Harrisburg, PA – During its quarterly business meeting held in Harrisburg, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) established a single, statewide Opening Day of Trout Season that will occur annually on the first Saturday in April beginning in 2022.
Under this change, which will result in a longer regular season for trout for most anglers, the practice of holding a separate regional opening day for Pennsylvania’s 18 southeastern counties will no longer occur. A single, statewide Mentored Youth Trout Day will now occur one week prior to the regular statewide opening day.
Based on this announcement, anglers should plan around the following dates for the 2022 trout season:
- Saturday, March 26, 2022 – Statewide Mentored Youth Trout Day
- Saturday, April 2, 2022 – Statewide Opening Day of Trout Season
“Thank you to the anglers of Pennsylvania for making their voices heard about trout season and being a partner in this decision,” said Richard Kauffman, PFBC Board President. “While necessary changes to the last two seasons because of the pandemic were inconvenient for many people, we used the unprecedented opportunity to ask a lot of questions about how we’ve been doing things for the last fifteen years. Through a wealth of public input, including angler surveys presenting opening day options, it became clear that our agency and most Pennsylvania anglers value and prefer a single opening day of trout season moving forward.”
In selecting the first Saturday in April as the proposed permanent date for the statewide opening of trout season, the PFBC considered several factors such as weather, water temperature, stocking and enforcement logistics, and social impacts.
As a result of the change to the opening day of trout season, several regulations within the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Code (Title 58) that reference opening day dates required revisions to reflect the change, simplify language, and provide consistency within the regulations.
The Board approved changes to all language within regulations referencing the opening day of trout so that “first Saturday in April” or “opening day of the regular season for trout,” is clearly stated where applicable.
Regulations amended for this purpose include:
- § 61.1 (Commonwealth Inland Waters)
- § 61.2 (Delaware River, West Branch Delaware River and River Estuary)
- § 63.3 (Fishing in Stocked Trout Waters)
- § 63.20 (Permits for Protection and Management of Trout and Salmon)
- § 65.5 (Catch-and-Release Artificial Lures Only)
- § 65.12 (Regional Opening Day of Trout Season)
- § 65.14 (Catch-and-Release Fly-Fishing Only)
- § 65.15 (Catch-and-Release All-Tackle)
- § 65.19 (Stocked Trout Waters Open to Year-Round Fishing)
- § 65.20 (Mentored Youth Fishing Day Program)
- § 65.24 (Miscellaneous Special Regulations)
- § 67.2 (Refuge Areas)
- § 69.12a (Special Regulations Applicable to Lake Erie Tributary Streams)
These amendments will go into effect January 1, 2022.
In addition to amending 58 Pa. Code § 69.12a (Special Regulations Applicable to Lake Erie Tributary Streams) related to the opening day of trout season, the Board also approved an amendment to 58 Pa. Code § 69.12 (Seasons, Sizes and Creel Limits—Lake Erie, Lake Erie Tributaries and Presque Isle Bay Including Peninsula Waters) that would modify the start of the opening day of trout season as well as daily creel and minimum size limits for both Rainbow Trout (steelhead) and Lake Trout. Currently, the daily creel and size limits for trout during the regular season of trout (8:00 a.m. on the opening day of trout season through Labor Day) are five trout per day (combined species), only two of which may be Lake Trout, greater than or equal nine inches in length. Under the amendment, the daily limit will remain at five trout during this period, only two of the fish may be a Lake Trout, and the minimum size limit would be increased to 15 inches for Rainbow Trout and Lake Trout. It should be noted that amending the daily creel limit and minimum size of Rainbow Trout and the minimum size limit for Lake Trout will not impact the creel or size limit for Brown Trout, which is a popular put-and-take fishery during the months of April and May. Then, during the extended season for trout (the day after Labor Day until 12:01 a.m. to the Friday before the opening day of trout), the daily creel limit would be reduced to three trout, only two of which may be a Lake Trout, and the minimum size limit for all trout and salmon is 15 inches. These changes to the season and creel and size limits will provide for greater simplicity to regulations and optimize the trophy component of the steelhead fishery. The amendments will go into effect January 1, 2022.
