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Licensed for thrills and more

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Most of us find it difficult to dole out our hard-earned cash for such things as permits, licenses and taxes, but the facts are some of the money we fork over actually does pay dividends.

Our fishing license, for example, is a tax of sorts. Nobody likes taxes. But this one does more good than anyone might expect from a $19 annual investment.

It’s license time for Ohio anglers. Whether you are a resident or nonresident, you’d best have a 2017 license on you for any fishing trips on or after Wednesday. The annual expiration is the last day of February.

I have been buying fishing licenses since I was a teen. And as I think back over the years of fishing here in Ohio, I can honestly say my fishing licenses have provided me more enjoyment than I might ever have imagined.

My $19 buys fish management and research, enforcement and administration, and a whole lot more. Most importantly, it buys me great access to good fishing – from Lake Erie to the Ohio and on hundreds of reservoirs and rivers in between.

For fewer than 20 bucks last year, I went fishing in Ohio 40 times. For about 50 cents a pop, I wet my line in Lake Erie, the Ohio River, the Mahoning River, West Branch, Lake Milton, Pymatuning, Mosquito and Berlin.

In 2016, my Ohio fishing license produced walleyes, crappies, yellow perch, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, spotted bass, white bass, white perch, northern pike, sauger, sheepshead, rock bass, bluegills, muskies, channel catfish, flathead cats, steelhead trout and one big fat carp.

That’s a pretty hefty list. I guess I would have been eating fish regularly if I were not a catch-and-release guy.

Fishing today is better than what I remember from the 1960s.

Much has changed over the years, of course. Boats are faster, rods and reels are better, lures are more effective, and the electronics are so sophisticated today that some anglers don’t even drop a bait into the water until they see a fish on the digital screen.

But we also have more anglers and better access, so with all great equipment and blistering fishing pressure, Ohio waters still manage to pump out great catches.

Lake Erie is second to none for walleyes and smallmouth bass. The big water’s annual autumn and winter steelhead runs put spectacular fish within casting reach of boaters and bank fishers. Mosquito is one of the best inland walleye lakes within a 300-mile radius of Youngstown and yields annual bumper crops of largemouths and crappies.

Big-game anglers acknowledge West Branch, Milton and Pymatuning as must-fish muskie waters, while Berlin is gaining a reputation as a fun smallmouth bass lake.

Our backyard “crick,” the Mahoning River, gets more attention from anglers and kayakers with each passing year, and our Southern border, the Ohio River, is always one of my favorite fishing holes.

All this for $19. What a deal.

Pymatuning changes rules

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission reminds anglers that new creel and size limits take effect Wednesday for crappies at Pymatuning Reservoir.

Effective Wednesday, anglers can harvest no more than 20 fish per day. Keepers must be at least 9 inches long. The size and bag limits are effective in Ohio and Pennsylvania waters of Pymatuning.

The changes were enacted after Ohio and Pennsylvania fish managers agreed the number of crappies had declined since 2012 after a population boom in 2001 and ’02 caused an increase in crappie fishing pressure.