Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Pennsylvania loans fishing tackle for free

From the Poat Gazette...

Sunday, July 11, 2010
By John Hayes, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The kids say they want to go fishing. But as with most hobbies, newcomers can fork over a significant investment -- often not knowing what they need -- before deciding whether fishing is right for them.

Faced with the prospect of perhaps wasting money, some folks just tell the kids to do something else instead.

But through a quiet little program of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, fishing rods, reels and tackle boxes filled with equipment are available on loan to anyone who asks.

The 5-year-old Borrow a Rod and Reel Fishing Tackle Loaner Program works like a library. At dozens of loaner sites, anyone -- from beginners to those returning to the sport -- can simply show ID, fill out a card, borrow the gear and bring it back when they're finished. Fishing license regulations, seasons and creel limits apply. Equipment can not be reserved.

"What we want to do is get people exposed to fishing and the outdoors," said Fish and Boat southwest region education director Denny Tubbs, "and by providing the equipment we can get that exposure."

The loaner program is a partnership of the Fish and Boat Commission, the American Sportfishing Association, and local sponsors of individual loaner sites. The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources helps by providing loaner tackle at many state parks.

As well as loans made to individuals, the equipment can also be borrowed by groups conducting angler education programs. The equipment is purchased by Fish and Boat through its education wing.

"We have a lot of partners like Zebco, Pure Fishing and others, and they give us a good price," said Tubbs. "It's good quality."

In southwest Pennsylvania, loaner sites are located at Keystone State Park in Westmoreland County, Raccoon Creek State Park in Beaver County, Yellow Creek State Park in Indiana County and Mahoning Creek Lake Park, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project in Armstrong County.

"When Fish and Boat started doing this, we volunteered to provide loaner sites," said Chris Kemmerer, DCNR natural resource specialist. "We're doing this because we want to get people using the resource and enjoying their parks."

Each state park loaner site gets about 20 rods, reels and small tackle boxes filled with hooks, line, bobbers, sinkers and assorted gear. Kemmerer said the parks often incorporate the loaner equipment in their own fishing workshops and programs.

"It's part of our programming repertoire to do fishing programs," he said. "We do an average statewide of 25 fishing programs a month in spring and summer. ... People come out and enjoy fishing for free, see if they like it. If they do, they might make the next step."

Encouraging new anglers to take that next step to investment in fishing licenses and equipment is an important part of the program.

"We're funded through license sales and boat registration," said Tubbs. The agency also gets federal funding through a the Dingle-Johnson Act excise tax on purchases of fishing equipment. "So it definitely helps us."

As with most hobbies, high end gear can cost a fortune. But Tubbs recommends that anglers progressing from borrowed tackle to their own gear start small.

"I wouldn't recommend going out and buying the least expensive gear," he said. "It's frustrating because it doesn't work right, and then you give up on fishing. Get something in the midrange -- $20, $30 or more."

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