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HARRISBURG, Pa. (April 27) – During its formal quarterly business meeting held virtually on April 27, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) Board of Commissioners voted to ratify recent changes that were made to the 2020 trout season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The retroactive action is required under Section 65.25 (Pa. Title 58), which authorizes the PFBC Executive Director to take immediate action to temporarily modify fishing regulations to protect the safety and health of anglers. Such action was taken on March 16, 2020 when, due to concerns about the potential spread of COVID-19 among large groups of anglers, the Regional Opening Day of trout season was eliminated. Additional action occurred at 8:00 a.m. on April 7, 2020 when, in consultation with the Governor’s office, Pennsylvania Department of Health and the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the trout season was immediately opened statewide with the intention of reducing large gatherings of anglers around a traditional opening day.

In other action, the Board approved the publication of a notice of proposed rulemaking to amend regulations related to Charter Boat/Fishing Guide operations. An internal review of the current permit application process revealed a cumbersome system that could be made more efficient through an online process. The amendments to Section 51 (Pa. Title 58) would allow for the application and issuance of Charter Boat/Fishing Guide permits online exclusively through Pennsylvania’s online fishing/hunting license portal The Outdoor Shop. As part of this change, the requirement to display a decal on charter boats would be removed. Moving forward, Waterways Conservation Officers (WCOs) would verify applicant provided information during standard field checks. An additional change would require an individual guiding on Commonwealth Waters to have a Pennsylvania fishing license and permits. Under the current language, a loophole was created that allows some nonresidents to guide on Commonwealth Waters utilizing their out of state license with a Pennsylvania Nonresident guide permit. If adopted on final rulemaking at a future meeting, this amendment will go into effect upon publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.

Commissioners approved the establishment of a new Recruitment, Retention and Reactivation (R3) Education Grant Program. This competitive grant program will provide funding to support new programs and expand education programs directly related to R3 efforts aimed at anglers and boaters. Organizations eligible for this funding include school districts, universities and colleges, community and civic groups, sportsmen’s and conservation organizations, and local recreation departments. Existing programs will be eligible for funding only if they can demonstrate how the additional funds will be used to expand the program. The R3 Grant will reimburse qualifying organizations up to $25,000 for eligible program expenses for the period ending June 30, 2021. The grants require a minimum of 25% cash or in-kind match of staff time and/or other project expenses. The application period for the 2020-2021 fiscal year will begin immediately and applications will be accepted until June 30, 2020. Interested parties may apply online by visiting

Commissioners approved the publication of a notice of proposed rulemaking to amend regulations related to the sale and purchase of fish. The proposed amendment to Section 63.19 (PA Title 58) would exempt byproducts from PFBC recognized fish cleaning stations from regulations requiring a fish to remain in-tact until reaching its place of consumption. Currently, cleaning station operators are required to grind carcasses and place byproduct into wastewater treatment or landfills. The amended regulation would allow for the sale of byproducts to other entities for further beneficial use such as fertilizer in agriculture. If adopted on final rulemaking at a future meeting, this amendment will go into effect upon publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.

In Centre and Mifflin Counties, the Board voted to amend miscellaneous fishing regulations on Penns Creek, Section 03, by extending the current regulations until further notice. The regulation along this Class A wild trout stream containing a robust population of wild Brown Trout, allows for the use of all tackle types and harvest of up to two trout per day that are at least seven inches but less than 12 inches in length from the opening day of trout season through Labor Day. No harvest is permitted for the remainder of the year. This regulation, originally implemented in 2014, was set to expire on December 31, 2020.

Commissioners approved publication of proposed rulemaking related to Striped Bass fishing regulations. In accordance with a fisheries management plan adopted by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission's (ASMFC) Striped Bass Management Board intended to reduce fishing mortality by 18%, the PFBC would change minimum size requirements and slot limits for harvesting Striped Bass in the Delaware Estuary, Delaware River, and West Branch Delaware River, and enact a mandatory circle hook requirement for anglers using bait while fishing for all species within the Delaware Estuary. These changes were implemented on a temporary basis by the Executive Director on April 1 and are currently in effect. A news release issued on March 29 describes these changes in detail. These temporary regulation changes will expire on December 31 unless the Commission votes to adopt the regulations permanently. If adopted on final rulemaking at a future meeting, this amendment will go into effect upon publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.

Pertaining to real estate matters, Commissioners authorized the acquisition of a 5,340 linear ft. easement along Conewago Creek in Butler Township, Adams County for approximately $100,000. Pending further due diligence, the PFBC will pay approximately $84,000 and the Adams County Trout Unlimited Chapter will provide roughly $16,0000 towards the purchase of the easement from Knouse Foods for public fishing, boating and riparian and fishery management on the parcel of land along Russel Tavern Road and Zeigler Mill Roads.

