It was Father’s Day 2014, a warm day which brought out plenty of picnickers, walkers, bike riders, fisherman and kayakers to Peace Valley Park in Bucks County.
A good time was being had by all. Unfortunately an unknown number of both kayakers and fishermen were breaking the rules and not following the law. Bucks County law dictates you cannot fish without being the holder of a current resident or non-resident State fishing license. No person shall launch any watercraft from Department controlled lands without having a current boating permit issued by the Department. And you cannot operate a watercraft on Department controlled waterways without Coast Guard approved personal floatation devices of the type, size, and quantity needed for each person in the watercraft. (It’s also PA law that all children 12 and younger must wear a Coast Guard approved PFD while underway in a canoe or kayak or on any boat 20 feet or less in length.)
Dozens of people unloaded their kayaks off their vehicles by the boat launch. Then they launched them into the PFBC Lake Galena, kayak after kayak. Not one had any type of launch permit on them and very few had a PFD on board. Not only is a state launch permit required but since Peace Valley is a Bucks County Park, an additional Bucks County launch permit is also required.
Your boat, even if non-powered, must be registered in PA regardless of what state you reside in if using any PFBC lake or launch site, or on any water in a state park. Canoes and kayaks do not need to be registered to go on New Jersey waters if manually powered.
Owners of unpowered boats (canoes, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, rowboats, etc.) can launch their boats at PFBC lakes and access areas or Pennsylvania state parks if their boats display a PFBC launch use permit, or boat registration, or Pennsylvania State Parks launch permit or mooring permit. Pennsylvania State Parks recognizes PFBC boat registrations and launch permits. The Commission does not recognize launch permits from other states. A PFBC launch permit can be purchased online at the Commission’s website.
There were literally dozens of people fishing along the shore of the 356-acre Lake Galena. Very few had fishing licenses. Anglers are required under PA law to purchase a license to fish in the waters of the Commonwealth or boundary waters and must display a current fishing license certificate on a hat or outer garment while fishing.
Annually there are only two Fish-for-Free Days which allow anyone (resident or non-resident) to legally fish on Pennsylvania waterways on the certain designated days with NO FISHING LICENSE REQUIRED (Trout/Salmon and Lake Erie permits are also NOT required). All other fishing regulations still apply though. The two days for 2014; one was on Memorial Day, May 26th and the second day will be on Independence Day, July 4th.
Fishing without a license and kayaking without a launch permit or not carrying a PFD while underway is a scene played out every day at streams, lakes and reservoirs throughout the state. It’s very unfortunate that hundreds or even thousands of these rule breakers are rarely caught and that responsible boaters and fisherman who do follow the rules must foot the bill for everyone.
An unimaginable amount of money is lost by the PFBC yearly by those who do not follow the rules whether through stupidity or by not fearing the chance of being caught.