PFBC AWARDS GRANTS FOR BOATING FACILITY AND ERIE ACCESS IMPROVEMENT PROGRAMS, PROPOSES FISHERIES MANAGEMENT IMPROVEMENTS AND PROTECTIONS AGAINST SPREAD OF INVASIVE SPECIES DURING QUARTERLY MEETING

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (April 25) – The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) began its quarterly business meeting by thanking anglers, agency staff, and volunteers for a safe and successful start to the 2022 trout season, setting the stage for yearlong fishing and boating adventures.

“We were thrilled to welcome volunteers back in full force to help deliver a successful trout season,” said Tim Schaeffer, PFBC Executive Director.  “We received numerous compliments on the quality of the trout we stocked this year, which is a testament to the dedication and diligence of our hatchery staff all year long.  Opening day was just the beginning, and in-season stockings will continue through the end of May.  The combination of stocked trout, our phenomenal wild trout streams, panfish and catfish action that is starting to pick up as the water warms, and the opening of Walleye season on May 7 make spring the perfect time to hit the water in Pennsylvania.  If you fish from a boat, please remember to always wear your lifejacket.”

Schaeffer reminded boaters that the PFBC’s cold water life jacket requirement for anyone aboard boats less than 16 feet in length, including all canoes and kayaks, remains in effect through April 30.  In addition, The PFBC will partner with the National Safe Boating Council to celebrate National Safe Boating Week from May 21-27, 2022.

 

Boating Facility Grants Awarded

In other action, the PFBC awarded several grants through the Boating Facility Grant Program.  Funds for this program are derived primarily from boat registration fees, state motorboat fuels tax, and restricted revenue accounts, if applicable.  In certain instances, federal aid is also used, if appropriate. 

In 2021, the PFBC was awarded a $400,000 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation under the auspices of the Delaware River Basin Conservation Act to improve access in the watershed and connect anglers, boaters, and others to the region’s water resources.  As a result of this funding, the PFBC gave special consideration to proposed projects within the Delaware River Watershed, resulting in over $797,000 being dedicated for three impactful projects, including:

Delaware River Watershed:

  • Brandywine Conservancy and Museum of Art; Roundelay Access Site, Brandywine Creek, Chester County.
  • Delaware River City Corporation (Riverfront North Partnership); Frankford Arsenal Boat Launch Master Site Development Plan, Delaware River, Philadelphia County.
  • Wayne County; Indian Orchard River Access, Lackawaxen River, Wayne County

 

Other projects awarded through the 2022 round of grants include:

 
Ohio River Watershed:

  • Greene County Commissioners; Wisecarver Boat Launch and Access Improvements Phase 2, Wisecarver Reservoir, Greene County.
  • Brownsville Borough; Brownsville Riverside Wharf Renovation and Expansion, Monongahela River, Fayette County.
  • Township of Neville; Boat Launch Facility, Ohio River, Allegheny County
  • City of Warren; Breezepoint Landing Boat Ramp, Allegheny River, Warren County.

Susquehanna River Watershed:

  • Lower Susquehanna River Keeper Association; Conestoga River Access and Trail Improvement Assessment, Conestoga River, Lancaster County.   
  • Borough of Dickson City; Riverfront Park River Access and Boat Launch, Lackawanna River, Lackawanna County.
  • Lewis Township; Bodines Paddle Craft Launch, Lycoming Creek, Lycoming County.
  • South Middleton Township; Childrens Lake Boat Launch Parking Improvements, Childrens Lake, Cumberland County
  • Partnership for Economic Development of York County; Foundry Park Boat Basin, Codorus Creek, York County

 

Erie Access Improvement Grant Awarded

In other action, the PFBC awarded grants through the Erie Access Improvement Program.  This program is funded through proceeds from the sale of Lake Erie permits to be used towards programs that benefit public fishing, including enhanced access and habitat projects on or at Lake Erie and the watersheds of Lake Erie.  The projects awarded through the 2022 round of grants include:

  • Erie-Western PA Port Authority; Parade Street Public Access Rehabilitation, Presque Isle Bay, Erie County
  • Pennsylvania State University for Pennsylvania Sea Grant; Manchester Falls Fish Passage Feasibility Study, Walnut Creek, Erie County.

