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PFBC BOARD PROPOSES SINGLE OPENING DAY OF TROUT SEASON, ANNOUNCES FISHING LICENSE FEES WILL REMAIN THE SAME IN 2022, EXPANDS USE OF ICE FISHING EQUIPMENT, AND ELECTS NEW OFFICERS AT QUARTERLY MEETING

07/26/2021

HARRISBURG, Pa. (July 26) – During its quarterly business meeting held today in Harrisburg, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) gave preliminary approval to a proposal to establish a single, statewide Opening Day of Trout Season beginning annually in 2022. 

Under the proposed rulemaking which would require amendments to several sections of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Code (Title 58), the regular trout season would begin on the first Saturday of April each year, which will provide an earlier and longer trout season for most anglers.  The practice of holding a single, statewide opening day would become standard, and a separate regional opening day for Pennsylvania's 18 southeastern counties, which was established in 2007, would no longer occur.

"The past two seasons, more anglers enjoyed trout fishing than we have seen in decades.  Out of necessity because of public safety concerns, we consolidated into a single, statewide opening day.  While challenging for Pennsylvania anglers and the Commission, the last two years provided an unprecedented opportunity to examine the best way to deliver the opening day experience," said Tim Schaeffer, PFBC Executive Director.  "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, PFBC staff considered several factors such as weather, water temperature, stocking and enforcement logistics, and social impacts.

 

Fisheries

As a result of the proposed change to the opening day of trout season, several regulations that reference opening day dates would require revisions to reflect the proposed change, simplify language, and provide consistency within the regulations.  

Currently, the opening day of trout season is defined as being the "first Saturday after April 11" when referring to the regular opening day of trout season, or the "first Saturday after March 28" for waters designated as part of the regional opening day of trout season.  Under this proposal, all language within regulations referencing the opening day of trout season would be changed to the "first Saturday in April" or "opening day of the regular season for trout," where applicable.  Settling on the first Saturday in April will be more consistent and simpler to remember.

A single, statewide Mentored Youth Trout Fishing Day will continue to occur on the Saturday one week prior to the opening of the regular trout season.

To accommodate an earlier statewide opening day of trout season, PFBC stocking operations will also need to occur earlier.  Aside from an exception made during the 2021 season due to the pandemic, trout stocking has traditionally begun annually on March 1.  This date coincides with regulations that define March 1 as the start of the closed season for trout fishing on lakes and streams designated as Stocked Trout Waters (STW).  Under a new proposal, the PFBC would begin trout stocking operations approximately two weeks earlier, which would require changes in language within various regulations.  Under this proposal, all language within regulations referencing "March 1" as the beginning of the closed season for fishing on STW would be changed to the "third Monday in February."

To address these changes, the Board approved a notice of proposed rulemaking related to the following regulations (PA Title 58):

  • § 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)

If approved on final rulemaking at a future meeting, the 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 a proposed 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 would remain at five trout during this period, but only one of the fish may be a Lake Trout and the minimum size limit would be increased 15 inches for Rainbow Trout and Lake Trout.  It should be noted that amending the daily creel limit and minimum sizes of Rainbow Trout and Lake Trout will not impact the creel or size limit for Brown Trout, 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. o the Friday before the opening day of trout), the daily creel limit would be reduced to three trout, only one of which may be a Lake Trout, and the minimum size limit for all trout and salmon is 15 inches.  These proposed changes to the season and creel and size limits will provide for greater simplicity to regulations, optimize the trophy component of the steelhead fishery, and provide further protection to Lake Trout which is consistent with ongoing multijurisdictional rehabilitation efforts in for that species in Lake Erie.   If approved on final rulemaking at a future meeting, the amendments will go into effect January 1, 2022.

In other action, the Board approved the publication of proposed rulemaking pertaining to establishing 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.  If approved on final rulemaking at a future meeting, the new regulation will go into effect upon publication of a second notice in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.

Commissioners adopted an amendment pertaining to 58 Pa. Code § 65.26 (Extended Trout Season).  This amendment improves trout stream angling opportunities and experiences to best meet the preferences of anglers while providing additional protection to wild trout during the extended season.  The amended regulation will 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 1 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 will be opened to fishing on a year-round basis during the current closed season and harvest of trout will be prohibited during the extended season downstream from STWs.  The amendment would go into effect January 1, 2022.

In consideration of this amendment change, 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.

