It's not mandatory in Pennsylvania to register a small, non-powered pleasure craft such as a kayak, but unregistered boats don't have free access to all of the state's waters. Registering your kayak requires just a single form and a very minimal payment, so it's well worth the modest investment of your time and money.
The Registration Process
To register your kayak, you'll need to complete form REV-336, which you can find on the state Department of Revenue website. You can fill out the form online and print it with your information in place, or download and print the blank form and fill it out by hand. Either way, you can submit the application by mail or in person at any county treasury office, at an approved Boat Registration Agency, or at any of the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission regional offices. If you apply in person, you'll receive a temporary registration form so you can use your kayak immediately. You'll need to provide proof of ownership in the form of a sales receipt from a dealer or from the previous owner, or the previous owner's information and signature on your application form. Registration is valid for two years, ending on March 31st of the second year, and costs $18 as of the 2017 boating season.
You may wonder why you'd bother registering your kayak, even with such a low fee, if it isn't mandatory. The simple answer is that, without registration, you don't have full access to all of Pennsylvania's waterways. Registration is required if you want to paddle any state parks or state forests; it can be required by the owners of private waters and launch sites; and it's required if you wish to use any Fish & Boat Commission lake or access point. If you live outside Pennsylvania, your home-state registration is usually valid in Pennsylvania. However, if you use your kayak in Pennsylvania for 60 days or more in a boating season, you'll be required to register it there.
The Permit Option
If you wish to use your kayak in state parks or waters administered by the Fish & Boat Commission, you have the option of purchasing a launch permit instead of registering the craft. Launch permits are available from either the Fish & Boat Commission or the state's Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, which administers state parks and forests. Launch permit fees are $10 for one year or $18 for two years, as of the 2017 boating season.
Renewing Your Registration
The state will mail a renewal card to your address of record near the end of your registration period. To renew your registration, simply complete the renewal card and return it, along with payment of the current fees. You can also renew online through the state's Outdoor Store website, using a credit card or e-check. There's a $2 fee for renewing electronically, if you choose the online option.