In other action, the Board voted to approve a Trout Slot Limit program. Given the success of an experimental slot limit regulation program in place since 2014 that resulted in the presence of larger wild Brown Trout on Penns Creek, Section 03, located in Centre and Mifflin counties, the PFBC recognizes potential opportunities to utilize an official regulation of this type at other suitable wild trout waters in the future. The Trout Slot Limit program will have two subprograms under the PFBC’s Special Fishing Regulations (58 Pa. Code § 65): All-Tackle Trout Slot Limit and Artificial Lures Only Trout Slot Limit. These subprograms will provide the PFBC with the ability to select the most appropriate tackle option to achieve biological and social objectives for each water considered for inclusion in the program and provide an opportunity to evaluate the effects of different terminal tackle types. The new regulation will go into effect upon publication of a second notice in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.
Recognizing an additional opportunity to simplify and provide consistency throughout fishing regulations, Commissioners adopted several amendments to black bass regulations (i.e., Largemouth Bass, Smallmouth Bass, and Spotted Bass). Commonwealth Inland Waters regulations require catch and immediate release of black bass from 12:01 a.m. the first Saturday after April 11 to 12:01 a.m. the first Saturday after June 11. Under the amendment, all references to the “first Saturday after April 11” will be changed to the “second Saturday in April,” and references to the “first Saturday after June 11” will be changed to the “second Saturday in June.”
To address these changes, the Board approved amendments to the following regulations (PA Title 58):
- § 61.1 (Commonwealth Inland Waters)
- § 65.9 (Big Bass)
- § 65.24 (Miscellaneous Special Regulations)
- § 69.12 (Seasons, Sizes and Creel Limits—Lake Erie, Lake Erie Tributaries and Presque Isle Bay Including Peninsula Waters)
The amendments will go into effect January 1, 2022.
Cold Weather Life Jacket Requirement
During his report to the Board, Executive Director Tim Schaeffer reminded anglers and boaters of the upcoming mandatory cold weather life jacket requirement, which is effective annually from November 1 through April 30. During this time, all boaters on boats under 16 feet in length, including all canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards, are required to wear a life jacket.
“To date in 2021, we have had nine boating fatalities in Pennsylvania,” Schaeffer said. “Statistically, around 80-percent of victims of fatal boating accidents each year were not wearing life jackets, which means many of these tragedies could have been prevented. Whether you are fishing or hunting from a boat this fall, ice fishing this winter, or fishing early next spring, please always wear your life jacket.”
Schaeffer also reminded the public that applications are currently being accepted for both the Boating Facility Grant Program and the Erie Access Improvement Grant Program. The deadline to apply for both programs is December 30, 2021.
The Board voted to table a proposal to amend bowfishing regulations until further discussion can occur. While the use of long bows, crossbows, spears, and gigs used in bowfishing is already regulated within the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Code (58 Pa. Code §63.8), a proposal presented to Commissioners addressed an increasing number of complaints to PFBC law enforcement regarding the intense lighting and generator noise that can be created by those participating in bowfishing. The proposed amendment aimed to clarify that bowfishing is prohibited on any special regulation trout waters, would make it unlawful to shine any artificial light from a watercraft onto any building or other watercraft, and would limit noise from generators used aboard a boat while bowfishing to no more than 90 dB(a). The Board indicated that the proposed amendment would be revisted during a meeting of the Law Enforcement Committee, which will be scheduled on a date yet to be determined.
The Board voted to add Leaser Lake, Lehigh County, to the Big Bass (58 Pa. Code § 65.9), Panfish Enhancement (58 Pa. Code § 65.11), and Stocked Trout Waters Open to Year-round Fishing (58 Pa. Code § 65.19) programs. Through this action, Leaser Lake will be removed from Miscellaneous Special Regulations which allowed for the harvest of trout under Commonwealth Inland Waters angling regulations but allowed only catch-and-release fishing for all other fish species. PFBC biologists have determined through surveys conducted from 2016-2020 that sportfish populations, including black bass and panfish, within the lake have improved to levels that can now sustain limited harvest. These designations will go into effect January 1, 2022.
The Board voted to add Opossum Lake, Cumberland County, and Lake Perez, Huntingdon County, to the Stocked Trout Waters Open to Year-round Fishing program (58 Pa. Code § 65.19). This designation would allow for trout angling on a catch-and-release basis as well as angling for resident warm-water and coolwater species during the current closed period, thus sustainably increasing and diversifying recreational angling opportunities. Waters with this designation are managed with Commonwealth Inland Waters regulations for the remainder of the year. These designations will go into effect January 1, 2022.
