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STAFF PHOTO/ROBERT BAKER Waterways Conservation Officer John Cummings gives an assist to stocking Lake Winola in March.

Northeast Region Waterways Conservation Officer John Cummings had been the Northern Luzerne WCO, but now also has all of Wyoming County as well as parts of Lackawanna and Susquehanna Counties as well.

Previous Wyoming County WCO Kadin Thompson has retired.

Cummings, a native of Childs, has previously worked with the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources forestry department doing fire details and state parks department as a ranger.

He arrived in Luzerne County in 1997, and previously had been stationed in Cumberland County as well as Lake Wallenpaupack.

The mission of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission is to protect, conserve, and enhance the Commonwealth’s aquatic resources and provide fishing and boating opportunities.

Cummings holds a bachelor’s degree in outdoor recreation and environmental education from East Stroudsburg University.

He said our local fishing community has reason to be excited for this season. “There’s a lot of stocking going on.”

He adds that, “Wyoming County and the surrounding areas are very advantageous in fishing and boating. There are a lot of public areas such as Lake Carey and Lake Winola, and Oxbow and Stevens’ Lakes that offer access. Also, the areas I have all share the Susquehanna River.”

WCO Cummings mentioned that the River also has become a local hot spot for small mouth catfish, bass and walleye. He did point out, that even though walleye season is currently closed, fishers can catch them but cannot keep them.

As reported in local media on April 1, Pennsylvania fishing license sales have been low so far this year. An article in the Times-Tribune noted, “While pensions, health care and other expenses continue to rise, license prices haven’t moved in years. For Pennsylvania adults, excluding processing fees, hunting licenses have cost $19 since 1999. Fishing license prices have held at $21 since 2005.”

It continued, “Trout and pheasant stamps help pay for stocking programs that are vulnerable to budget cuts. The game commission closed two pheasant farms in 2016, and the fish commission is poised to close a trout hatchery and two other hatcheries next year.”

WCO Cummings doesn’t feel there will be a local impact felt in our area. Sales are slow, he conceded, but there will not be a noticeable difference. The PA Fish and Boat Commission functions primarily from funding from those licenses.

“Almost all of our funding is from license and registration fees,”he said.

Cummings stresed “I’d like to add that now through April 30,mandatory cold water wear is in effect. Also in all boats 16-foot or larger, including all canoes and kayaks, PFD (personal flotation devices) are required. This is even when anchored.”

Officer Cummings strongly suggests visiting the PA Fish and Boat Commision website at www.fishandboat.com. On the site you can purchase licenses and register a boat as well as obtain more information including trout stocking schedules, upcoming events, and links to all social media platforms.