You can do more than just grill burgers and hot dogs this holiday.
Memorial Day is Monday, and while we honor those who served and gave their lives for our country and way of life, we also use the holiday as the unofficial start to the summer season. Once again, there is a full weekend of outdoors activities to fuel your enthusiasm.
Anglers have a chance to share their passion with friends and neighbors on Memorial Day itself thanks to the first of two Fish-for-Free Days in Pennsylvania, the other one coming on July 4.
The Fish-for-Free concept allows anyone, both residents and non-residents of the Commonwealth, to legally fish for free from 12:01 a.m. until 11:59 p.m. on Monday, May 26.
All other fishing regulations do apply, however, so creel limits and minimum size requirements are in effect. For trout, that's a five-fish keeper limit with a minimum length of 7 inches. Largemouth and smallmouth bass must be returned safely to the water if caught because that season doesn't open until June 14.
Several state parks and community parks are chipping in with the effort by offering loaner equipment on the day.
For the Southeast Region, which includes the Lehigh Valley, Jacobsburg Environmental Education Center in Northampton County, Nockamixon State Park near Quakertown, Green Lane Park in Montgomery County, and Locust Lake and Tuscarora state parks in Schuylkill County have loaner equipment available.
The Northeast Region sites for loaners include Mauch Chunk Lake Park in Jim Thorpe, Nescopek State Park in Drums and Promised Land State Park in Greentown.
"Fish-for-Free Days are an easy way to introduce friends and family to the sport of fishing," said John Arway, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission executive director. "Many families spend the day at lakes and parks throughout the state. Now they can try fishing at no cost. We know that once people try it, particularly kids, they will see that fishing is a great recreational activity and they will want to do it more."
While the Fish-for-Free program is the focus for the holiday itself, this week heading into the holiday is National Safe Boating Week.
According to statistics from the Boat Owners Association of the United States, about 700 people die each year in boating-related accidents, and 80 percent of those who die are not wearing proper life jackets, which are also called personal flotation devices or PFDs. In Pennsylvania last year, 17 people died from boating-related accidents, and only two of them were wearing PFDs.
"People tend to think of boating accidents in terms of collisions, and this is the most common type of reportable boating accident in Pennsylvania," said Ryan Walt, the PFBC boating and watercraft safety manager. "But the accidents where we have fatalities are the ones where somebody falls overboard, or is swamped in a small boat and then ends up drowning. Those are precisely the accidents where a life jacket can make all the difference."
Boats are required to have one U.S. Coast Guard-approved wearable (Type I, II, II or V) life jacket for each person on board. Children 12 and under must wear theirs while underway on any boat 20 feet or less in length, and on all canoes and kayaks.
Muzzleloading rendezvous and shoot: The Blue Ridge Muzzleloader Club in Summit Station off Route 183 in Schuylkill County is hosting the Eastern Pennsylvania Rendezvous and Muzzleloader Shoot this Thursday through Memorial Day.
The event features a pre-1840 primitive encampment, as well as modern camping, on the 22-acre site. Firewood and water are available, but there are no utility hook-ups.
Competitive shooting events for traditional muzzleloader rifles, smoothbores and pistols take place 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday for men, women and juniors. Because of grants from the Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association and the Schuylkill County Sportsmen's Association, there is no entry or target fee for junior matches. New this year is a "Greenhorn" match for those who have never won a prize at a Blue Ridge Event.
For more information on the Eastern Pennsylvania Rendezvous and Muzzleloader Shoot at Blue Ridge Rifles Muzzleloader Club, access the Facebook page at Blue Ridge Rifles Inc. Muzzleloader Club or call Nancy Newton at (570) 429-1188 (days) or 570-628-0576 (evenings).
The Raptor Project presentations will be led by Master Falconer Jonathan Wood. The schedule calls for presentations at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. both days, utilizing 15-20 live raptors from diverse habitats and regions. Many of the birds being showcased are handicapped, which prevents them from being returned to the wild.
Nikon birding pro staff members will be on hand for optics education.
Nockamixon geocaching fun: Park naturalists at Nockamixon State Park will stage some free experiential learning about geocaching 2 p.m. Sunday along the High Bridge trail.
Geocaching is modern-day treasure hunting as geocachers use portable GPS units to find things like baseball cards, pencils and other small items. Participants are asked to bring four such small items for a take-one, leave one experience.
Participants can use their own GPS unit, a smartphone with a geocaching App, or borrow one of the park's units. The walks may be canceled due to inclement weather.
To register, go online to http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/calendar and choose Nockamixon as the facility.
Have a safe and happy holiday weekend, and remember to take time to pay tribute to our servicemen and servicewomen.