Mentored Youth Trout Day on the horizon

Next weekend — Saturday, March 27 to be precise — is Mentored Youth Trout Day throughout Pennsylvania.

This event is a great opportunity to introduce a young person to trout fishing without the crowded atmosphere that often occurs on some waters on a typical opening day. The two regional Mentored Youth Trout Days scheduled for last spring were canceled because of the COVID-19 panic. For 2021, the original plan was to again have two regional days the week before the regional opening days of the regular trout season, but that schedule was changed for one statewide day on March 27 and one statewide trout season opener on April 3.

Those changes were made too late to include in the 2021 Pennsylvania Summary of Fishing/Boating Regulations handbook that comes with your fishing license, so be advised that unfortunately, the information in that publication regarding youth day and opening day is wrong.

All stocked trout waters in Pennsylvania are included in the Mentored Youth Trout Day, and fishing hours will be from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. To participate, anglers under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an angler 16 years of age or older who possesses a valid Pennsylvania fishing license and a trout/salmon permit. The youth angler must have either a Mentored Youth Fishing Permit or Voluntary Youth Fishing License and The Mentored Youth Fishing Permit is free, and the Voluntary Youth Fishing License costs $2.97. Either of these can be obtained at any fishing license issuing agent or online at www.pa.wildlifelicensecom.

You will need to furnish the child’s address, social security number, date of birth, height and eye color to acquire the permit. Because the mentored youth days were canceled last year, all 2020 Voluntary Youth Fishing Licenses remain valid and will be honored during the 2021 season.

Both the young angler and his or her mentor are permitted to fish on the youth day, but only the young angler is permitted to keep two trout seven inches or longer. The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission also encourages adult mentors to respect the spirit of the event with a few helpful guidelines.

The opportunity is not intended as a chance for mentors to get an early start to trout season. Young anglers should be capable of fishing on their own, with limited assistance from mentor. A mentor should be fishing within a reasonable distance of the young person who is actively fishing.

The PFBC also discourages youth organizations from using this as an opportunity to get a large group of youth fishing, with minimal adult supervision. Additional information about the Mentored Youth Trout Days program is available on the PFBC website, FishandBoat.com.

Throughout this past year, many parents have been forced to take an active part in homeschooling their children. Getting the kids interested and involved in fishing is a great outlet for some fresh air and outdoor exercise for homebound youngsters. Make it fun for them. Use this week as some extra bonding time in anticipation for next Saturday. Get the kids out this week to learn how to tie knots and rig their gear and then practice with their equipment.

Put a bucket or other targets in the backyard for some casting practice and make a game of it. Not only will that help the youngsters learn how to cast and handle their gear, but it will also build some anticipation and alleviate so many problems on the water.

Introducing young folks to fishing and other outdoor activities can be giving them a gift for a lifetime of pleasure and satisfaction. I can remember catching my first fish as vividly as if it were just last season. And when I pulled in that 9-inch brook trout on opening day almost 60 years ago, it lit a fire of excitement in me that still burns bright today. That fire spread to many other hobbies and diversions and ultimately to career opportunities.

My love for fishing soon attracted me to fly tying, lure making and rod building. Being outdoors also fostered a deep appreciation for nature and the desire to capture its beauty through photography and to express my fascination through writing.

I was stunned last week when a friend told me he had just spent $200 for a baseball bat for his 9-year-old son. I know many parents get a little fanatical about their kids playing ball sports, but for $200 I could have outfitted four or five kids quite well with fishing tackle for next weekend and beyond. Now I’m not knocking ball sports, and I played my share of them back in the day, but for all but a tiny percentage of us, playing ball in any meaningful way is pretty much over after our teenage years.

That’s why they are often referred to as “spectator sports.” But decades after my teens, I’m still fishing and fishing as well or better than any time of my life, and I plan to keep at it for years to come. So take the opportunity to take a kid fishing and possibly give him or her gift for a lifetime.


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