National Hunting and Fishing Day, which was born in Pennsylvania, marks the 50th anniversary of its designation as the official national day on Saturday, September 24.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission and Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission will mark the date on Saturday and Sunday, September 25, with events at various locations across the state.
A multi-station hands-on program, including on-water bait fishing, fly casting, fish habitat building and archery, will be offered Saturday from 1-5 p.m. at Bald Eagle State Park in Center County.
Kayak fishing will be offered by Venture Outdoors and Pittsburgh First Catch in two sessions – Saturday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at North Park Lake in Allegheny County.
A Fish with a Waterways Conservation Office will be offered Saturday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at MK Goddard State Park in Mercer County.
On Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., more than athlete and wildlife organizations will join the two commissions in exhibits, live demonstrations and programs at the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area in Lancaster County.
That is a few more events than have been offered in recent years for the national holiday, which many sports organizations regularly took part in observing a few decades ago.
While the official start of National Hunting and Fishing Day today dates back to 1972, when Congress unanimously passed legislation authorizing the national day, the idea began two years earlier in Pennsylvania.
In 1970, Ira Joffe, owner of Joffe’s Gun Shop in Upper Darby, Delaware County, became the first athlete to propose an official “day of thanks.” Then-Pennsylvania Governor Raymond Shafer took Joffe’s idea and created the state’s Outdoor Sportsman’s Day.
After an initially strong start in Pennsylvania, the state lost its leadership position when the Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium in Springfield, Missouri, took over.
National observance has dwindled to a few press releases each year, including one announcing that year’s honorary chairman. This year, that honor went to social media outdoor personalities Dude Perfect.
Announcing this year’s observation of Pennsylvania, Bryan Burhans, Executive Director of the Game Commission, noted, “The forests, fields, rivers and lakes, the wildlife and fish that call them home, and the hundreds of thousands of hunters and anglers who take advantage of every opportunity to Enjoy Penn’s Forests are one of the things that make Pennsylvania so special. Hunting, trapping and fishing are just as important here as anywhere else and on this golden anniversary of National Hunting and Fisheries Day there is no better time to celebrate that fact.”
Tim Schaeffer, Executive Director of the Fish and Boat Commission added, “With 86,000 miles of waterfront, Pennsylvania truly is a fishing paradise to be enjoyed any time of the year. While seasoned anglers and boaters already know there is something for everyone, the future of our sport depends on engaging new people to share our outdoor traditions and passion for conservation. So the next time you’re planning to cast a line in your favorite wild or stocked trout stream, venture out onto our beautiful rivers and lakes to encounter big bass, catfish or walleye. test your skills with Steelhead or Muskies; or go ice fishing for panfish on a frozen lake in winter – bring a friend with you. There is enough space for everyone.”
To commemorate the 50th anniversary, Burhans and Schaeffer appeared on the Game Commission’s Call of the Outdoors podcast and spoke about the importance of recruiting new participants to outdoor activities and the practice of conservation through hunting and fishing. The podcast can be listened to and downloaded from CalloftheOutdoorsPGC.com.
A proclamation by Gov. Tom Wolf honored Pennsylvania’s Hunting and Fishing Day, stating, “Hunting and fishing remain an integral part of the cultural fabric of communities across the state and have been given opportunities to a growing number of participants in recent years offered to connect with nature on a personal level while providing food security, a sense of self-sufficiency, and mental and physical health benefits.”
Contact Marcus Schneck at [email protected].