Harrisburg, PA – The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) began its quarterly business meeting by encouraging anglers and boaters to enjoy the water safely this spring and summer.
In addition to the hundreds of thousands of anglers currently participating in the spring trout season, which began statewide on April 3, Executive Director Tim Schaeffer noted that warmer weather has already begun to attract more boaters to the water.
“With winter now well behind us and our popular trout season underway, this is absolutely the most anticipated time of year for most anglers across Pennsylvania,” said Schaeffer. “Boaters, especially the incredible number of new paddlers we’ve been seeing on the water the past several years, are also very anxious to get out on the water. We want to urge every boater, no matter your level of experience, to enjoy the water safely by always wearing a life jacket during every trip.”
Schaeffer noted that there have been three boating fatalities in 2021, all which occurred on private ponds, and that none of the victims were wearing a life jacket. Anglers are reminded that a U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket is required for each individual aboard any boat, and children ages 12 and under must always wear a life jacket when underway in any boat 20 feet or less in length including all canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards. From November 1 through April 30, all boaters regardless of age, are required to wear a life jacket while aboard boats under 16 feet in length including all canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards.
“It is heartbreaking to see these tragedies that could have been prevented by simply wearing a life jacket,” added Schaeffer. “We can’t wait to see everyone enjoying the water again this season, but please consider the water temperature, which is still dangerously cold, before heading out on your next adventure.”
Boating Facility Grants Awarded
In other action, the PFBC awarded several grants through the Boating Facility Grant Program. Funds for this program are derived primarily from boat registration fees, state motorboat fuels tax, and restricted revenue accounts, if applicable. In certain instances, federal aid is also used, if appropriate.
In 2020, the PFBC was awarded a $200,000 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation under the auspices of the Delaware River Basin Conservation Act to improve access in the watershed and connect anglers, boaters, and others to the region’s water resources. As a result of this funding, the PFBC gave special consideration to proposed boating facility projects within the Delaware River Watershed, resulting in over $1.9 million being dedicated for seven impactful projects, including:
· Carbon County; County of Carbon, Mauch Chunk Lake Park
· Chester County; Natural Lands Trust, Stroud Preserve Boat Launch, East Branch Brandywine Creek
· Chester County; East Bradford Township, Shaw’s Bridge Park Canoe/Kayak Launch, Brandywine Creek
· Montgomery County; Perkiomen Watershed Conservancy, Marlborough Access Project, Perkiomen Creek
· Philadelphia County; East Falls Development Association, East Falls River Landing, Schuylkill River
· Wayne County; Wayne County, Industrial Point River Access, Lackawaxen River
· Wayne County; Wayne County, White Mills Access, Lackawaxen River
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service North Atlantic-Appalachian Regional Director Wendi Weber complimented the PFBC and its partners on the incredible return on investment of those funds and long-lasting benefits to wildlife and people.
“Investing in impactful projects that connect people to the Delaware River and its many natural benefits is what collaborative conservation is all about,” Weber said. “The Delaware River Basin Conservation Act is already paying off in Pennsylvania and across the region as residents and visitors turn to outdoor recreation like never before. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has a long history of working with the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, and this successful effort is yet another example of how we can have a greater conservation impact when we work together.”
