HARRISBURG, Pa. (July 24) – The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) began its quarterly business meeting today by encouraging anglers and boaters to continue to enjoy plentiful summer fishing and boating opportunities across the Commonwealth while staying safe.
"The summer season holds endless adventures for anyone who enjoys getting out on the water, experiencing new places, and making long-lasting fishing and boating memories with family and friends," said PFBC Executive Director Tim Schaeffer. "To make sure the fun lasts throughout the season, we remind everyone to make safety a priority on every trip and follow the rules of the water. When you wear your life jacket and boat sober this summer, you can focus on having a good time and help ensure that you return home safely at the end of the day."
Schaeffer noted that on June 29 at Point State Park in Pittsburgh, the PFBC was honored to host the national kickoff to Operation Dry Water. The special operation conducted from July 1-3, 2023, is held annually in partnership with the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, U.S. Coast Guard, and other conservation law enforcement agencies across the country to prevent boating accidents and fatalities through education and enhanced Boating Under the Influence (BUI) enforcement. This special operation resulted in six BUI arrests across the Commonwealth with an additional two BUI arrests occurring on July 4.
There have been four recreational boating fatalities in Pennsylvania so far in 2023. Two victims were not wearing a life jacket. For more information, visit the life jacket safety page on the PFBC website (Fishandboat.com).
The Board voted to give final approval to amendments to boat registration regulations. Under the changes, the PFBC will comply with requirements of Act 28 of 2022, which established a calendar-year boat registration cycle that is valid from January 1 through December 31. Currently, Pennsylvania boat registrations are valid from April 1 to March 31, which can be confusing to boaters and result in unintentional violations. The change to a calendar-year registration period will provide clarity to regulations, be easier to remember, and result in customer service improvements. Act 28 of 2022 requires the PFBC to publish amended regulations (58 Pa. Code § 93.1 and 58 Pa. Code § 93.5) to implement the changes within 18 months. These amendments will go into effect upon publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin. The PFBC will begin issuing calendar-year boat registrations in October 2023 which will be valid from January 1, 2024, through December 31, 2025.
Commissioners voted to give final approval to changes to the boat registration application process (58 Pa. Code § 93.3). Currently, for boats that have been previously registered, the PFBC requires the last registered owner to sign the REV-336 form (Application for Pennsylvania Boat Registration and/or Boat Title); or a bill of sale, signed by the last registered owner, may be substituted for the required signature on the REV-336. Under this change, the PFBC will also allow a certificate of registration (boat registration card), signed by the last registered owner, to be accepted as sufficient documentation of ownership and consent to transfer registration to the purchaser of the boat. The addition of this documentation to PFBC regulations is intended to simplify the boat registration process and provide better customer service. This amendment will go into effect upon publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.
The Board approved the publication of a notice of proposed rulemaking that would add clarity to regulations that involve the operation of paddleboards. Since October 2008, beyond the narrow limits of a designated swimming, surfing, or bathing area, the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) has defined paddleboards as vessels, which requires users to abide by the same boating regulations applied to other forms of paddling vessels, including kayaks and canoes. The PFBC adopted the USCG's definition of paddleboards and associated life jacket requirements in 58 Pa. Code § 109.2 (relating to paddleboards and sailboards), effective January 1, 2015. This section states that a wearable life jacket must be carried on board for each person, "unless otherwise required to be worn in accordance with 58 Pa. Code § 97.1 (Personal flotation devices)." Under this proposal, PFBC staff recommend amendments to 58 Pa. Code § 97.1 to provide clarification regarding life jacket wear requirements, since paddleboards are generally included with canoes and kayaks for recreational boating purposes. Staff also recommend amendments to incorporate paddleboards into Chapter 111 regulations for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District lakes where life jacket wear is required on boats less than 16 feet in length or any canoe or kayak. Regulations that would be updated through this proposal to include a reference to the word "paddleboard," include 58 Pa. Code § 97.1 (Personal flotation devices); 58 Pa. Code § 111.3 (Armstrong County); 58 Pa. Code § 111.20 (Crawford County); 58 Pa. Code § 111.24 (Elk County); 58 Pa. Code § 111.26 (Fayette County); 58 Pa. Code § 111.27 (Forest County); 58 Pa. Code § 111.32 (Indiana County); 58 Pa. Code § 111.42 (McKean County); 58 Pa. Code § 111.43 (Mercer County); 58 Pa. Code § 111.56 (Somerset County); 58 Pa. Code § 111.62 (Warren County); and 58 Pa. Code § 111.65 (Westmoreland County). If adopted on final rulemaking at a future meeting, these amendments will go into effect upon publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.
