PA Fish & Boat Commission Encouraging Safety During Changing Seasons, Conducts Quarterly Business
HARRISBURG, Pa. – The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) began its quarterly business meeting by encouraging anglers to be safe on the ice and water when taking advantage of remaining winter fishing opportunities, especially during times when the temperature warms but the water remains very cold.
(Photo credit: Tima Miroshnichenko via Pexels)
“Many anglers stay busy year-round by ice fishing on their favorite lake when conditions are safe, seeking out trophy steelhead on the tributaries of Lake Erie, or running their bass boats up and down the river when it’s not frozen,” said Tim Schaeffer, PFBC Executive Director. “For those who remain active on the water and ice this winter, we ask them to stay safe by being mindful of changing weather conditions, checking for adequate ice thickness, ice fishing with others, and always wearing your life jacket.”
John Mahn, Second District Commissioner and Chairman of the Boating Committee reinforced the importance of life-jacket wear during the cold weather months. Since 2012, the PFBC has required anyone aboard a boat less than 16 feet, including all kayaks and canoes, to wear a life jacket from November 1 through April 30.
“We believe many lives have been saved because of this requirement over the past decade, and the statistics back that statement up,” said Mahn. “Over the past ten years, since this regulation took effect, the number of boating accidents in Pennsylvania during the cold weather months has remained about the same, but fatalities have decreased from 58% in 2012 to 17% in 2022.”
Schaeffer reminded anglers and boaters who are looking forward to spring that the PFBC is already preparing for pre-season trout stocking operations in anticipation of the statewide Mentored Youth Trout Fishing Day on Saturday, March 25, and the statewide Opening Day of Trout Season on Saturday, April 1.
“Our hatcheries are bustling with activity right now, as we get ready to stock millions of trout into hundreds of waterways for anglers to enjoy throughout the 2023 season,” added Schaeffer. “Our hatchery staff and Waterways Conservation Officers look forward to partnering with local volunteers to make sure the trout are stocked safely and efficiently and will be ready to tug on your line on opening day and for many weeks to follow.”
Schaeffer noted that the 2023 Adult Trout Stocking Schedule will be published on the PFBC website (Fishandboat.com) during the first week of February and reminded anglers to revisit the stocking schedule frequently to remain aware of changes that may occur due to inclement weather and hatchery logistics. The PFBC will stock approximately 3.2 million adult trout throughout the 2023 season, which is consistent with the number of fish stocked over the past decade. Fishing licenses and permits may be purchased through the FishBoatPA mobile app, on the PFBC website, and by visiting nearly 700 retail license-issuing agents.
The Board voted to adopt a notice of proposed rulemaking pertaining to boat registration regulations. Under the proposal, the PFBC intends to 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 would 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. The PFBC would begin issuing calendar-year boat registrations in October 2023 which would be valid from January 1, 2024, through December 31, 2025. If adopted on final rulemaking at a future meeting, these amendments will go into effect upon publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.
Commissioners voted to adopt a notice of proposed rulemaking pertaining to boat registration applications (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 would 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. 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 adopt an amendment to fishing regulations at Sheppard-Meyers Reservoir in West Hanover Township, York County. This reservoir was completely dewatered during spring 2020 to upgrade the dam and spillway structures per Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection dam safety standards. The PFBC plans to initiate stocking of adult trout prior to the 2023 spring trout season, followed by additional stockings in summer 2023 that will include fingerling plants of select fish species to establish a high-quality, warm-water and coolwater fishery. Under this change, the lake reservoir will be managed under a miscellaneous special regulation that will allow fishing at the lake immediately upon refill and allow for the harvest of trout under Commonwealth Inland Waters regulations (58 Pa. Code § 61.1), but allow only catch-and-release fishing for all other species. 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. Once the warm-water fishery is re-established, the lake will be recommended for removal from the miscellaneous special regulation and inclusion in one of the PFBC’s existing warm-water regulation programs. This amendment will go into effect upon publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.
The Board voted to approve the addition of 16 stream sections to the list of Class A wild trout streams, the addition of five new waters to the PFBC’s list of wild trout streams, and revisions to five stream sections on the PFBC’s list of wild trout streams. A list of waters proposed for wild trout stream and Class A wild trout stream designation or revision 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.
Commissioners voted to approve several exemptions to Pennsylvania Code (58 Pa. Code § 57.8a) that would allow for the continued stocking of trout at three Class A wild trout stream sections. Historically, there have been very few streams where stocking of trout following Class A designation was considered and warranted. However, there are rare cases, beyond the current 13 stocked Class A wild trout stream sections statewide, where a stocking exemption should be considered. The following waters have met the required criteria, and the general exemption classification are listed below:
- Salt Run (Section 02), Cameron County: Youth fishing derbies
- Little Lehigh Creek (Section 04), Lehigh County: Prior history of stocking
- Little Lehigh Creek (Section 07), Lehigh County: Prior history of stocking
It should be noted that the Executive Director previously obtained approval from the Board to continue PFBC stockings at two of these stream sections (Little Lehigh Creek, Sections 04 and 07) in 2015; however, this request is specific to the continuance of stocking by private entities and not the annual trout stockings conducted by the PFBC.
