Fishmas' Boost Economy?
Inside the Outdoors, April 15,
2016

Starting tomorrow, statewide trout season, or ‘Fishmas’ as some fishers call it will begin. Anglers will be heading to the Laurel Mountains, and surrounded large water basins; it is hoped, to net trout of all sizes.

The question that I presented to area businesses was, “Does opening day trout season improve the economy in the area?”

I began my research project by first logging onto the computer to see if I could locate any type of survey conducted by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) held concerning the monies spent as a result of residents or non-residents shelling out revenue for various needs. This is what I found.

I came up with one conducted in the year 2005. It did point to one thing. Throughout the state of Pennsylvania, stream anglers alone paid out an estimated $2,646,897 just for lodging.

For travel, fishers paid out an estimated $17,047,763 to go to the various stocked trout streams, an additional $11, 647,105 for food and the fishing lure and tackle shops would find an increase of $20, 777, 457 for necessary gear purchases.

Bringing statistics home a bit, I talked to Anna Weltz of the Laurel Highlands Visitors’ Bureau in Ligonier, who brought to the table a survey that was conducted by the state tourism office concerning Westmoreland, Fayette and Somerset Counties.

“Travelers spent $1.8 billions annually,” the public relations director stated. “That is a 4 per cent increase from the previous year.” In addition, she said, “Out of that amount, Westmoreland County alone took in $742 million via visitors expenditures.”

Westmoreland County Chamber of Commerce President Chad M. Amond interjected the fact that hunting plays a big part in lifting the economy. He concurred with a quote mentioned in Hunting Works for PA magazine that stated, “The total ripple effect from hunting in Pennsylvania is $1.6 billion.”

Ligonier Mountain Outfitters, Newsstand and Smoke Shop, Long Bridge Station, on Rt. 30 between Latrobe and Ligonier, and Walt’s Dairy & Bait, 1299 Keystone Park Road, New Alexandria, have seen a surge of increase during ‘Fishmas.’

“We have a growing recreational area here in the New Alexandria area,” stated Dennis Miller, owner of Walt’s Dairy & Bait. “The economy definitely does pick up when trout season begins,” he stated. “In addition, I originally installed three bait machines in the area and now I’m up to 11. When one considers we have Keystone State Park Lake, Loyalhanna Creek and the campgrounds, the economy is definitely supported by people coming here,” he said.

Despite the notable upswing of ‘Fishmas’ boosting our economy in our tourist communities, that’s not to say that all of Pennsylvania are feeling the upswing of this ‘glorious’ time of the year.

According to the PFBC’s Executive Director John Arway, who recently stated, “We have had a tremendous decline in people buying fishing licenses since the organization birth in 1866. In the 1980’s, there were more than 1.3 million and fewer than 700 thousand, today. Pennsylvania’s population is aging and younger generations have become less interested in trout fishing,” he said.

Because of the lack of income, statewide, the fish hatcheries have been reduced to eight, producing somewhere in the proximity of four million adult trout.

“The PFBC 2015 annual report shows the staff, its largest expense, has declined from 432 to 380, while license fees have been increased for the first time since 2005. Arway also reports that if a financial solution to the commission’s growing retirement liability, potentially an additional $9 annually, then hatchery operations will soon have to be reduced,” it was disclosed.

In order to encourage fishers to purchase licenses and renew interests in the sport, the Keystone Select Waters program was initiated whereby fish 14 to 20 inches will be put in eight state water basins, one of which includes Loyalhanna Creek, Section 3 in Ligonier along the Delayed Harvest Artificial Lures Only stream part. That encompasses 1.67 miles. Statewide, 3,200 large trout were deposited in streams.

These fish have already been stocked in the creek and seen by anglers. One fisherman told me he saw large trout near Murphy’s Bridge in Latrobe.

Monty Murty, director of Forbes Trail Chapter of Trout Unlimited emphasized strongly that “trout stream conservation is so important as it definitely affects the economy as well as the trout angler.” Well versed as to conservations methods for this organization, he is an officer for the Pennsylvania Council of TU, serving as a National Leadership Council Representative.

“Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands are ideally situated to attract trout angling tourists. Our Laurel Highland Trout Trail (LHTT) tourism and economic development program, now in its fifth year, is working to keep license fees low for residents and the quantity of catchable trout high for all who love the sport,” stated Murty, LHTT project manager.


- Paul J. Volkmann
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