Commissioners adopted amendments pertaining to (58 Pa. Code § 65.4a) All-Tackle Trophy Trout and (58 Pa. Code § 65.7) Trophy Trout Artificial Lures Only fishing regulations.  Currently, both regulations allow for the harvest of two trout, per day, greater than or equal to 14 inches in length, from opening day of trout season through Labor Day, with catch-and-release angling for the remainder of the year.  Under the amendments to these regulations intended to provide more adequate protection to most large trout in the population, anglers will be able to the harvest only one trout per day greater than or equal to 18 inches from opening day of trout season through Labor Day, with catch-and-release angling for the remainder of the year.  A total of 11 waters are currently included in the Trophy Trout regulation program and most are destination waters that receive high angler use from resident and non-resident anglers.  These amendments will go into effect on January 1, 2022.

Recognizing an additional opportunity to simplify and provide consistency throughout fishing regulations, Commissioners approved the publication of a notice of proposed rulemaking pertaining to black bass regulations (i.e., Largemouth Bass, Smallmouth Bass, and Spotted Bass).  Current 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 this proposal, all references to the "first Saturday after April 11" would be changed to the "second Saturday in April," and references to the "first Saturday after June 11" would be changed to the "second Saturday in June."

To address these changes, the Board approved a notice of proposed rulemaking related 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)

If approved on final rulemaking at a future meeting, the amendments will go into effect January 1, 2022.

Commissioners ratified recent changes made to fishing regulations at the Upper Pond (Group Camping Area Lake) at Raccoon Creek State Park, Beaver County.  This ratification follows action taken by the Executive Director to temporarily lift all seasons, sizes, and creel limits for all species at the lake effective July 17, 2021.  This action was taken in anticipation of Department of Conservation and Natural Resources' plan to drain the 7.9-acre Upper Pond during fall 2021 to begin a floodplain restoration project, which will result in the eventual removal of the pond.  A fish salvage operation will also occur at the pond at a date yet to be announced.

 

Board Elects New Officers

The Board elected Richard Kauffman of Leesport, Berks County, as President.  Kauffman who served as Vice President and District 8 commissioner, replaces Richard Lewis, a Boating-at-Large Commissioner from Gettysburg, Adams County.   

Kauffman and Small.jpg

(Richard S. Kauffman and Robert B.J. Small)

"My fellow Commissioners and I want to thank Richard for his conscientious, passionate, and most of all patient leadership during an unprecedented year," said Kauffman.  "Richard's tireless leadership behind the scenes ensured commissioners and staff were able to carry out our mission.  He led the way to reshape our committee structure, which overwhelmingly helped our Board be more fully engaged.  We can't thank him enough for his outstanding efforts."

In accepting the appointment, Kauffman stated, "I sincerely appreciate the trust and confidence the Commissioners have given me with this leadership opportunity.  I look forward to working closely with commissioners and staff to continue our shared goals of providing the multitude of fishing and boating opportunities across Pennsylvania.  I am truly humbled to be in a leadership role within this agency filled with so many others who work to protect, conserve and enhance our vast aquatic resources for the benefit of all Pennsylvanians and beyond."

Robert B.J. Small of Mechanicsburg, Cumberland County, was elected as Vice President.  Small, who serves as District 6 commissioner, representing Adams, Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Lancaster, Lebanon, Perry, and York counties, replaces Kauffman as Vice President.  Both Kauffman and Small will serve one-year terms through July 2022.

 

Fishing License Fees

The Board announced that fishing license fees will remain the same for the 2022 season.  Because of revenue generated by the increased number of fishing licenses sold during 2020 and 2021 and the continued strategic investment of surplus reserve funds, it was determined that a license fee increase is not currently needed.  For the 2022 season, the price of a resident annual fishing license will remain $22.97 (includes $1.97 vendor fees), and the price of a Trout Permit will remain $9.97 (includes $1.97 vendor fees).  Pennsylvania fishing license fees have remained the same since 2005.

 

Law Enforcement

The Board voted to adopt amended regulations pertaining to authorized devices for ice fishing.  The amendments to 58 Pa. Code § 63.10 (Ice Fishing) and § 63.6 (Authorized Devices for Game Fish, Baitfish, and Fishbait), will 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.  

"The previous regulations were decades old and could be interpreted to suggest that such devices would not be legal," said PFBC District 7 Commissioner William Gibney.  "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 changes, anglers must still be active participants in fishing, be nearby their equipment, and land the fish as quickly as possible.  The new regulations will go into effect upon publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.

