BARNESVILLE – Yes, it was cold, but not so cold that the weather outweighed the thrill of catching trout and enjoying some grilled hot dogs and hot chocolate at last year's Southeast Region Mentored Youth Fishing Day sponsored by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission at Locust Lake.

MYFD was held on a trail basis in the Southeast Region the Saturday before the regional opening of trout season, and so successful was the experiment it has been expanded this year. In the Southeast Region, MYFD is Saturday, March 22, a week before the regional opening day of trout season, Saturday, March 29; and statewide MYFD is Saturday, April 5, a week before the statewide opening day of trout season. Saturday, April 12.

To participate in the program, adult anglers 16 years of age or older must possess a valid fishing license and trout/salmon permit and be accompanied by a youth 15 years of age or younger. Youth anglers must obtain a free PFBC-issued permit at www.GoneFishingPA.com or at any of the more than 900 licensing agents across the state or purchase one of the new $1 voluntary youth fishing licenses.

A survey of participants in last year's pilot program found that 89 percent of the registered youth fished that day; a majority of mentors were family members and more than 80 percent of the mentors said they were satisfied with the experience. In all, youth and their mentors fished 7,727 hours and reported releasing 4,405 trout and keeping 1,183.

Nearly 80 percent of the mentors said they usually fish the opening day of trout season. More than one-third of respondents said that they do not typically take youth out on opening day.

MYFD was an immediate hit with youngsters and adults last year with more than 5,110 permits being issued and more than 3,700 adult anglers serving as mentors. According to PFBC executive director John Arway the agency expects even greater participation this year, and once again Locust Lake is being used for the program.

"Because of the success of last year's pilot program, this year youth anglers and their mentors will be able to fish on 41 waters across the state during the two Mentored Youth Fishing Days," Arway said. "These days will provide adult anglers from across the state with a special day to fish with the children in their lives in advance of the regional and traditional opening days of trout season."

In the 18-county Southeast Region there are 12 waters open for MYFD and 29 waters are open for the statewide MYFD, and a complete list is available at www.GoneFishingPA.com. Regional waters open for the statewide day are Luzerne - Lake Frances, Nescopeck State Park, Luzerne County; Hidden Lake, Monroe County; and Lily Pond, Pike County.

As for the voluntary youth fishing license, funds will be used for youth programs and provides an added benefit when it comes to federal funding, which accounts for approximately 25 percent of the PFBC's budget, and according to the 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, 367,000 children and young adults ages 6 to 15 fished in Pennsylvania. For every youth license sold, the PFBC will receive approximately $5 in federal revenue from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Sport Fish Restoration Act program, which provides funds to states based on a formula that includes the number of licenses a state sells.

"I want to emphasize that this is purely a voluntary youth license, and it is not required for kids to fish," Arway said. "If just 25 percent of those 367,000 children were to purchase a voluntary $1 license, it would result in more than $550,000 in revenue for the Commission to invest in youth programs.

"Increasing youth and family participation in fishing, boating, and conservation programs has always been part of our strategic plan. This goal responds to the fact that the percentage of children and young adults ages 6 to 15 who fished in Pennsylvania in 2010 was only 24 percent, as compared to 37 percent in 2005 and 41 percent in 1995. We want to continue to refine and develop programs to engage kids."

Arway added that the potential market for voluntary youth license sales goes beyond the youth anglers and their family and friends. Clubs, organizations, businesses, individuals and others who are interested in promoting youth angling could purchase quantities of voluntary youth license vouchers to distribute to children.

For more information on MYFD, the voluntary youth fishing licenses and the PFBC's education programs visit www.gonefishingpa.com.