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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

PFBC Board Keeps Closed Season on Bass in Susquehanna, Juniata Rivers

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) voted today to keep in place for at least one more year a closed season on bass fishing in the middle and lower Susquehanna and lower Juniata rivers during the traditional spawning period from May 1 through mid-June.

Also, at the start of today’s formal meeting, the board elected Commissioner Rocco Ali as president and Commissioner Eric Hussar as vice-president. President Ali represents Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Fayette, Greene, Indiana, Washington and Westmoreland counties. Vice President Hussar represents Bradford, Columbia, Lycoming, Montour, Northumberland, Snyder, Sullivan, Tioga and Union counties.

A closed season for smallmouth and largemouth bass from May 1 through June 16 has been in place since 2012 on approximately 98 miles of the Susquehanna River from Sunbury downstream to the Holtwood Dam and on 31.7 miles of the Juniata River from Port Royal downstream to the mouth. Anglers can target bass during the remainder of the year, but only on a catch-and-immediate-release basis.

The PFBC proposed removing the spring closed season at its January meeting after fish surveys conducted from 2013-2016 revealed increasing numbers of adult smallmouth bass compared to severely reduced numbers collected from 2005-2012. The proposal called for lifting the ban for the 2018 season and adopting an adaptive management approach to set regulations moving forward.

However, the Board of Commissioners voted today to keep the regulations in place for 12 more months, giving them time to review data from 2017 adult bass surveys, which are scheduled to begin in September. The board will then revisit the proposal at its July 2018 quarterly business meeting and decide if the closed season on these sections of the rivers should be removed beginning in 2019.

“The board’s action today provides time for our biologists to collect and evaluate another year of data, which hopefully will reinforce the encouraging trends we’ve seen the last few years in the smallmouth bass population,” said PFBC Executive Director John Arway.

The PFBC accepted public comments during a 60-day period and held public meetings in Harrisburg, Lancaster and Selinsgrove to discuss the proposal with anglers. Approximately half of the 179 comments received opposed any change to the current regulations. About 37 percent supported the proposal.

Also today, the board adopted a proposed rulemaking order which would eliminate the requirement that anglers display their fishing license on a hat, vest or other article of clothing when fishing.

The proposal would instead require anglers to have their fishing license in their possession when fishing and show it to a waterways conservation officer (WCO) when asked. The proposal also specifically allows anglers to keep a copy of their fishing license on a mobile device, which could then be shown to a WCO. If approved as a final rulemaking, the change would go into effect upon publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.

Commissioners also approved a proposal to place the upper reaches of the West Branch Susquehanna River under Catch and Release All-Tackle regulations. The focus area of the upper West Branch is approximately 26.6 miles from the acid mine drainage treatment plant in Watkins downstream to the confluence with Cush Creek near Dowler Junction.

“The change will help protect the wild trout populations as the river continues to recover from acid mine drainage,” said Jason Detar, Chief of the Division of Fisheries Management. “This is a special opportunity to protect, improve, and highlight the developing wild trout fishery in a region where many waterways have not supported fisheries for over a century due to pollution.”

The upper West Branch is currently managed under Commonwealth inland regulations. The designation change will take effect on Jan. 1, 2018.

In other action, the board:

Approved the acquisition of 1,900 linear feet on Elk Creek as it flows across a parcel of property in McKean Township, Erie County, for $26,000. The easement area is located off West Road immediately downstream of the PFBC’s Rick Road Access. Elk Creek is a popular steelhead and trout fishery and the acquisition of the easement will provide additional trout and steelhead fishing opportunities.

Approved a 10-year lease with Fairview Evergreen Nurseries at the PFBC’s Fairview State Fish Hatchery in Erie County. The nursery has leased the property for 40 years for use with its nursery business. The nursery will pay $4,650 the first year, with the annual amount increasing to a payment of $4,925 in the final year.

Approved the acquisition of an easement on a 0.4-acre parcel of land on Trout Run in Fairview Township, Erie County. This section of Trout Run is a critical steelhead brood collection location for the Lake Erie Steelhead Program and the acquisition of an easement is necessary to continue the program. The PFBC previously had agreements with the former owners of the property, and wants to enter into a similar agreement with the current owners.

Authorized a grant not to exceed $125,000 to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy to help with the acquisition of the Indian Caverns property in Franklin Township, Huntingdon County, followed by the subsequent transfer of the property to the PFBC. The 13.56-acre property is located along Spruce Creek, a nationally renowned trout fishery. There is currently very limited public access, and the purchase would provide important access to one of Pennsylvania’s finest trout streams.

Added 99 waters to the list of wild trout streams and adjusted the section limits of seven waters.

Added 29 stream sections to the list of Class A wild trout streams.

Approved a grant of up to $175,000 to American Rivers, Inc., or other appropriate partner organization for the removal of Delp Dam (also known as Swartley Mill Dam) across Indian Creek, Montgomery County. The funding is being provided by the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission to fulfill stream mitigation requirements as part of a highway widening project.
Proposed eliminating the leader length requirement in catch-and-release fly-fishing only areas. Currently, anglers fishing in these areas cannot use a leader that exceeds 18 feet in length. The amendment proposed today would allow anglers to use leaders of any length. If adopted on a final rulemaking, the amendment would go into effect upon publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.

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