HARRISBURG, Pa. (October 20) – During its formal quarterly business meeting held virtually on October 19-20, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) Board of Commissioners voted to adopt an experimental fishing regulation on a newly designated Keystone Select Stocked Trout Water located in Centre County.
The Miscellaneous Special Regulation along section 03 of Bald Eagle Creek located within the Soaring Eagle Wetland in Huston Township, Centre County is identical to the current Delayed Harvest Artificial Lures Only (58 Pa. Code §65.6) regulation; however, all tackle types will be permitted. As such, the regulation allows for year-round angling with all tackle types and harvest of up to three trout per day at least nine inches in length from June 15 through Labor Day, with no harvest permitted the remainder of the year. The regulation is designed to provide for an extended period of catch-and-release angling with all tackle types for stocked trout; then, as stream conditions become less favorable for trout survival due to decreased flow and elevated water temperatures, harvest is permitted under a reduced creel limit.
"This experimental regulation is appropriate for this section of stream for several reasons," said William C. Brock, District 3 Commissioner. "By designating this section as a Keystone Select Stocked Trout Water with a higher concentration of trophy-size fish, we are providing an opportunity to anglers that was previously unavailable in this part of the state. Secondly, by allowing fishing with all tackle in this high-use location, we'll be able to study and evaluate the survival of fish that were released after being caught by baited hooks versus lures on similar waters statewide."
The amendment will go into effect on January 1, 2021.
In Centre and Mifflin counties, the Board voted to approve a Miscellaneous Special Regulation 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. The amendment will go into effect on January 1, 2021.
As part of the meeting, PFBC staff announced the publication of the new Strategic Plan for Management of Trout Fisheries in Pennsylvania 2020-2024 (also known as the "Trout Plan"), which will guide specific goals and objectives of the PFBC's trout management program through 2024. The goal of this plan is to ensure that adequate protection is afforded to Pennsylvania's wild trout resources and that fisheries provided through the management of wild trout and stocking of adult and fingerling trout provide high-quality angling opportunities in Pennsylvania.
"Anglers should be excited about the finalization of the trout plan, because they had a part in forming it," said David Nihart, PFBC Coldwater Unit Leader. "Whether you are a die-hard stocked trout angler, a wild trout enthusiast, or you enjoy both, there is something in the trout plan that will appeal to you. Trout fishing is a favorite pastime for hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians, and we will use this plan to guide our decisions as we work to manage and protect our trout fisheries now and for future generations."
The trout plan identifies 43 specific issues facing trout management and offers 137 strategies for addressing those issues. The plan can be viewed on the PFBC website (https://www.fishandboat.com/Fish/Fisheries/TroutPlan/Documents/TroutPlan2020.pdf)
Commissioners approved amendments to Striped Bass fishing regulations which had been previously implemented on a temporary basis by the Executive Director and have been in effect since April 1, 2020. 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 changed minimum size requirements and slot limits for harvesting Striped Bass in the Delaware Estuary, Delaware River, and West Branch Delaware River, and enacted a mandatory circle hook requirement for anglers using bait while fishing for all species within the Delaware Estuary. A news release issued on March 29 describes these changes in detail. Temporary regulation changes were set to expire on December 31 unless the Commission votes to adopt the regulations permanently.
In other action, Commissioners approved the designation of six stream sections to the list of Class A wild trout streams. The board also approved the addition of 16 new waters to the Commission's list of wild trout streams. These additions 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.
Commissioners approved the publication of a notice of proposed rulemaking pertaining to trout stocking in Class A Wild Trout Streams (58 Pa. Code §57.8a). While stocking is not permitted or advisable in the vast majority of Class A wild trout streams across Pennsylvania, there are 13 stream sections currently stocked by the PFBC that meet internal decision-making criteria to qualify for continued stocking. These stream sections are in proximity to high-density human population centers and are heavily fished streams of a size and character that can support a fishery featuring both stocked and wild trout. Additional criteria will allow for consideration of continued stocking of stream sections that have historically played host to special activities, such as youth fishing derbies that benefit communities socially and economically, prior to being designated as Class A wild trout streams. Under the amendment, prior to seeking Board approval for any exemptions that would allow for continued stocking of newly designated Class A wild trout streams, the Executive Director would consult the PFBC's internal decision-making criteria set forth in the Operational Guidelines for the Management of Trout Fisheries in Pennsylvania Waters scheduled for update in December 2020. Consideration will only be given to requests for continued stocking in stream sections within one year of the section being designated as Class A and posted in the Pennsylvania Bulletin; however, entities that previously received an exemption or a Special Activities Permit for continued stocking from the Commission between 2010 and the effective date of this amendment will be eligible for consideration. No wild Brook Trout streams will be considered for an exemption. If approved on final rulemaking at a future meeting, the amendment will go into effect upon publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.