 

Fisheries

The Board approved the publication of a notice of proposed rulemaking pertaining to the propagation, introduction, and transportation of live fish into Commonwealth waters.  Under this proposal, two chapters of the Pennsylvania Code (58 Pa. Code § 71 and § 73) would 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 Pennsylvania, thousands of lakes, ponds, and stream sections are stocked by private individuals each year with fish purchased from commercial fish producers and dealers.  To properly manage and protect the Commonwealth’s aquatic resources while addressing increased risks associated with aquatic invasive species and pathogens, there is a need to ensure that all proposed stockings of fish into waters of the Commonwealth are reviewed, considered for their ecological risk, and where appropriate, authorized for stocking.  As such, PFBC staff have undertaken an effort to improve management, oversight, and regulation of fish and aquatic life transportation and stocking in Pennsylvania through the development of a stocking authorization application and review system, including fish health requirements. 

In the United States, over 30 states have requirements (stocking authorizations or regulations) for determining how and when fish are stocked in state waters.  All states in the Northeast, except Pennsylvania, require individuals to obtain some form of authorization or permission to stock fish.

In addition to a proposed stocking authorization, 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.

If adopted on final rulemaking at a future meeting, these amendments will go into effect on January 1, 2023.

 

In other action, Commissioners approved the publication of a notice of proposed rulemaking pertaining to the American Shad fishery within the Delaware River, West Branch Delaware River, and River Estuary.  Under this proposal, which is in response to current unsustainable levels of mortality, the daily limit of American Shad within these waters would be reduced from three to two fish.  This reduction is consistent with a decision by the Delaware River Basin Fish and Wildlife Management Cooperative, of which Pennsylvania is a member, to reduce shad harvest by approximately 33% for both recreational and commercial fisheries.  If adopted on final rulemaking at a future meeting, this amendment will go into effect on January 1, 2023.w

 

The Board approved the addition of seven stream sections to the list of Class A wild trout streams.  The Board also approved the addition of 23 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.

 

The Board approved changes to fishing regulations on Dingmans Creek, Section 03, located within the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area in Pike County.  Due to a loss of access to the creek section for stocking, Dingmans Creek will be removed from the Delayed Harvest Artificial Lures Only (DHALO) program and revert to Commonwealth Inland Waters angling regulations.  This change will take effect upon publication of a second notice in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.  PFBC staff is currently working with the National Park Service to determine if a replacement stream section is available to offer DHALO trout angling opportunities nearby.

 

Commissioners approved two exemptions to Pennsylvania Code (58 Pa. Code § 57.8a) that would allow for the continued stocking of trout at two 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:

  • Penns Creek (Section 02), Centre County, Commissioner District 3:  General fishing derbies (adult and youth participants)
  • Pohopoco Creek (Section 04), Carbon County, Commissioner District 7:  Prior history of stocking

It should be noted that the Executive Director previously obtained approval from the Board to continue PFBC stockings at these stream sections; however, this request is specific to the continuance of stocking by private entities.

 

Law Enforcement

Commissioners approved the publication of a notice of proposed rulemaking pertaining to the unlawful taking of fish using nets.  In recent years, PFBC waterways conservation officers have noticed an increase in individuals using nets to attempt to take fish.  Under the proposal, the Pennsylvania Code (§ 63.5. Methods of fishing) would be amended include new language prohibiting the “attempt to take fish” using unauthorized fishing methods.  This proposal is primarily in response to issues during the Steelhead run in the Lake Erie tributaries but would have application in other areas of the state.  For consistency, similar language exists in § 63.9 (Snatch fishing, foul hooking, and snag fishing).  If approved on final rulemaking at a future meeting, the amendment will go into effect upon publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.

