The state Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) will launch a pilot program this spring where youth ages 16 and under can register with an adult mentor to fish.
The program will begin during the early trout season held in the southeast part of the state.
The commission hopes it will generate excitement in fishing for parents, families and children.
Mentors and their young charges will be able to fish beginning at 8 a.m. March 23, which is the Saturday before the southeast trout season opener, on select waters within a 18-county area, according to a commission news release.
The counties involved in the southeast opener - and in the pilot program - are Adams, Berks, Bucks, Chester, Cumberland, Dauphin, Delaware, Franklin, Juniata, Lancaster, Lebanon, Lehigh, Montgomery, Northampton, Perry, Philadelphia, Schuylkill and York.
"This is a pilot program (that) we want to test first in a controlled geographic area. Since we already have the early southeast opener, which is defined by counties, it made sense to us to launch the pilot here," said Eric "Rick" Levis, PFBC press secretary.
Although a mentor program is not being offered in Lycoming County and the surrounding areas, Levis said it isn't going to be left out altogether.
"Your area is not being excluded," he said. "We are confident that the pilot program will be successful and that we'll be able to roll it out on a statewide basis. But first we want to test it in a smaller location."
Reeling in families
During the program, each participant will be able to keep a combined species total of two fish.
Mentor anglers must have a current fishing license and trout permit.
"We anticipate that many mentors will be family members, but mentors could be other adults. We know from research that kids often pursue into adulthood the activities that they enjoyed with their parents," Levis said. "So one of our goals with the program is to entice more parents to take their kids fishing."
"Mentoring opportunities differ from educational programs in that they go beyond one instructional period," said Laurel Anders, PFBC director of boating and outreach. "Mentors talk to the kids as they plan the trip, show them how to fish during the day and follow up with them again when they day is over. Special youth opportunities engage both youth and their parents or other mentors."
Levis said the waters for the program still are being reviewed, and registration methods are expected to be finalized soon.
The commission did mention in a news release that the program is a good way to boost license sales.
But, Levis said, license purchases already are increasing.
"We see this as a way to increase long-term participation in the sport, which would have a positive impact on sales," he said.
License sales this year, compared to the same period last year Dec. 1 through Oct. 16, are up 6.12 percent, Levis said. In addition, sales are up 1.93 percent from same time period in 2010 and up 6.9 percent compared to 2009.