Mandy Smith

Harry Funk/The Almanac

Mandy Smith conducts an educational session during a 2019 fishing meet-up at Canonsburg Lake.

During the past several years, kayaking had represented a rapidly growing recreational activity in Pennsylvania.

“And then in 2020, it rose even more,” said Mandy Smith, Southwest Region education specialist for the state Fish and Boat Commission. “You couldn’t find a kayak last year.”

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic came an 85% increase in kayak sales during March and April 2020 compared with the previous year, according to the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

“But nobody tells you the information that you need to know to be safe out on the water,” Smith said. “That’s a problem that we commonly encounter.”

To provide elucidation for new owners and those who want to give the small watercraft a try, she is conducting an Intro to Kayaking program for people ages 12 and older from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Aug. 1 at Canonsburg Lake. Kayaks and life jackets will be provided.

Preregistration is required at for the program, which is provided in partnership with the Canonsburg Lake Restoration and Improvement Association. An overflow time slot is scheduled from 4 to 5:30 p.m. if necessary.

“We’ll go over what the legal requirements are,” Smith said. “We’ll talk about choosing a life jacket and how to properly wear your life jacket.”

Also covered will be topics such as water safety and what to do if a boat capsizes, along with basic paddling strokes, parts of a kayak and different types of kayaks, including multi-person models.

“Then they’ll get a chance to get out on the water and paddle around for a bit,” Smith said.

For the uninitiated, a kayak – the English word derives from qajaq in Greenlandic – typically is propelled by a double-bladed paddle, as opposed to a single-blade canoe paddle, with strokes alternating on either side of the boat.

In Pennsylvania, a launch permit is required for unpowered kayaks entering Fish and Boat Commission waters, including the North Strabane and Peters Township sides of Canonsburg Lake, as well as in state parks and at state-owned access points. Kayaks also can be registered with the state, and that becomes a requirement if a motor is put on a boat.

The commission in its annual report cited an increase of about 40% more than 2019 in launch permits issued last year.

“This additional participation, which included many first-time anglers and boaters, promoted the PFBC to increase safety messaging throughout the season, which included promoting life jacket wear and Boating Under the Influence prevention,” the report states.

The Canonsburg Lake Restoration and Improvement Association has been working with the commission to bring programming to the waterway, including fishing meet-ups, complete with instruction for beginners, during the past two years. Another is scheduled for Aug. 17.

For more information about the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, visit

Multimedia Reporter

Staff writer Harry Funk, a professional journalist for three-plus decades, has been on the staff of The Almanac since 2015. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and master of business administration, both from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

See what people are talking about at The Community Table!