 

The Board approved changes pertaining to snatch fishing, foul hooking, and snag fishing.  Over the last several years, anglers have asked the PFBC whether devices such as trout beads are a legal device for use in Commonwealth waters.  These devices consist of a small bead that sits several inches above the hook and generally hook a fish on the outside of the mouth.  Under the current regulations, any fish not hooked inside the mouth must be released.  Under this proposal, the Pennsylvania Code (58 Pa. Code § 63.9) would be amended to include language that clarifies that devices such as trout beads are not prohibited so long as the eye of the hook is no more than two inches below the device.  If approved on final rulemaking at a future meeting, the amendment will go into effect upon publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.

 

Commissioners approved the publication of a notice of proposed rulemaking pertaining to regulations at officially recognized fish cleaning stations (58 Pa. Code § 63.15a).  To assist in properly identifying fish species that have already been processed at a non-commercial fish cleaning station, PFBC Waterways Conservation Officers are requesting an amendment to these regulations that would require anglers to keep a two-inch-by-two-inch piece of skin on fish fillets and prohibit the chunking of the fillets into pieces.  If approved on final rulemaking at a future meeting, the amendment will go into effect upon publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.

 

The Board voted to table a proposal to amend bowfishing regulations until further discussion can occur.  While the use of long bows, crossbows, spears, and gigs used in bowfishing is already regulated within the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Code (58 Pa. Code §63.8), a proposal presented to Commissioners addressed an increasing number of complaints to PFBC law enforcement regarding the intense lighting and generator noise that can be created by those participating in bowfishing.  The proposed amendment would prohibit bow fishing on any special regulation trout waters; make it unlawful to cast direct rays of a spotlight, mounted headlight, or any other artificial light of any kind from any watercraft upon any occupied building, or another watercraft; and limit noise from generators used aboard a boat while bow fishing to no more than 90 dB(a), which is consistent with regulations for noise produced by motorboats.  In measuring noise emissions, the test measurement will be made with the sound level meter at a distance of at least four feet above the water at a point where the transom gunwale and the port or starboard gunwale intersects.  The Board indicated that the proposed amendment would be revisited during a meeting of the Law Enforcement Committee, which will be scheduled on a date yet to be determined.

 

Boating

The Board approved the publication of a notice of proposed rulemaking pertaining to boat-towed watersports.  Under this proposal, language contained within several sections of the Pennsylvania Code would be updated to better reflect safety issues and current trends and ensure consistency when referring to in this type of recreational boating activity.  Upon reviewing model language adopted in 2021 by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, the PFBC identified opportunities to update language to better include modern boat-towed watersport activities and devices and clarify the regulations, but not modify currently prohibited or allowable activities.

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

  • § 103.3 (Restrictions for special areas)
  • § 105.1 (Conditions requiring immediate corrective action)
  • § 105.3 (Unacceptable boating practices)
  • § 109.4 (Waterskiing, aquaplaning, kiteskiing and similar activities)
  • § 111.2 (Allegheny County)
  • § 111.3 (Armstrong County)
  • § 111.6 (Berks County)
  • § 111.13 (Carbon County)
  • § 111.58 (Susquehanna County)
  • § 111.64 (Wayne County)
  • § 111.66 (Wyoming County).

If adopted on final rulemaking at a future meeting, these amendments will go into effect January 1, 2023.

 

Commissioners approved the publication of a notice of proposed rulemaking pertaining to fire extinguisher regulations for recreational motorboats.  This proposal, which would bring PFBC regulations in line with updated U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) rules, would not change which motorboats are required to have fire extinguishers on board, but relieves these recreational vessels from certain inspection, maintenance, and recordkeeping requirements that are more suited for commercial vessels.  The change would also establish that portable fire extinguishers, when required to be carried on recreational motorboats, shall be maintained in “good and serviceable” condition, which is consistent with language in the USCG rules.  If adopted on final rulemaking at a future meeting, this amendment will go into effect January 1, 2023.

