PA - registration vs. use permit

Here is a question for fellow PA paddlers.

What are the pros and cons of state registration vs. use permit?

If I’m not mistaken, and please let me know if I am , a use permit costs the same as registration and both allow use on all Fish & Boat Commission waters as well as PA state parks (DCNR). I paddle on both.

So why choose one over the other?

Any advantages of either?

Thank you.


a couple
I think this is the first year the cost has been the same for both. In previous years registration has cost less.

The nice thing about the use permit is that there is very little paperwork involved - just fill out a very short form and mail it in with your check. If I remember correctly, registration requires the original bill of sale, the Manufacturer’s Certificate of Origin, and a longer form.

If you have a canoe, you will have to put the registration numbers on the boat if you register it. If you go with the use permit, you just put the sticker on the boat. For kayaks it is pretty much the same regardless of whether you do the registration or the use permit - you only need to put the sticker on the boat.

There is only one alleged benefit to registering your boat. The serial number of the boat is on file, so if someone else steals your boat and tries to register it, but doesn’t have the proper documents from you stating the boat was sold, they will supposedly contact you. I don’t know if that would still happen if someone tried to register the boat in another state. As far as Pennsylvania is concerned, the new owner could now just get a use permit, so having the serial number on file with the Fish and Boat Commission is rather pointless.

One real advantage of registering your canoe or kayak is that it allows you to use it in any other U.S. state with which Pennsylvania has a reciprocal licensing agreement (essentially all of the states) as well as in Canada. I don’t know how much of a benefit that is, but it’s one they mention when touting the benefits of registration vs. just having a use permit.

I Choose DCNR
I have a much easier time handing my money over to a park employee at a lake I frequent rather than mailing it off to a faceless bureaucracy in Harrisburg.

The theft recovery angle from the Fish and Boat Commission is crap. The last time we found a loose boat we called the Commission with the serial number and they claimed that they were not permitted to give out any info. Makes you wonder if their not just cashing the checks and tossing out the paperwork.

Another consideration is that the Fish and Boat stickers are notorious for not wanting to stick to plastic boats. If your Fish and Boat launch sticker falls off you have to buy a new one. On the other hand if your DCNR sticker (a better heavy vinyl design) falls off they will give you a new one, as long as you have the original paperwork.

If you stay off Fish and Boat accesses and DCNR lakes you don’t have to do anything…but don’t take any chances with sneaking around the issue. If they catch you its a $50 fine, and I’ve never heard of any one getting just a warning.

It depends …
When I first rented the renter gave me a “county launch permit” to put in my PFD … so if you have more than 1 yak or canoe the permit makes more sense … but here it is a County launch permit so it’s use is limited to the County. I now have a PA registration which works as you have stated … but the County lakes still require the launch permit. The State Park in the County takes either permit.

If I really want to use the smaller County Park I can pay a reduced daily launch fee.

I like the PA registration much better. The stickers alone seem good enough for a yak (no large numbers required). I like it that my PA fees are going to maintaning all those cool launch ramp areas that I use quite regularly.

Impala Bob

I chose the DCNR Launch pass
As Topher mentioned above, it is much easier to obtain the DCNR launch pass than the Fish and Boat Commission registration. I have heard many complaints from customers as to the numerous hoops they had to jump through to acquire the F&BC sticker, only to find it fall off of the boat. Then they had to repurchase the sticker. I have never had to do so, but the DCNR representative has informed my every time to hold onto my paperwork (1 half sheet of standard paper) so if I lost my sticker, I could obtain a new sticker for no cost. I’ve purchased 6 or 7 and never once has one fallen off. Plus, you can purchase them at any PA state park that has paddling access.

DCNR permit and other states?
Dave, are you saying that a DCNR launch permit is not acceptable in other states? The way I figured it a sticker is a sticker and one was as good as the other, but maybe I’m wrong.


From Maryland the following

– Last Updated: Apr-12-05 8:25 AM EST –

Reply to my Query.

Date: Saturday, May 31, 2003 07:42 PM
To: (
Subject: Licensing

Is there any kind of registration or launching permit
required for the use of a 12 foot kayak in Maryland waters?

No motor, no registration is required.

I later learned that there is a $50 yearly fee for Prettyboy Reservoir.

As a former PA taxpayer, I am ashamed
that they started a registration system. Come to Georgia, you don’t need reciprocity, you can paddle our rivers for free.

for the fish & boat stickers you don’t need the numbers on a kayak only sticker but as far as i know on a canoe you need both, unless things have are different now.

beats me
I considered asking, but then decided that ignorance is bliss. My thinking is the same as yours - as long as there is some sort of sticker on the boat, it shouldn’t be a problem.

as an ohioan i’m used to stickers…it’s not that

much money, but the whole point of the matter is that it sucks. i’m not fooled into thinking it benefits anyone but the dnr. which is ok for me, because ohio has a very good track record for the proper use of funds. when i’m in pa i never give it a thought because i’m legal with my oh numbers. talking with pa dnr officials they seem to say that they think thier own system is confusing for all involved. i live in the oh,mi&in tristate area so it seems to me that all that anyone from any of those states with a badge wants to see is safety first and a sticker

of some sort if it’s required in that state. the funny thing is that you almost always get the most scrutiny from your home state(the only rules

that they know for sure)

DCNR sticker it is
I drove over to Raccoon Creek State Park and picked up the DCNR sticker today.

I was convinced when a F&BC “agent” wanted to charge me a $30 fee plus the $18 to the state for registration.

The DCNR sticker looks a like a registration - has a number, but doesn’t require big numbers on a canoe. Access to the same water is permitted.

Also, the DCNR permit is just one sticker, for one side of the boat, not two, and you put it between center and stern, so its not so unsightly. I think that I’ll try trimming the edges just a bit too.

Thanks all.


Big honkin numbers…
maring the sides of my pretty boats are one reason not to “Register”. “Register” is another reason unto itself. Why do I have to register my boat?? Its not the governments business what I own. I have to register my Car, my Guns, my dog, my Marrige and now my Kayak??

I find it repugnant enough that I have to pay for a launch permit to use the boat launches and parks my tax dollars have ALREADY paid for.

The less government I deal with the better. Its like the man said, Id rather hand my money to some nice park employee then mail it to Hburg.


You can print out use permit form online
then mail it in and sticker will be mailed to you. Not sure if you can do the same for registration.

once, i went to register a new pricey canoe in Pa and since i purchased the canoe new in DE (no sales tax)…Pa wanted 7%tax on the sale!!(even tho I ordered on internet)plus a yearly registering fee, so i flippd them off and registered in OH one small fee is good for three or four years and I didnt have to pay sales tax

then I met and paddled with people from states where canoe registration is not required… when my current registration runs out im gonna register in one of these states :wink: