I know most of the fishing crowd doesn’t think of a new fishing season being underway until trout season rolls around in April, but I’ve always considered the new season underway when I hit the ice for the first time.
In recent years that first trip rarely took place before the start of the new year. This year I was actually on the ice right after Christmas, but that came to an abrupt end; the ice is pretty much gone as of this writing, and the likelihood of getting good safe ice before the end of winter doesn’t look too good.
Something else to be aware of is once the new year is underway, you must purchase a new fishing license unless you have a Senior Resident Lifetime license, and those under 16 are not required to have a license. Bear in mind that even senior lifetime license holders must purchase a trout permit unless it was purchased before Jan. 1, 2015. There are other exceptions for military veterans, so make sure you check the 2023 Pennsylvania Fishing Summary booklet or go to the Fish Commission website.
Something else to be aware of regarding licenses is that it is not required that they be displayed while fishing; however, it must be in your possession. Something else that is sometimes overlooked is that in addition to carrying your fishing license, you must also have some form of identification, such as a driver’s license.
Another regulation that I have to constantly remind myself of this time of year is that a life jacket must be worn from Nov. 1 to April 30 each year. This requirement pertains to all boats less than 16 feet in length and canoes, kayaks, or paddleboards. I’m often on the lakes in April and May in search of crappies, and I have to remind myself that I have to wear my life jacket during those April outings.
Bear in mind, of course, that the statewide opening day of trout season is 8 a.m. on April 1, but the Mentored Youth Trout Day is March 25. Youth under 16 years of age who have obtained a Mentored Youth Permit or a Voluntary Youth Fishing License, neither of which costs anything, may fish for trout — but they must be accompanied by a licensed adult; note that the adult must be a licensed angler. The adult anglers may not possess any trout, but the mentored youth may possess two.
I’m often reminded that all these rules, regulations, and dates can be confusing; I couldn’t agree with you more. I highly recommend that if you purchase a license, you also get the summary booklet or at least be prepared to visit the commission’s website to review the regulations.
Remember, not all regulations are the same for every lake or stream. For example, there are lakes that have special regulations for panfish.
One lake I like to fish only allows possession of ten crappies per angler, and there are special size restrictions. Of the ten crappies that may be kept, only five of them can be over the nine-inch mark, and the rest can be under and may be kept as long as you don’t exceed five over nine inches! Now, do you see why you need the summary booklet and why you need to study it?
While it appears that I won’t be putting much wear and tear on my ice fishing gear, you can bet that I will have my boat ready ahead of time, and my fly-fishing gear is ready to go for some of those special early trout fishing opportunities.