Commissioners approved the publication of a notice of proposed rulemaking pertaining to boating regulations (58 Pa. Code § 111.22) within a portion of the Susquehanna River, known as Lake Frederick, in Dauphin County. Under this proposal, boaters would no longer be required to abide by a slow, no wake designation on the channel of the Susquehanna River between Bashore Island and the west shore of the river, downstream of Goldsboro. This area was established to protect private cabins that existed on the west side of the island at the time. The island is owned by York Haven Power and the cabins were demolished in 2018-2019, so there is no longer a need for the special slow, no wake restriction on this channel. The channel is generally shallow and weedy, which limits boating activity and speed of operation. Under this proposal, boaters would still be required to comply with 58 Pa. Code § 103.3(a), which states that "boats are limited to slow, no wake speed when within 100 feet of the shoreline; docks; launching ramps; swimmers or downed skiers or other boat-towed watersports participants; persons wading in the water; anchored, moored, or drifting boats; floats, except for ski jumps and ski landing floats; or other areas so marked. This subsection does not apply in a zoned ski area or authorized ski return areas when those areas are found within the areas described in this subsection." If adopted on final rulemaking at a future meeting, this amendment will go into effect upon publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.
The Board voted to give final approval to amendments to regulations pertaining to the propagation, introduction, and transportation of live fish into Commonwealth waters. Under these changes, two chapters of the Pennsylvania Code (58 Pa. Code § 71 and 58 Pa. Code § 73) will be combined into a single chapter (58 Pa. Code §71a) to address current conservation challenges, improve fisheries management and fish health, and simplify the code.
In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, thousands of lakes, ponds, and stream sections are stocked by private individuals each year. To improve the PFBC's understanding of stockings occurring in Pennsylvania, protect aquatic resources, and address increased risks associated with aquatic invasive species and pathogens, there is a need to collect information on non-PFBC fish stockings occurring in the Commonwealth. As such, PFBC staff have undertaken an effort to improve management and oversight of fish and aquatic life transportation and stocking in Pennsylvania through the development of a Notice of Stocking.
In the United States, over 30 states have requirements for tracking how and when fish are stocked in state waters. Notably, all states in the Northeast, except Pennsylvania, require some form of documentation when individuals or entities stock fish in state waters.
In addition to a proposed Notice of Stocking, other regulatory sections within the new chapter would prohibit the release or disposal of live bait fish into waters of the Commonwealth, with narrow exceptions; create a fish health inspection protocol to provide additional protection to the Commonwealth's aquatic resources to prevent the introduction of aquatic invasive species and pathogens; and create watercraft inspection requirements to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species by watercraft throughout the Commonwealth. At least 19 other states already have watercraft inspection requirements in place.
"From the start of this process, there was consensus that Pennsylvania must do more to protect fish and other aquatic resources from the threat of invasive species and pathogens," said Robert B.J. Small, District 6 Commissioner and PFBC President. "The Notice of Stocking will help us do that because we will know more about what is being stocked into our waters. We welcomed feedback, took it into account, and took the time to achieve a better version of this new chapter. Additionally, this chapter includes much needed regulations for baitfish, watercraft inspections, and fish health inspections. Putting the Resource First has been our guiding light," added Small.
The Notice of Stocking will go into effect on January 1, 2024, and full implementation of the fish health inspection protocol on January 1, 2026. All other provisions would be effective on January 1, 2024.
Commissioners approved a notice of proposed rulemaking pertaining to Miscellaneous Special Regulations (58 Pa. Code § 64.24). This proposal addresses streams designated as Class A wild Brown Trout streams that are also stocked with hatchery-raised Rainbow Trout by the PFBC. 12 of the 13 stream sections with this classification are managed under Commonwealth Inland Waters regulations (58 Pa. Code § 61.1). Considering information gained through 2021 trout population and angler assessments of these fisheries, PFBC staff proposed implementing a new Miscellaneous Special Regulation on the 12 stream sections that would manage Brown Trout with catch-and-release regulations and maintain Commonwealth Inland Waters regulations for all other species with all tackle types permitted, while continuing to stock these stream sections with Rainbow Trout at current rates and frequency. Under this proposal, the following streams would be added to the list of waters managed under Miscellaneous Special Regulations: Yellow Creek, Section 04, Bedford County; Pohopoco Creek, Section 04, Carbon County; Bald Eagle Creek, Section 06, Centre County; Penns Creek, Section 02, Centre County; Fishing Creek, sections 13 and 14, Clinton County; Little Lehigh Creek, Sections 04 and 07, Lehigh County; Monocacy Creek, Section 09, Lehigh and Northampton counties; Kishacoquillas Creek, Section 05, Mifflin County; Martins Creek, Section 01, Northampton County; and Monocacy Creek, Section 08, Northampton County. If adopted on final rulemaking at a future meeting, this amendment would go into effect on January 1, 2024.