In Erie County, the Board voted to adopt a new Miscellaneous Special Regulation on Lake Pleasant. The new regulation will prohibit the use of live or dead fish as bait (i.e., minnows); however, it will allow for the use of "salted minnows" and terrestrial invertebrates (i.e., worms) for angling purposes. Additionally, the regulation will 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. The regulation will go into effect January 1, 2021.
Commissioners approved revisions to the limits of two stream sections managed with Delayed Harvest Artificial Lures Only (DHALO) angling regulations (58 Pa. Code § 65.6). In McKean County, the limits of Kinzua Creek Section 04 managed under DHALO regulations will be revised to remove 0.27 river miles (RM) from the Guffey Road Bridge (Rocky Road) downstream to the Allegheny National Forest boundary near Westline. In Snyder County, the limits of Middle Creek Section 04 managed under DHALO regulations will be revised to remove waters from 0.6 RM upstream from Pine Swamp Road downstream to 0.6 RM upstream from Covered Bridge Road. Sections of both streams removed from DHALO regulations will revert to Commonwealth Inland Waters regulations on January 1, 2021.
In his report to the Board, Executive Director Tim Schaeffer noted that a surge of fishing and boating activity across the Commonwealth in 2020 has continued into the fall season, citing a 20% increase in fishing license sales compared to 2019.
"The more than 970,000 licensed anglers in Pennsylvania this year are the most in nearly 25 years, and we have never had so many people paddling in kayaks and canoes. We thank you for choosing to fish and boat in your free time and look forward to welcoming you back to the water next year."
Schaeffer noted that, to date in 2020, there have been 10 recreational boating fatalities in Pennsylvania and that at least nine victims were not wearing life jackets. One incident remains under investigation. He reminded boaters that from November 1 through April 30, all boaters on boats under 16 feet in length, including all canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards, are required to wear a life jacket.
Schaeffer 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 30th.
Regarding real estate matters, the Board authorized the disposition of property rights at the Appletree Access located in Exeter Township, Luzerne County to PennDOT. In obtaining an easement on a section of the 1.4-acre property, PennDOT plans to build a temporary road through the Access to address traffic during its planned replacement of the SR 92 bridge over Lewis Creek. PennDOT will be required to pay fair market value for the easement rights, will allow the Access to remain open during construction, will accommodate all Commission operational needs during construction, and will mitigate for any losses or impact caused by the Project. The Access area will be restored to a condition equal to or better than its current condition at the conclusion of the Project. The Project will not have any long-term impacts on the Access. The disposition of the listed property rights will be subject to staff performing the necessary due diligence and addressing any issues that arise during that process.
In Cumberland County, Commissioners authorized the acquisition of flowage and maintenance easements on approximately five properties around Children's Lake located in the Village of Boiling Springs, South Middleton Township, Cumberland County. A flowage easement is the right to periodically flow water on, inundate, and flood an area without liability for damages resulting from such action. In spring 2021, the PFBC is scheduled to begin a dam rehabilitation project at Childrens Lake to repair and replace the dam's primary and auxiliary spillways and address structural and drainage issues. The project will also allow for placement of ADA-compliant sidewalks and railings, construction of streetscape features, sediment removal, and ecological assessments. To bring the dam into compliance with current DEP dam safety standards, the dam rehabilitation project will include raising the dam approximately 1.3 feet. This will increase the overall safety of the structure but may cause the reservoir depth to temporarily increase during large precipitation events. This will require the acquisition of additional flowage easements to address the temporarily inundated areas. Additionally, the rehabilitation of the dam structure will require the acquisition of a maintenance easement on a portion of the dam structure, and on the effluent stream's southerly retaining wall, which are not located on Commission property. The maintenance easement will give the Commission the right to access, construct, repair, operate, and maintain that portion of the dam and the effluent stream's retaining wall and area adjacent to it. In pursuing the easements, the Commission will pay the estimated fair market value or accept donations of the required easements, which are estimated to cover approximately .6 acres in total and be valued at less than $100,000.
The Board voted to approve adjusted royalty payments for 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. These adjustments establish royalty rates from January 1, 2021, through December 31, 2030 under the same scale as previous rates. The amended rates will go into effect upon publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.
The next meeting of the PFBC Board of Commissioners is scheduled for January 25-26, 2021 at the PFBC Headquarters located at 1601 Elmerton Avenue, Harrisburg, PA. If an in-person meeting is not possible due to continued public health concerns, information regarding a virtual meeting will be announced later.
The meeting was streamed live on Facebook and can be viewed here: