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Fish for Free Days allow anyone (resident or non-resident) to legally fish on Pennsylvania waterways on the designated days with no fishing license required. Permits are also not required for Trout/Salmon and Lake Erie on Fish-for-Free days. All other fishing regulations still apply.

The next free fishing day takes place next weekend on July 4.

Fish-for-Free Days is a great way for families to “catch” the fun of fishing. Outdoor activities such as fishing also provide great bonding opportunities for families while creating tremendous memories for children.

Fishing trip memories

My most memorial fishing memory stems not from my own childhood, but from a trip my husband and I made with our then 7 or 8-year-old grandson, Kyle, to New York’s Finger lakes.

My sister and brother-in-law Cheri and John Wamsley were visiting so we all piled into our RV and headed to New York, where our niece Laurie was working as a costume designer at a summer playhouse.

Fish for free
A young Kyle Taylor learned howto bait a hook and release his catch back into the water while fishing with his great-uncle John Wamsley. (Photo by Vicky Taylor)

We found a campground with a camping spot right on a big pond, where we set up our headquarters. John and my husband Dave were both fishermen, but young Kyle had never tried the activity. We bought fishing gear and Kyle got some fishing lessons.

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The kid took to the sport like a duck to water.

Kyle caught the lake’s elusive “big fish” that summer, the one that had “got away” from everyone, while the adults caught mostly smaller fish that didn’t meet size requirements.

The thrill of the catch

After the thrill of reeling the big fish in, Kyle insisted on returning his catch to the lake. He continued to fish the entire vacation, following the “catch and release” philosophy the entire vacation.

Today Kyle is 23 and a father himself. I don’t know if he ever fished again after that vacation, but if he needs equipment, we still have everything the guys used that summer, tucked away somewhere in our garage. Just waiting for another little boy to try it out. Perhaps someday our son will want to take his young grandson fishing, and teach him the catch and release techniques Kyle learned that summer.

Here are instructions from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission about techniques on releasing fish.

How To Release Fish

To give fish released the best chance for survival, follow these recommended guidelines:

Use barbless hooks. Play fish quickly.Try to land your fish as quickly as possible and don’t play the fish to exhaustion.

Use a landing net. Keep the fish in the water. The longer a fish is out of the water, the greater chance it could be injured.

Wet your hands, your net, and other materials that may come in contact with the fish.

Hold the fish upside down while removing the hook.
This can often pacify the fish and reduce handling time.

Remove hooks quickly. Hemostats or long-nose pliers are essential tools for quickly removing hooks.

Cut the line. When it is not possible to remove the hook without harming the fish, cut the line.

Don’t touch the fish’s gills. Do not handle fish by placing your fingers in the gill slits.

Hold the fish upright underwater after hook removal and allow it to swim away under its own power. If necessary, hold the fish out of the current until it revives.

Where to borrow equipment

Pennsylvania has a fishing equipment “loaner” program for those wanting to try the sport without sinking big bucks into equipment.

The public can borrow rods, reels and a tackle box full of hooks and other tackle. The loaner program works in much the same way books are borrowed from a library.

The equipment is returned to the site by the due date. . 

This program is a partnership between the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, the American Sportfishing Association, and other sponsors. The program makes it easy for anyone to access fishing tackle.

Whether you are giving fishing a try for the first time, or returning to a childhood activity, these sites provide free tackle for loan.

Get started by clicking on a “fishing” icon on this map for a location, hours of operation and contact information.

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