Should I purchase a Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) launch permit?


Should I purchase a Pennsylvania Fish and
Boat Commission (PFBC) launch permit?

By Brian Palmer

A few weeks ago the Canadian government announced new regulations for canoe trips in Canada. Among other things, the new Canada regulations require that, “Any canoe or kayak that has an instructor, guide or leader in it is now classified as a commercial vessel and thus required to be registered with Transport Canada.” This reminded many of us of the old PFBC requirement that canoes and kayaks needed to be registered (complete with the bow numbers) to use PFBC access areas, and the state parks required either a DCNR launch permit or PFBC registration. Boat registration requires a lot of paperwork and documentation that many paddlers just do not have, such as a title or bill of sale.
Luckily, through the efforts of many paddlers and clubs, including members of CCGH, the PFBC and DCNR came up with an alternative launch permit program that is easier to use, and satisfies both PFBC and DCNR. For the same price as registration, and with much less paperwork, you can get an unpowered boat launch sticker that is good for two years at both state parks and PFBC access areas. Launch stickers can be ordered on-line, and also bought at many local retailers and some state parks. If you buy a permit on-line, you can print out a temporary launch permit that you can begin using right away. You don’t have to add the numbers to the bow of your boat, either.
Still, I have met some paddlers who seem hesitant to buy launch permits. I can see the hassle if you’ve got a lot of boats: our family has five boats with permits, and two more in the garage without. However, launch permits allow you to use all state park lakes and PFBC launch areas. Are these the sorts of things for which you should have to pay? Well, there are lots of places you can paddle where you can still launch for free, but they don’t always have adequate parking, or they may prohibit access after sundown.
Another thing to remember is that the PFBC’s boating fund receives no money from the state’s general fund and tax revenues. It is funded only by user fees (such as boat registrations and launch permits) and from federal grants. [The grants are reimbursement of federal taxes on boat fuel sold in PA.] So, if we paddlers want better access areas, buying a launch permit and using those access areas that are available are two ways to demonstrate that the demand is there and that paddlers are willing to support the maintenance and development of better access areas.
More importantly, there are a lot of very nice places to canoe and kayak in our state parks and close to PFBC access areas that would otherwise be off-limits to paddlers who don’t have a launch permit. I do not think everyone should be required to obtain a launch permit or register every kayak and canoe in PA. At the same time, I also do not think that as a club or as individuals, we should avoid organizing trips or events to certain lakes or rivers simply because a launch permit is required.
(Brian Palmer is president of the Canoe Club of Greater Harrisburg (; this article first appeared in the CCGH March Newsletter and is reprinted here with permission)
(Editor’s note – you can purchase a boat launch permit at Tussey Mountain Outifitters in Bellefonte, Rich’s Bait Shop in Howard, and Conklin’s Gun and Sports Shop in Milesburg, or at any PA State Park. OR Online at Lastly, you can download, complete, and mail in your application by going to