p.m. Sundays on 1360 WMNY-AM (Pittsburgh). He can be reached at http://scottshalaway.googlepages.com and 2222 Fish Ridge Road, Cameron, WV 26033.