 

Fisheries Designations

The Board approved the removal of 17 streams from the list of Refuge Areas.  Since the 1960s, refuge areas have been used in an effort to extend stocked trout fishing opportunities by placing all, or a portion, of a stream's trout allocation into these areas and denying angler access to these sections from March 1 through June 14.  These areas are opened to angling on June 15 to allow for the harvest of trout prior to the waters becoming too low or too warm to support trout.  Refuge areas are marked by wires and signage that are maintained by local sponsors.  

"Refuge area designation can be a valuable management tool, as they can extend the duration of stocked trout angling opportunities, especially in areas where there is very high angler pressure," said David Nihart, Chief of the PFBC's Division of Fisheries Management.  "When conditions are no longer consistent with the initial premise of having a refuge area, removing these streams from the program provides greater public fishing access so they can be enjoyed, in some cases, for year-round angling."

Based on current conditions, including low angler use and changes in management objectives, refuge area designation will be removed from the following streams:

County                                 Water area                                         Rationale for removal

Cameron                              Hicks Run                                             No longer being maintained
Cameron                              Upper Jerry Run                                   No longer stocked
Cameron                              Wykoff Run                                          No longer being maintained
Cameron/Elk                        East Branch Hicks Run                         No longer stocked
Cameron/Elk                        Mix Run                                                No longer being maintained
Cameron/Elk                        West Branch Hicks Run                        No longer being maintained
Clearfield                             Jack Dent Branch                                  No longer stocked
Clearfield/Elk                       Medix Run                                            No longer being maintained
McKean                               Chappel Fork                                        No longer being maintained
McKean                               Kinzua Creek                                        Delayed Harvest Area on stream
McKean                               North Branch Sugar Run                      No longer being maintained
McKean                               Skinner Creek                                       No longer being maintained
McKean                               South Branch Kinzua Creek                  No longer being maintained
McKean                               Sugar Run                                             No longer being maintained
McKean                               Willow Creek                                        No longer being maintained
McKean/Warren                  East Branch Tionesta Creek                  No longer being maintained
McKean/Warren                  Twomile Run                                         No longer being maintained

These changes will go into effect upon publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.

The Board approved the designation of three stream sections to the list of Class A wild trout streams.  The board also approved the addition of 25 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 voted to remove Colyer Lake, located in Potter Township, Centre County, and Lake Nessmuk, located in Delmar Township, Tioga County, from the Catch-and-Release Lakes Program and add those waters to the Big Bass and Panfish Enhancement Programs.  Since being placed under catch-and-release regulations in 2016 to allow for the development of a high-quality, warm-water and cool-water fishery, sportfish abundance and population size structure, both Coyler Lake and Lake Nessmuk have improved to levels where populations can now sustain limited harvest.  All other species not regulated under the Big Bass or Panfish Enhancement programs will be managed with Commonwealth Inland Waters angling regulations.  This designation will go into effect January 1, 2022.

 

Boating Regulations

The Board approved a notice of proposed rulemaking related to boating regulations at Blue Marsh Lake, Berks County.  Under the proposal, regulations would be amended to address 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.  If adopted on final rulemaking at a future meeting, this amendment will go into effect on January 1, 2022.

 

Real Estate

Related to real estate matters, the Board authorized the acquisition of two easements that will increase public access to waters with significant Steelhead fishing opportunities in Erie County.  These easement acquisitions are funded using special Lake Erie fishing permits and are contingent on the PFBC conducting due diligence.

In Conneaut Township, Erie County, the PFBC will pay $86,000 for an easement for public fishing, boating, and riparian fishery management on 5,980 linear feet along Conneaut Creek as it flows across two parcels of property off Cherry Hill Road.

In Fairview Township, Erie County, the PFBC will pay $14,000 for an easement for public fishing, boating, and riparian fishery management on 930 linear feet along Walnut Creek.  This property is located across the stream from the Cage property, which also has an easement on it.  Together, these properties secure public fishing access for steelhead and are necessary for potential fish passage and design work at the chutes on Walnut Creek.

 

Miscellaneous

The Board approved a Resolution in support of the Recovering America's Wildlife Act (HR 2773, SR 2372).  This legislation was developed to dedicate $1.3 billion annually to the Wildlife Conservation Restoration Program, providing funding to states to effectively implement State Wildlife Action Plans to conserve more than 12,000 species of greatest conservation need and support wildlife conservation education and wildlife associated recreation.  The resolution reaffirms the PFBC's commitment and ongoing support of legislative initiatives to secure this funding.

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MEDIA CONTACT: 
Mike Parker
Communications Director
Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission
(717) 585-3076
michparker@pa.gov
 


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