Pine Creek trout regs to remain unchanged

By Jeff
Mulhollem

Editor

Harrisburg – If you believe the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat
Commission should custom-manage fisheries around the state through
special regulations, you would not have been disappointed with the
agency’s July meeting.

The session was all about how best to use fishing rules to
maximize angler enjoyment and protect fish populations.

At their last meeting in April, commissioners conceded they made
a mistake in establishing delayed-harvest, artificial-lures-only
stream sections for trout on Pine Creek in Tioga and Lycoming
counties.

Because so many anglers float through in boats, fishermen with
bait in their boats, or possessing legally caught trout outside the
special regulations sections, would be in noncompliance in the
delayed-harvest stretches.

&#8220Why did we put those delayed-harvest areas in there
anyway?” said Commissioner Sam Concilla, of Erie. &#8220If I
voted for these (special regulations sections), I’m sorry now.”

Commissioner Richard Czop, of Philadelphia, said about the same
thing. But in the end, the board decided to leave the situation the
way it is until a comprehensive review of Pine Creek trout-fishing
regulations is completed and a new management plan for the popular
stream is completed next year.

Locals had complained that youths were no longer able to use
bait in the delayed-harvest stretches, that represent only about
three miles of the nearly 60 miles of Pine Creek stocked with trout
by the Fish & Boat Commission. But other anglers have told
commissioners they really like the delayed-harvest regulations on
Pine.

Commissioner Bill Worobec, who was not on the board when the
delayed-harvest stretches were approved, persuaded other board
members not to change regulations on Pine Creek until local anglers
and landowners can be consulted.

&#8220If we don’t talk with people up there, we will look
like a bunch of jerks again,” he said. &#8220We would be guilty
of the same sin as when we implemented the regulations. In as much
as it’s my district, I would like to see us not change anything
until we get a comprehensive plan for Pine Creek.

&#8220We already got one black eye on this – I don’t want to
see us get another one.”

In the end, commissioners agreed on some wording to be added to
a regulation, which will be introduced into rulemaking at the next
commission meeting, that will protect from prosecution anglers
floating through delayed-harvest sections with bait and smaller
trout.

Special trout-fishing regulations on waters where anglers can
float through present a &#8220sticky wicket” for the
commission, pointed out Commissioner Bob Bachman, of Lancaster.
&#8220This is not the only place in the state where we have
this problem,” he said.

Commission law-enforcement chief Tom Kamerzel said similar
situations exist on Penns Creek in Centre County, the Clarion River
in Clarion County, the Little Juniata River in Huntingdon County
and the Youghiogheny River in Fayette County.

But Kamerzel took issue with commissioners’ statements about the
bad situation the delayed-harvest areas have created. &#8220I
don’t agree that this has created a law-enforcement nightmare,” he
said. &#8220Our officers have used excellent discretion in
dealing with this.”

The quarterly, two-day session started off with a presentation
from Rick Lorson, the commission’s fisheries manager in the
southwestern part of the state, recommending removal of big-bass
regulations from the Tarentum-Springdale Pool (Pool 3) of the lower
Allegheny River, less than two miles upstream from the Point in
Pittsburgh.

The big-bass regulations, which were implemented in the
mid-1990s, represent a failed experiment, Lorson noted. Through
careful monitoring of the bass population in the nine-mile-long
pool over the decade since the big-bass regulations were
established, biologists learned that the two major goals of the
big-bass regulations – more big bass and higher angler catch rates
– were not realized.

&#8220It didn’t work, so let’s get it outta here,” said
Commissioner Sam Concilla, of Erie. Commissioners later voted to
remove the big bass regulations from the lower Allegheny River.

But Commissioner Bachman pointed out that big-bass regulations
have achieved the desired result on the middle Susque-hanna River.
&#8220I want to emphasize that we shouldn’t take this lightly,”
he said. &#8220I guess my question is, ‘what is
different?’”

Lorson replied that he believes the rivers near Pittsburgh –
although much cleaner than they have been in more than a century –
are less fertile than the Susquehanna because they are still
affected by acid-mine drainage coming from upstream tributaries
such as the Kiskimintas River. Also he suspects the lock and dam
system is not as conducive to growing big bass as a free-flowing
riverine habitat.

Despite the failed experiment on the lower Allegheny River,
commissioners also had a lengthy discussion about putting big-bass
regulations on the West Branch of the Susquehanna River near Lock
Haven. They are worried that the smallmouth population in that
stretch might need to be protected from the anticipated heavy
fishing pressure to result from Pennsylvania Wilds
tourism-promotion efforts.

After considerable debate, commissioners decided to take no
action on bass-fishing special regulations for the West Branch
until commission biologists can collect data on &#8220angler
exploitation” of smallmouths in that section of the river in the
next year.

Interestingly, commission fisheries biologist Leroy Young
reported that data the commission has collected recently indicates
that more than three-fourths of the bass caught in the river are
already released by anglers. He suggested that environmental
factors such as river flow and reproductive classes have more
influence on the bass population than fishing.

&#8220This whole business of managing smallmouth bass in
rivers is a social issue,” said Doug Austen, commission executive
director. &#8220No matter what regulation we choose, we are
going to have bass. It’s not like they are going to go away.”

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