 

The Board approved the publication of a notice of proposed rulemaking pertaining to boating regulations at Woodcock Creek Lake, Crawford County.  Recently, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACOE), which owns the 333-acre flood control project, requested a change to horsepower regulations, from 10hp to 20hp, to allow increased boating opportunities in response to recent upward trends in boating activity.  The USACOE requested the PFBC adopt the same regulatory changes so that Waterways Conservation Officers can continue to assist in enforcement of this boating regulation.  If adopted on final rulemaking at a future meeting, this amendment will go into effect January 1, 2023.

 

Real Estate

The Board authorized the acquisition of two flowage easements in Preston Township, Wayne County.  These easements, which affect two properties totaling approximately 5.46 acres, are needed as part of a pending dam rehabilitation project at Belmont Lake, which will include raising the dam by approximately three feet, increasing the impounded area beyond current flowage rights boundaries. 

The Board authorized the acquisition of a flowage easement and land acquisition in Mount Pleasant Township, Wayne County.  A flowage easement affecting one property totaling approximately .1 acres, and a property acquisition of approximately .7 acres, are needed as part of a pending dam rehabilitation project at Miller Pond.

The flowage easements and property acquisitions at both Belmont Lake and Miller Pond are expected to have minimal value, and the PFBC will pay the estimated fair market value of the rights or accept donations if offered.  Staff will pursue the acquisitions in an amicable manner and only utilize the Commonwealth’s power of eminent domain as a last resort.  Additionally, staff will adhere to the PFBC’s standard practices for acquiring property including meeting due diligence and funding requirements.

Commissioners authorized the leasing of a property along the Conewago Creek in Adams County to Adams County Chapter 323 Trout Unlimited (ACTU).  The approximately 58-acre tract located along Russell Tavern Road and Zeigler Mill Road in Butler Township contains a portion of Conewago Creek that is designated as a Catch and Release Fly-Fishing Only section that provides significant trout fishing opportunities in the area.  This section of Conewago Creek is stocked by the PFBC, the McSherrystown and Knouse Foods (Orrtanna) cooperative fish hatcheries, and the Mummasburg Sportsman’s Club.  The fly-fishing catch-and-release section has been managed by the ACTU and the Northern Virginia Trout Unlimited Chapter for over 30 years.  The ACTU wishes to lease the property to continue their conservation efforts.  The lease will be for a 25-year term and the ACTU will be responsible for the routine maintenance, operation, repair, and supervision of the lease area.  The lease will also require the site to remain open for public fishing and boating free of charge.  Fishing and boating will take precedence over all other recreational activities.

 

Commissioners authorized the disposition of property in Union Township, Crawford County.  Under an agreement with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), the PFBC will convey a temporary construction easement on a small portion of the property known as Shaws Landing, so that PennDOT can utilize the area as part of a bridge improvement project over Conneaut Outlet.  The project will have no long-term adverse impact on the site and will improve public safety.  The PFBC will receive fair market value for the rights it conveys and any impact on the site, and the site will be restored to the Commission’s satisfaction.  This conveyance will be subject to staff performing the necessary due diligence.

 

The Board approved the disposition of property in Overfield Township, Wyoming County.  Sterling Realty of New York, which recently acquired a restaurant property adjacent to the PFBC’s Lake Winola Access, will pay the PFBC $5,000 to acquire an approximately .1-acre portion of the access property.  Under an agreement reached in 2001, the previous owner of the restaurant had paid an annual fee to the PFBC for use of the property after inadvertently developing the area as a gravel parking lot and outdoor dining area.  The new agreement with Sterling Realty would not adversely impact the PFBC and would permanently resolve the property use issue.  Sterling Realty will be responsible for all costs associated with the conveyance, including subdivision and recording costs.  In addition, any real estate and transfer taxes that are normally shared between the buyer and the seller will be paid by Sterling Realty.  The PFBC will retain all oil, gas, coal, and mineral rights on the property being conveyed.  PFBC staff standard practices for property disposition, including meeting due diligence requirements.

 

Special Announcements

The next meeting of the PFBC Board of Commissioners is scheduled for July 25-26, 2021 at the PFBC’s Harrisburg headquarters.

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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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