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Taking advantage of fish for free Sunday

Memorial Day weekend has long ushered in the beginning of the summer recreation season for many folks. With the lingering weeks of being shut in and all the craziness associated with it, some opportunity to get outside should be blessed relief.

This Sunday marks the first of two fish for free days scheduled for 2020 here in the state, and no fishing license is required to fish on any water within the state on this day.

If your holiday plans include spending time outdoors around the water, the day is a great time to introduce a friend or family to fishing. If you happen to be one who has left the sport in recent years or know someone who has, tomorrow is also a perfect opportunity for a reintroduction to the sport of fishing.

Of course, kids under 16 years old don’t need a fishing license to fish in Pennsylvania, so any day is a great day to take a youngster fishing. Teaching others to fish can be giving them the gift of a wholesome form of outdoor recreation, something that could potentially be a satisfying lifetime hobby.

And for those who will be taking advantage of one of the free days, remember that only the license requirement is waived. All other fishing laws and regulations are still in effect and must be followed. Bass season doesn’t open until June 13, but all other species of game fish are currently in season. If you intend to keep your catch, make sure you know the size and creel limits that apply to the water you are fishing. Those regulations can be found online at fishandboat.com or a summary of the fishing laws and regulations can be obtained at any fishing license issuing agent.

Memorial Day weekend is usually prime time for catching most species of panfish, such as sunfish, perch, or crappies. Almost every lake in our region will hold a good population of these popular fish, offering many hours of enjoyment for novice and veteran anglers alike. Most area trout streams are in great shape right now, and trout fishing is another great way to spend the weekend.

Leave it alone

Walking about the beautiful fields and forests is especially wonderful this time of year.

During those outings, encountering baby animals is always a possibility, particularly young deer. Many well-meaning folks assume the fawn is lost or deserted and take it away from its mother and home range. That, of course, is exactly the wrong thing to do. Newborn fawns spend much of their time hiding during the day while their mothers are nearby feeding.

Does with fawns need plenty of nourishment this time of year to nurse their fawns properly, and like most babies, young deer spend the majority of their days resting and sleeping. So finding a fawn hiding in cover is perfectly normal and should be left alone because the doe is probably nearby and even watching. Taking the little deer away from its natural situation virtually ensures it will be forced into a lifetime in captivity, not the most desirable fate for a high-strung, free-ranging animal like a white-tailed deer.

Baby animals encountered in the wild are rarely abandoned. The best course of action is always to quietly leave the area and let nature take its course. Taking any animal or bird from the wild in Pennsylvania is also illegal and could result in fines of up to $1,500 per animal. Under no circumstances will you be allowed to keep any wild animal.

Another good reason for avoiding direct contact with wildlife is the possibly of contracting parasites like fleas, ticks or lice or even worse a disease like rabies. Raccoons remain as the most common vector species for rabies in Pennsylvania, followed by skunks, foxes and bats.

All mammals are susceptible to the disease, and a few years ago folks were bitten by rabid beavers near Philadelphia. Although rare, even deer and squirrels with rabies have been documented in Pennsylvania. So once again, the best practice “look – don’t touch” and enjoy wildlife for a distance.

Career choices

If you’ve ever considered a career as a conservation officer, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission is currently seeking applicants for a new class of Waterways Conservation Officer trainees. The basic duties of a WCO include law enforcement, education and community partnerships with anglers and boaters, and officers are specifically trained in all aspects of fisheries conservation and watercraft safety.

The State Civil Service Commission will accept applications until July 18. Applications will only be accepted online. To view the announcement and apply, please go to the SCSC website at www.employment.pa.gov. The class of trainees is expected to report for training in January 2021 and graduate in the summer of 2021.

Successful applicants will complete required physical testing and enter 30 weeks of training conducted at the Stackhouse school located in Bellefonte, Centre County that includes field training alongside experienced WCOs. Trainees will assist with investigations, patrol regions, participate in public outreach events and stock waterways.

Applicants must be a Pennsylvania resident at least 21 years of age, a high school graduate or GED, pass a criminal background check and possess Municipal Police Officers Basic Training (Act 120) certification. For more information on the position, visit the PFBC website, fishandboat.com.

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