The Board approved the publication of a notice of proposed rulemaking pertaining to the Extended Trout Season (58 Pa. Code § 65.26). Changes under this proposal would improve the permitting process for the application of extended trout season regulations to waters that are not stocked with trout by the Commission. The intent is to align the permit for the application of extended season trout regulations to waters that are not stocked trout waters and the beginning of the extended closure period (third Monday in February), and to place the application review responsibility more appropriately on the PFBC bureau directly responsible for consideration, the Bureau of Fisheries. As the regulation is currently written, permits are valid into the extended season closure period, which is inconsistent with current seasons, sizes, and creel limits applied to waters included in the Commission's Stocked Trout Waters program. If adopted on final rulemaking at a future meeting, this amendment will go into effect upon publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.
Commissioners approved changes to fishing regulations at Kahle Lake located in Clarion and Venango Counties. Under the change, Kahle Lake, a 251-acre impoundment owned by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and managed by the PFBC, would be removed from the Big Bass program (58 Pa. Code §65.9). This change is necessary because the lake is scheduled to be completely dewatered in 2024 to complete dam and spillway repairs and modifications per Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection dam safety standards. Following reconstruction of the dam and spillway, refilling will be initiated soon after. Effective June 10, 2023, the PFBC Executive Director, acting under the authority of 58 Pa. Code § 65.25 (relating to temporary changes to fishing regulations), lifted all seasons, sizes, and creel limits for all species at Kahle Lake. This action was taken to encourage angler harvest to reduce the number of fish in the lake in advance of the complete drawdown. Following construction, the PFBC plans to initiate stocking the lake as soon as refilling conditions allow, with fingerling plants of select fish species to establish a high-quality, warm-water and cool-water fishery. The removal of Kahle Lake from the Big Bass program will go into effect upon publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.
The Board voted to approve the addition of five stream sections to the list of Class A wild trout streams and the addition of nine new waters to the PFBC's list of wild trout streams. A list of waters proposed for wild trout stream and Class A wild trout stream designation can be found on the PFBC website. All of these additions will go into effect upon publication of a second notice in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.
The Board voted to approve additional funding for an Erie Access Improvement Grant to the Erie-Western PA Port Authority for the construction of the Lampe Marina Fish Cleaning Station along Lake Erie, Erie County. While the PFBC originally awarded the grantee $150,000 in April 2021 and $100,000 in July 2022, it was determined that an additional $150,000 was required to complete the project and planned improvements to the design. This is the only public fish cleaning facility in the vicinity, and it is part of a larger facility upgrade that provides public fishing and boating access. The additional funding will improve the project by providing features similar to other popular fish cleaning stations in the area. Board approval of grant funding is required under the Erie Access Improvement Program when funding exceeds $100,000 per year.
Commissioners authorized a Valley Creek Watershed Restoration Grant to the Open Land Conservancy of Chester County. The grant, not to exceed $111,000, will be used to complete a stream restoration project on the organization's George Lorimer Preserve in Tredyffrin Township, Chester County. The project will include the removal of an existing dam and associated pond, filling of the severely eroded pond bypass channel, restoration of the natural stream channel, and planting of native vegetation within the riparian corridor to stabilize the eroding stream banks. The stream is an unnamed tributary to Valley Creek which is an Exceptional Value special protection waterway that supports a Class A wild Brown Trout fishery.
Commissioners voted to adopt a new strategic plan to guide the agency for the next five years. The Board requires the Executive Director to develop and maintain a current strategic plan for the PFBC, and the current plan expired on June 30, 2023. The new strategic plan consists of a vision, mission, guiding principles, strategic priorities, and corresponding goals to help guide the Commission's activities until June 30, 2028.
Board Elects New Officers
The Board elected William Gibney of Honesdale, Wayne County, as President. Gibney, who served as Vice President and District 7 Commissioner, replaces Robert B.J. Small of Mechanicsburg, Cumberland County.
"On behalf of my fellow Commissioners, I want to thank B.J. for his strong leadership and dedication to anglers and boaters across the Commonwealth during the past year," said Gibney.
In accepting the appointment, Gibney stated, "I am humbled to now have the opportunity to serve as President, and I will work just as hard to ensure that our agency remains dedicated to its mission of protecting, conserving, and enhancing our precious aquatic resources and providing fishing and boating opportunities. I look forward to partnering with the millions of anglers and boaters who help us achieve that mission every day to make Pennsylvania one of the finest fishing and boating destinations in the country."
Daniel J. Pastore of Fairview, Erie County, was elected as Vice President. Pastore, who serves as District 1 Commissioner, representing Butler, Clarion, Crawford, Erie, Forest, Lawrence, Mercer, Venango, and Warren counties, replaces Gibney as Vice President. Both Gibney and Pastore will serve one-year terms through July 2024.
The PFBC's remaining quarterly business meeting in 2023 is scheduled for the following dates at the PFBC headquarters located at 1601 Elmerton Avenue, Harrisburg, PA 17110:
Meeting times will be announced at a later date.
Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission