Delayed-harvest change nixed in Pennsylvania Streams
Harrisburg — Some ideas take flight. Some never get off the ground.
This is one of the latter, at least so far.
Going into the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission’s quarterly meeting in Shippensburg in April, staff in the agency’s fisheries division were set to roll out a new proposal.
It called for changing who can fish in stream sections managed under delayed- harvest, artificial-lures-only rules and when they can keep fish.
Currently, delayed-harvest waters are open only to anglers using flies or artificial lures. They can keep three fish per day from June 15 through Labor Day.
Those rules were initially put in place to provide anglers with stocked trout later into the year, while still allowing fish to be taken before the stresses of warm water killed them anyway.
The Bureau of Fisheries, though, wanted to suggest that anglers be allowed to take fish sooner, from the Saturday before Memorial Day through Labor Day, and use bait to do it.
“The removal of tackle restrictions during the harvest period will provide for more angling opportunity by broadening the angler base and encouraging increased participation by younger anglers,” reads the recommendation by the commission’s Bureau of Fisheries.
“During the designated no-harvest period, the artificial-lures-only tackle restrictions will remain in effect on the waters managed under these regulations.”
The idea never even saw the light of day at the commission meeting, though.
When it came up on the agenda, Commissioner Bill Worobec, of Lycoming County, immediately cut it off, suggesting the idea be tabled. Commissioners Bill Sabatose, of Elk County, and Ed Mascharka, of Erie County, agreed – and said they were not even interested in discussing the idea at this time – and the idea went away with a whimper.
Worobec said after the meeting that he acted as he did to “make the staff think.”
It may very well be true that there are stocked trout going to waste in delayed-harvest streams, he said. But he’s not convinced staff’s proposal is the way to address that.
One different option might be to just stock those sections with fewer fish in the first place, he suggested.
“I think the staff has to take more time to evaluate other options before they just start talking about changing regulations,” Worobec said.
That seems to be the opinion of some anglers, too. When word of the proposal got out last week, anglers took to Internet forums to speak out against it; others called some commissioners, said Lichvar.
Ken Undercoffer, president of the Pennsylvania Council of Trout Unlimited, carried some of their concerns to the commission meeting.
He said the feedback he’s gotten from members is that the proposal could lead to more trash along streams, doesn’t necessarily create significantly more angling opportunities and changes what’s been a popular program.
Perhaps most significantly, he said, anglers are concerned that it might allow harvest of fish from streams that might hold wild trout.
“Brook trout are especially vulnerable to angling pressure. If present, wild brookies would be expected to respond very well to a halt in stocking and reduction in harvest pressure,” Undercoffer said.
Trout Unlimited believes no changes should be made in regulations to delayed-harvest streams until it’s determined – by electroshocking surveys, if necessary – whether they have the potential to provide viable wild trout fisheries, he added.
“The general consensus of opinion is that this is a step backward,” Undercoffer said. “A lot of thought needs to be put into this proposal before it is advanced any further.”
Commissioners agreed. They did, though, give preliminary approval to one change regarding delayed-harvest waters.
Right now, it’s illegal to fish those streams – as well as those managed under catch and release and catch-and-release, fly-fishing-only waters – from one hour after sunset to one hour before sunrise. Staff recommended that commissioners do away with that provision, which exists only on those waters.
Commissioners did so, though final approval must come at their next meeting in July.