The Pennsylvania Game Commission is considering a new rule that would affect boating in the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area and other State Game Lands across Pennsylvania.
The proposal comes at a time when boating on these waters is booming.
If approved by the Board of Game Commissioners, anyone launching a boat on any water in State Game Lands would be required to have a boat registration or non-motorized boat launching license issued by the State Fish and Boat Commission.
Non-motorized boats are permitted on the public recreational section of Middle Creek Lake from May 16 to September 1. 14. Navigation is prohibited the rest of the year.
Historically, the Game Commission has not required boats launched on State Game Lands waters to be registered or have launching licenses.
However, any boat equipped with a gasoline engine or electric trolling motor, used anywhere in Pennsylvania, must be registered with the Fish and Boat Commission.
This would include the use of such a boat on State Game Lands waters.
Non-motorized watercraft, such as canoes, kayaks and rowboats, can be registered, but it is not mandatory.
If unregistered, non-motorized boats must have a boat launch license if launched from a Fish and Boat Commission or Department of Conservation and Natural Resources facility of State.
Thus, these unpowered boats could be used on Middle Creek Lake and other State Game Lands waters without a boating license or registration.
This practice will end if the Game Commission approves its rule proposal, which could happen this spring.
According to the Fish and Boat Commission’s fee chart, non-motorized boat registrations cost $22 for two years. Launch permits cost $23.97 for two years or $13.97 per year.
The Gambling Commission is pushing for the permit rule change due to “a marked increase in the number of users accessing SGL resources for boating who do not hold Commonwealth-issued registration or licenses,” an announcement on the proposed rule change indicates.
“The commission is not interested in reducing or restricting recreational boating on or from SGLs. However, the commission has determined that it is appropriate for such users to obtain and display the same registration or license required to operate the boat on or from any other Commonwealth property…”
The popularity of canoeing and kayaking has exploded in recent years. If you’ve tried to buy one of these non-motorized boats, you know it. They are often hard to find.
The blast came to me last summer while fishing on Marsh Creek Lake in Chester County.
Traffic on the lake was normal for a summer Saturday when I launched my bass boat before sunrise. That is to say, there were several other boats like mine leaving.
But when I got back to the other side of the lake around noon, the traffic was noticeably different.
There were kayaks and canoes everywhere.
The 24 hour boat ramp was like an obstacle course with all the kayakers getting in and out.
I have fished Marsh Creek Lake since the 1980’s and have never seen traffic like this. Even back when windsurfing was the latest craze of the 1990s, the traffic was not that heavy.
Data kept by the Fish and Boat Commission on unpowered boats used in Pennsylvania supports my experience.
In 2018, the agency sold 35,358 one-year boat licenses and 82,049 two-year licenses for non-motorized boats.
In 2020, those numbers jumped to 60,016 one-year licenses and 106,377 two-year licenses.
Go back to 2011, and the Fish and Boat Commission only sold 8,832 one-year permits and 23,204 two-year permits.
“There has been a trend of increasing sales of unpowered launch permits in recent years,” said Mike Parker, director of communications for the agency.
At Lancaster County Marine, outside of Ephrata, three generations of the Hartman family have been selling boats for 50 years.
Dale Hartman said sales of kayaks and canoes have never been hotter than they have been in recent years.
“Sales were growing even before the pandemic,” he said. “But since the pandemic, the curve is even steeper.”
At Lancaster County Marine, those sales were split about evenly between new boat owners and people who have been boating for years.
“You can’t say it’s just new people getting into it,” he said.
Kayaks are the top-selling non-motorized boats. Hartman said there were several reasons for this.
“If a family comes, they can buy two to four kayaks so everyone has one, but if they come for a canoe, they might only have one or two, because it can fit a few people. “, did he declare.
Additionally, the advancements in kayaks to make them more comfortable have been tremendous over the past decade.
“When it comes to comfort, kayaks today compared to 10 years ago – there is no comparison,” he said.