Additional Boating Facility Grants awarded:
· Allegheny County; Friends of the Riverfront, Inc., Braddock Borough Boat Launch, Monongahela River
· Cambria County; Conemaugh Valley Conservancy, Johnstown Inclined Plane Riverside Park, Stonycreek River
· Cambria County; Conemaugh Valley Conservancy, Johnstown Inclined Plane Riverside Park, Stonycreek River
· Centre County; Howard Borough, West End Park Rowing Docks, F.J. Sayers Lake
· Cumberland County; Borough of New Cumberland, Borough Park Boat Launch Improvements, Yellow Breeches Creek
· Erie County; Lawrence Park Township, Lakeside Boat Launch Ramp, Lake Erie
· Fayette County; County of Fayette, Dunlap Creek Lake Dock Replacement, Dunlap Creek Lake
· Greene County; Greene County Commissioners, Wisecarver Boat Launch and Access Improvements, Wisecarver Reservoir
· Lackawanna County; Lackawanna Heritage Valley Authority, Parker’s Landing Trailhead and Recreation Area Project, Lackawanna River
· Lawrence County; Human Services Center, New Castle River Access, Shenango River
· Luzerne County; Plains Township, Plainsville Flats Ray Condo Memorial Park, North Branch of the Susquehanna River
· Ohio and Western Susquehanna River Watersheds; Pennsylvania Organization for Watersheds and Rivers, Improving Public Access to Western Pennsylvania Rivers and Streams Mini Grant Program
· Snyder County; County of Snyder, Faylor Lake Boat Launch Improvements, Faylor Lake
· Statewide; PA Lake Management Society, Mobile Self-Reliant Boat Cleaning Facility, All Public Lakes in Pennsylvania
· Susquehanna River Watershed; Susquehanna Greenway Partnership, Susquehanna River Water Trail Wayfinding Program, Susquehanna River
Erie Access Improvement Grants Awarded
In other action, the Commission awarded several grants through the Erie Access Improvement Program. This program is funded through proceeds from the sale of Lake Erie permits to be used towards programs that benefit public fishing, including enhanced access and habitat projects on or at Lake Erie and the watersheds of Lake Erie. Projects awarded through the 2020 round of grants include:
· Erie County; Erie-Western PA Port Authority, Holland Street Pier Fishing Access – Phase 2, Presque Isle Bay
· Erie County; Erie-Western PA Port Authority, Lampe Marina Fish Cleaning Station, Lake Erie
· Erie County; Fairview Township, Avonia Beach Park Improvements, Lake Erie
· Erie County; Regional Science Consortium, Lake Erie Buoy Project, Lake Erie and Presque Isle Bay
Commissioners approved the publication of proposed rulemaking pertaining to the Extended Trout Season (58 Pa. Code § 65.26). This amendment is necessary to improve trout stream angling opportunities and experiences to best meet the preferences of anglers while providing additional protection to wild trout during the extended season. This amended regulation would provide increased protection and additional angling opportunities in stream sections managed for wild trout that are downstream from Stocked Trout Waters (STWs). Currently, STWs and all waters downstream from STWs have a creel limit of three trout per day from the day after Labor Day until the last day of February and are closed to fishing from March 1st until 8 a.m. on the opening day of trout season. By amending the Extended Trout Season regulation to exclude all waters downstream of a STW, thousands of additional stream miles would be opened to fishing on a year-round basis during the current closed season and harvest of trout would be prohibited during the extended season downstream from STWs. If approved on final rulemaking at a future meeting, the amendment would go into effect January 1, 2022.
In consideration of proposed changes to the Extended Trout Season, and to better serve anglers seeking stocked trout fishing opportunities, the PFBC intends to add more detailed information about STWs to its annual Fishing Summary/Boating Handbook (Handbook) beginning in 2022. Most stocked trout streams are not stocked throughout their entire length and many of these streams also have sections that are managed for wild trout. Adding the section limits for stocked trout streams to the Handbook will: 1) clearly identify where stocking occurs to increase angler participation, especially for anglers unfamiliar with a stream; 2) provide increased protection to the stream sections managed for wild trout during the extended season; 3) increase angling opportunities for wild trout in sections that are open to year-round fishing; 4) increase angling opportunities downstream of STW sections; and 5) simplify regulations. While these stream section limits are currently published on the PFBC website and FishBoatPA mobile app, defining the limits in the Handbook will provide consistent STW information for anglers who use various sources to identify where to fish for stocked trout.
In Lehigh County, the Board approved the publication of proposed rulemaking to amend fishing regulations at Leaser Lake. Through this action, Leaser Lake will be proposed for removal 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. If approved on final rulemaking at a future meeting, the amendment will go into effect January 1, 2022.
Commissioners voted to add Meadow Grounds Lake, located in Ayr Township, Fulton County, to the Catch and Release Lakes program. Following a dam rehabilitation project, refilling of the lake began on April 9, 2021. The refill process is dependent on weather conditions and is expected to take several months to complete. The PFBC plans to initiate stocking the lake beginning in early summer 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. During the process of rebuilding the fish community, staff propose to temporarily open the lake to angling under the Catch and Release Lakes program which allows only catch-and-release fishing for all fish species. Staff believe this approach will allow for the most rapid development of a balanced warm-water and cool-water fish community, while offering acceptable levels of recreational angling opportunities. The designation will go into effect January 1, 2022.