Commissioners voted to remove Somerset Lake, Somerset County, from the Big Bass Program. The Commission plans to initiate stocking the lake beginning in late fall 2021, or as soon as refilling conditions allow, with fingerling plants of select fish species to establish a high-quality, warm-water and cool-water fishery. At the April 2021 quarterly Commission meeting, the Commission approved the addition of Somerset Lake to the Catch and Release Lakes program (58 Pa. Code § 65.17), effective January 1, 2022, to allow for the most rapid development of a balanced warm-water and cool-water fish community, while offering acceptable levels of recreational angling opportunities. Once the fish populations can sustain limited harvest, the lake will be recommended for removal from the Catch and Release Lakes program and inclusion in one or more of the Commission’s existing warm-water regulation programs that accommodate appropriate fish harvest while maintaining high-quality recreational angling opportunities. To facilitate transition of Somerset Lake to temporary management under the Catch and Release Lakes program while the fish community develops, this water must be removed from the Big Bass program. If adopted, the designation will go into effect upon publication of the second notice in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.
The Board voted to remove Raccoon Creek State Park Upper Pond (Group Camping Area Lake), Beaver County, from the Catch and Release Lakes program. This reservoir, which is owned by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and managed by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, will be completely dewatered in early winter 2022 in preparation for a floodplain restoration project planned for 2022. The Lake is currently exempt from all seasons, sizes, and creel limits for all fish species to encourage anglers to harvest fish in advance of the pending complete and permanent drawdown of the impoundment. The designation will go into effect upon publication of the second notice in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.
The Board approved the addition of nine stream sections to the list of Class A wild trout streams. The Board also approved the addition of five new waters to the Commission’s list of wild trout streams, revised the section limits of one water currently listed, and amended the name of one water currently listed. These additions, revisions, and amendments will go into effect upon the publication of a second notice in the Pennsylvania Bulletin. A list of waters proposed for wild trout stream and Class A Wild Trout Stream designation can be found on the PFBC website.
The Board voted to amend boating regulations at Blue Marsh Lake, Berks County. Under the amendment, regulations will be clarified to reduce confusion over the use of water ski devices. Currently, the regulation states that boaters may not tow more than one “water-skier.” The proposed change, requested by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, would replace the term “water-skier” with “water ski device,” which encompasses not only conventional water skis, but also aquaplanes, kneeboards, inner tubes, inflatable hot dogs, air mattresses, parasails, and similar devices. This proposed change would continue to limit boats from towing more than one device but permit devices that are designed to carry more than one person. The number of persons being towed on a device is limited to the boat’s persons capacity. This amendment will go into effect on January 1, 2022.
Commissioners adopted an amendment to boating regulations at Shenango River Lake, Mercer County. Recently, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which manages the lake, revised its local regulations to allow for the use of motors up to 20 horsepower, an increase from the previous 10 horsepower limit, in the area west of Penn Central Railroad (Levittsburg) causeway to the Ohio line. The USACOE requested that the PFBC make the same change to Title 58 so that Waterways Conservation Officers can continue to assist in boating enforcement. The amendment will go into effect January 1, 2022.
Related to real estate matters, the Board authorized the acquisition of a 53-acre property in Middlesex Township, Butler County. The property is located adjacent to and at the head of the PFBC’s Glade Run Lake property and will help protect the quality of the water flowing into the lake. The Glade Run Conservancy and Allegheny Land Trust have entered into an agreement to purchase the property from Jones Estates Group, LLC, for $344,500, contingent upon due diligence and funding requirements. Upon acquisition of the property, the Trust plans to donate the property to the PFBC.
Commissioners authorized the leasing of the PFBC’s Nessmuk Lake Property to the Borough of Wellsboro and the Wellsboro Borough Municipal Authority. The current lease agreement between the PFBC and the Borough and Municipal Authority expires March 3, 2022, and the parties wish to enter into a new 25-year lease agreement consistent with the original lease. The Borough and Municipal Authority are and will continue to be responsible for the routine maintenance, operation, repair, and supervision of the lease area. Under the agreement, the site will remain open for public fishing and boating free of charge, and fishing and boating will take precedence over all other recreational activities.
The Board approved the removal of the annual funding limit for the Cooperative Nursery Grant Program and authorized the Executive Director to establish an annual funding level for the grant program that is based on the projected need of the program in conjunction with the annual budgeting process used to address all other agency priorities. Commissioners also authorized the Executive Director to approve individual grants of $25,000 or less per cooperative nursery, per year. For grants more than $25,000, staff will seek separate Commission approval.
The Board approved a schedule for its quarterly meetings to be held in 2022 as follows:
- January 24-25, 2022, Harrisburg
- April 25-26, 2022, TBD
- July 25-26, 2022, Harrisburg
- October 24-25, 2022, TBD