Commissioners authorized the acceptance of a property donation of 2.25 acres along Rock Road in Benner Township, Centre County. The donation, courtesy of the Stocker Family, is surrounded on two sides by property currently owned by the PFBC and Penn State University. Pending further due diligence, the acquisition of the property will provide approximately 575 feet of combined stream frontage and public fishing access along the east and west banks of Spring Creek.

The Board authorized the leasing of Minsi Lake to Northampton County, which has operated the property as a public park since 1975. The new 25-year agreement is consistent with previous lease agreements between the parties, which required the property to remain open to public fishing and boating free of charge.

In Luzerne County, Commissioners voted to authorize a PFBC-owned property located at 1308 Susquehanna Avenue in West Pittston, Luzerne County to be deemed as surplus. The PFBC will turn jurisdiction of the property over to the Pennsylvania Department of General Services for disposition.

Commissioners authorized a lease agreement that will provide temporary office space for PFBC Fisheries Management staff at the Fairview State Fish Hatchery, Erie County. Under the agreement, the 3,600 square foot office/warehouse building located at 8370 Middle Road, Fairview, PA will be leased to the PFBC for a monthly fee of $1,625 for a period of three years. Pending further due diligence, staff is expected to occupy the leased facility while renovations are completed to the Fairview State Fish Hatchery property.

In other action, Commissioners approved the designation of 33 stream sections to the list of Class A wild trout streams. The board also approved the addition of 85 new waters to the Commission's list of wild trout streams and a revision to the section limits of eight waters. 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.

In Erie County, the Board approved the publication of a notice of proposed rulemaking to adopt new miscellaneous fishing regulations on Lake Pleasant. The new regulation would prohibit the use of live or dead fish as bait (i.e., minnows); however, it would allow for the use of “salted minnows” and terrestrial invertebrates (i.e., worms) for angling purposes. Additionally, the regulation would prohibit the release of fish in the lake, except for those caught while angling at Lake Pleasant. This prohibition aims to preserve the existing ecosystem characteristics of Lake Pleasant, a pristine glacial lake, and protect native and at-risk species from harmful impacts that may be associated with non-native species. If approved on final rulemaking at a future meeting, the regulation will go into effect January 1, 2021.

The Board approved final rulemaking related to regulations regarding the importation of Tautog into the Commonwealth. Currently, Tautog, also known as Tog or Blackfish, which are a popular coastal Atlantic Ocean recreational marine species, are prohibited from being imported, sold, offered for sale, or purchased in Pennsylvania when measuring less than 15 inches. The amendment adds an additional requirement that all Tautog possessed for commercial purposes or sold in Pennsylvania should be properly tagged with a serial numbered metal band on the gill cover, as approved by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. Pennsylvania is an important marketplace of commercial seafood including Tautog and this regulation change will provide PFBC Waterways Conservation Officers with the authority to inspect for and enforce Tautog tagging regulations and advance Tautog conservation along the Atlantic Coast. The amendment will go into effect upon publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.

The Board approved the publication of a notice of proposed rulemaking related to the sale of sand and gravel extracted from Commonwealth waters. Currently, four companies maintain permits which allow the dredging of material from navigable waters in Pennsylvania. Current royalty rates related to the sale of these materials were adopted in 2011 and are set to expire on December 31, 2020. The new proposal establishes royalty rates from January 1, 2021, through December 31, 2030 under the same scale as previous rates. If approved on final rulemaking, the amendment will go into effect upon publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.

The Board voted to amend the Aquatic Nuisance Species Management Plan Grant program to allow the Executive Director to approve individual grants using up to $100,000 of pass-through monies per grantee, per year for projects meeting the objectives of the Nonindigenous Aquatic Nuisance Prevention and Control Act of 1990, the Pennsylvania Aquatic Invasive Species Management Plan and/or other non-native species plans. For grants exceeding those amounts, staff will seek separate Commission approval. This action will allow for the PFBC to partner with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to utilize a $100,000 award from Pennsylvania Sea Grant to evaluate the effects of gill lice in Brook Trout and Rainbow Trout. An avenue to provide pass-through funds from Pennsylvania Sea Grant to the USFWS did not previously exist.

The next meeting of the PFBC Board of Commissioners is scheduled for July 20-21, 2020 at PFBC headquarters located at 1601 Elmerton Avenue, Harrisburg, PA.

Today's meeting was streamed live on Facebook and can be viewed here:




Mike Parker

Communications Director

Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission


 Content Editor

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