In similar action, the Board voted to add Somerset Lake, located in Somerset Township, Somerset County, to the Catch and Release Lakes Program. Following a dam rehabilitation project, the lake is scheduled to be refilled beginning in summer 2021. The refill process is dependent on weather conditions and is expected to take several months to complete. The Commission plans to initiate stocking the lake beginning in 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. During the process of rebuilding the fish community, staff propose to temporarily open the lake to angling under the Catch and Release Lakes program which allows only catch-and-release fishing for all fish species. Staff believe this approach will allow for the most rapid development of a balanced warm-water and cool-water fish community, while offering acceptable levels of recreational angling opportunities. The designation will go into effect January 1, 2022.
The Board approved the designation of 28 stream sections to the list of Class A wild trout streams. The board also approved the addition of 22 new waters to the Commission’s list of wild trout streams and revised the section limits of three waters currently listed. These additions and revisions 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 approved the publication of proposed rulemaking pertaining to authorized devices for ice fishing. The proposed amendments to 58 Pa. Code § 63.10 (Ice Fishing) and § 63.6 (Authorized Devices for Game Fish, Baitfish, and Fishbait), would allow for legal use of devices such as the JawJacker, Automatic Fisherman, Easy Set Hooksetter, Sure Shot Hooksetter, and Bro Craft Ice Fishing Tip-up while ice fishing.
Over the past several ice fishing seasons, anglers have repeatedly asked the PFBC whether these devices are legal. These devices consist of a rodholder, which allows anglers to put a bend in the fishing rod and pre-load it with the aid of a triggering device. When a fish takes the lure or bait, tension on the fishing line causes the trigger mechanism to release the rod which, being pre-loaded, automatically sets the hook without additional assistance by the angler. The angler is then free to fight the fish with a normal fishing rod and reel.
“These devices operate in a manner similar to down-riggers and immediately hook a fish that takes the bait, in most cases faster than a fisherman could do so,” said PFBC District 7 Commissioner William Gibney. “The current regulations are decades old and can be interpreted to suggest that such devices would not be legal. The argument for allowing such devices is that the fish are nearly always hooked in the lip. Fish do not get the chance to swallow the bait, allowing anglers to return non-target and undersized fish to the water unharmed. Clearly, these devices benefit both the angler and the fish, especially as more participants practice catch and release fishing methods.”
Under the proposed changes, anglers must still be active participants in fishing, be nearby their equipment, and land the fish as quickly as possible.
If approved on final rulemaking at a future meeting, the new regulations will go into effect upon publication of a second notice in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.
Pertaining to real estate matters, Commissioners authorized the acquisition of an easement along 1,675 linear feet of Crooked Creek in Springfield Township, Erie County. Pending due diligence, the PFBC will pay $30,000 for the easement on the property along Holiday Road in Springboro, PA, which will be used for public fishing, boating, and riparian and fishery management. The easement will provide significant steelhead fishing opportunities in the area.
The Board authorized the sale of property located in Woodbury Township, Blair County. PennDOT, which will pay fair market value for the property, will require approximately 0.09 acres of permanent slope right-of-way and approximately 0.15 acres of temporary construction easement to perform a bridge replacement on State Route 2020-02B over Piney Creek. The project will not have a long-term adverse impact on the site and will improve public safety. This conveyance will be subject to PFBC staff performing the necessary due diligence.
In Allegheny County, Commissioners approved the sale of approximately 3.2 acres of property known as the President Access located along the Allegheny River in President Township, Venango County. The PFBC will sell the property to an adjoining property owner for $5,000 and an easement located on the property owner’s property for Commission staff to use an existing boat ramp and for parking. A non-profit group has secured funding for a restoration project to remove an unwanted manmade structure on the property and has committed to allow work on his adjoining property. The described disposition will not have an adverse impact on public fishing and boating and will allow for better use of an asset.
The next meeting of the PFBC Board of Commissioners is scheduled for July 26-27, 2021.