The Board voted to authorize a Fish Passage and Habitat Restoration Grant to the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) for the removal of Spring Garden Dam on Neshaminy Creek, Bucks County, as it flows through Tyler State Park. To facilitate the grant, the PFBC will receive $750,000 from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Delaware Watershed Conservation Fund, which will be granted to DCNR. These funds will be combined with a DCNR funding contribution of $500,000, as well as in-kind services valued at $50,000 to perform the dam removal on DCNR property. Spring Garden Dam is a concrete run-of-river structure that is a barrier to aquatic organism passage for migratory and resident fishes and is also a substantial safety hazard to canoeists and kayakers who paddle this portion of Neshaminy Creek.
Commissioners voted to authorize a Cooperative Nursery Grant in the amount of $65,000 to the Potter County Anglers Club. The cooperative nursery stocks approximately 28,000 trout in Cameron, Elk, and Potter Counties, including the Genesee River drainage, which is located in the Great Lakes basin. Because of its location, the Potter County Anglers Club is required to adhere to Great Lakes Fish Health Committee protocols and intends to use grant funding to make necessary improvements to the spring water source at the nursery and improve the energy efficiency of the aeration system needed to maintain the daily trout rearing operation.
Public Access and Real Estate
Commissioners voted to authorize the acquisition of an approximately three-acre property along the Allegheny River in Hickory Township, Forest County. Under the agreement, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) will transfer the property, known as the West Hickory Access, to the PFBC so that it may be utilized for public fishing and boating access. The site will also be used as a training location for mussel identification workshops due to the significant mussel populations that reside in the nearby section of the Allegheny River. This location was previously managed and maintained by the PFBC through an agreement with PennDOT from 1963-2006, before PennDOT regained possession of the property while a bridge replacement project was completed on State Route 127. The agreement is contingent upon due diligence and property modifications to be made by PennDOT.
The Board voted to authorize the leasing of a portion of property located at the PFBC’s Damascus Access in Damascus Township, Wayne County. Under the agreement, the PFBC will lease approximately 500-square feet of property to a neighboring landowner for a period of 25 years, so that that the landowner may conduct inspections and maintenance on a septic tank which was discovered to be located on PFBC property. The agreement, which has been determined to be in the best interest of both parties, is necessary due to a pre-existing agreement between the current landowner and previous landowner, prior to the PFBC’s acquisition of the property in 1968.
Staff and Partner Recognition
The PFBC is proud to recognize staff members who have recently received awards for outstanding work in their fields.
At the 107th Pennsylvania Farm Show, held January 7-14 in Harrisburg, the PFBC was honored with the Commercial Exhibitor Award for Best Hospitality.
“During the course of the week, various judges walk the floor of the Farm Show to view displays and engage with booth staff,” said Sharon Myers, Executive Director of the Farm Show Complex and Expo Center for the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. “Upon approaching the Fish and Boat Commission booth, our judges noted that the booth had a welcoming look that encouraged visitors to stop by to learn more, and the staff was friendly, well informed, and approachable.”
The PFBC’s Farm Show booth was staffed throughout the week by various employees and volunteers including Waterways Conservation Officers, Commissioners, and Education Specialists with the Bureau of Outreach, Education, and Marketing.
In a separate recognition, PFBC Lake Habitat Manager Mike Swartz was honored with the Friends of Reservoirs Award from the Reservoir Fisheries Habitat Partnership (RFHP). In October 2022, Swartz was presented with the award during the RFHP meeting in Shelbyville, Illinois, where the organization recognized his efforts towards habitat enhancement at Raystown Lake, Huntingdon County. The large-scale project included the stabilization of multiple shorelines, improvement of fish habitat, and a substantial increase in angler access. Swartz worked with the Friends of Reservoirs and Friends of Raystown Lake to fund the project using $1.15 million from a consent order between the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and Sunoco, $75,000 from the Reservoir Fisheries Habitat Partnership, and $24,000 from the PA Lake Management Society.
The PFBC also thanked former Executive Director Michele Kittell Connolly for her years of dedicated leadership and service to the Wildlife Leadership Academy. The mission of the Wildlife Leadership Academy is to engage and empower high school age youth to become Conservation Ambassadors to ensure a sustained wildlife, fisheries, and natural resource legacy for future generations. The PFBC is a proud partner of their PA Brookies and PA Bass field schools.
The PFBC’s remaining quarterly business meetings in 2023 are scheduled for the following dates at the PFBC headquarters located at 1601 Elmerton Avenue, Harrisburg, PA 17110:
- April 24-25, 2023
- July 24-25, 2023
- October 23-24, 2023
Meeting times will be announced at a later date.
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