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Charter Boat Operators and Fishing Guides
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Is there a new law impacting fishing guides and charter boat operators in Pennsylvania?

Charter Boat/Fishing Guide logoYes. On November 30, 2004, Act 159 of 2004 (House Bill 2155) was signed into law. A portion of this act addresses fishing guide and charter boat operations. It makes it mandatory for fishing guides and charter boat operators to become permitted in order to operate in Pennsylvania. It authorizes the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission to create regulations for the issuance of these permits.

To whom do these new regulations apply?

As defined in Act 159 of 2004, the following entities will be impacted:

  • "Charter boat” - A boat operated as a commercial enterprise that carries passengers for hire for the purpose of fishing on the waters of this Commonwealth.
     
  • "Fishing guide" - A person who operates a commercial enterprise whereby he guides or leads other persons for the purpose of fishing on the waters of this Commonwealth.

A "commercial enterprise" is defined as an operation where a person provides fishing guide or charter boat services in exchange for any consideration, including money, goods or services.

When did the new regulations go into effect?

January 1, 2006.

Why was this program developed?

Fishing in Pennsylvania is a tremendous recreational activity. It’s also big business. Various economic models project the annual economic benefit from recreational fishing in Pennsylvania is between $2 and $4 billion! Charters/guides are an important component of that mix. The General Assembly and the Commission agree that establishing a program for charters/guides is important in managing recreational fishing, assisting the charter boat/fishing guide industry itself and aiding potential fishing customers.

It’s not the Commission’s intention to micro-manage the day-to-day operation of fishing guides and charter services. But as more and more national and international attention is focused on the fantastic fishing opportunities available in the Commonwealth, having a state-wide program for charters/guides better positions Pennsylvania to promote itself as a fishing destination.

How does regulating guides and charters benefit fisheries management?

Because guides and charter boat operators are often very skilled anglers who spend a great deal of time fishing, they also have the opportunity to make on-the-water observations over an extended period of time. Likewise, on the whole, they also have the potential to impact a fishery to a greater degree than the occasional recreational angler. Because there wasn't a mandatory permitting system for guides/charters in Pennsylvania, the picture these records could supply was woefully incomplete. By mandating all fishing guides/charter operators be permitted, the Legislature ensured the Commission will be able to develop a complete list of who is offering commercial fishing-related services in the state.

What’s the advantage for guides/charters and customers?

A comprehensive list of charters/guides is a good marketing tool. The Commission, tourist promotion agencies, local chambers of commerce and convention and visitor bureaus can use the list to direct potential clients to the appropriate businesses.

It’s also a way for the industry to do a little self-policing. Currently anybody can call themselves a fishing guide and solicit business in Pennsylvania. While most individuals and businesses in the Pennsylvania guide/charter business are outstanding, it only takes a few “bad apples” to ruin the bunch. While the basic industry standards the Commission envisions won’t by themselves guarantee customer satisfaction, potential clients do like knowing that they are contracting services from an industry with some level of oversight. Now that the regulations are in place and a guide offers fishing services in Pennsylvania, but doesn’t have a permit to do so, that business is breaking the law - a clear indication that its business practices are not “above board.”

Are there any other benefits for guides/charters?

Glad you asked: as a matter of fact, yes! Act 159 of 2004 also contains language that allows the Commission to designate permitted charters/guides as “Special Fishing License Issuing Agents.” This means charters/guides have the option to sell one-day fishing licenses, three- and seven-day tourist licenses, trout stamps, Lake Erie permits and combination Trout/Lake Erie permits directly to their customers. Contact the Commission’s Licensing Section at 717-705-7851 to get a better sense of what is required. Will there be fees for the new permits for charter boats/fishing guides? Yes. Act 159 establishes an annual fee of $100 for a resident charter boat/fishing guide permit and $400 for a non-resident charter boat/fishing guide permit.

What are the fees for the permits for charter boats/fishing guides?

Act 159 establishes an annual fee of $100 for a resident charter boat/fishing guide permit and $400 for a non-resident charter boat/fishing guide permit.

Why charge a fee?

There are a number of reasons to charge guides/charters a fee. There are administrative costs to the Commission for overseeing the program. The annual fees paid by guides/charters pay for those costs. Also fees address what some anglers see as a “fairness/equity” issue. Various economic models project the annual economic benefit from recreational fishing in Pennsylvania is between $2 and $4 billion. Among those directly reaping some of those economic benefits are individuals and businesses receiving compensation for running fishing charters and guide services. A prevailing feeling is that those utilizing the state’s aquatic resources for personal commercial gain should be obligated to invest some of that money back. The fees established by Act 159 of 2004 provide a mechanism for doing that while still keeping upfront costs low for permitees.

Wait a minute – doesn’t the Commission already have a program like this?

The Commission had a voluntary registry for charters and guides. For a $50 annual fee, the Commission listed the name of participating entities providing fishing guide/charter services. Charters/guides on this list were also allowed to provide fish cleaning and filleting services to their customers. This program terminated on December 31, 2005 when the mandatory program went into effect.


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