Thoughts on banning bait on 7 miles of Penns Creek

Mark NaleThe Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission is considering a ban on bait fishing for 7 miles of Penns Creek, one of Pennsylvania’s best wild-trout streams. The section in question (from Elk Creek downstream to the current catch and release area) is currently under All Tackle Trophy Trout regulations – bait, lure and fly-fishing is allowed. UnderAll Tackle Trophy Trout regulations rules, an angler may creel a maximum of two trout — 14 inches or longer — per day, from the traditional opening day of trout season through Labor Day.

I am primarily a lure fisherman, so if bait is banned, that is 7 more miles of water to which I would have access without those pesky bait anglers bothering me. However, I am not a selfish fisherman, and generally speaking, I am in favor of the least-restrictive regulations — as long as the resource is protected. I’ve always figured that the more people who are allowed to fish a stream, the more “friends” the stream has. Considering all possible environmental threats, most streams need all of the friends that they can get.

So what is the issue here? Penns Creek already seems to have lots of trout — could it hold more and/or bigger fish if bait fishing were to be banned? Maybe. Does the Fish & Boat Commission want to afford Penns Creek more protection, or create more “exclusive” water where bait fishing isn’t allowed?

The agency's Chief of Fisheries Leroy Young has indicated that the change would be “an experiment” — one that would take four to six years. I like experiments — that’s how things are learned or verified in the world of science. One Pennsylvania trout experiment discovered that over 95% of the brown trout in the Little Juniata River were wild, as opposed to having been stocked as fingerlings. Another study documented that most of the hatchery trout planted in certain streams disappear before the opening day.

What is the real issue here? Have All-Tackle Trophy Trout or All-Tackle Catch & Release regulations fallen out of favor with several commissioners? Although that is my take on the story, I still like well-thought-out experiments.

Pennsylvania Outdoor News coverage suggests that anglers are evenly divided regarding their support for this regulation change. So, should you support the experiment or complain about the loss of a favorite fishing spot?

Here is my suggestion to the Fish & Boat Commission. If the purpose were truly to conduct a study, the experiment would be much better if two streams were studied at the same time.

Go ahead and make the change on Penns Creek — ban bait fishing for 7 miles. However, also select a fly-fishing-only water — perhaps the 7 miles of Slate Run in Lycoming & Tioga counties — currently under Catch and Release Fly-Fishing Only rules. Open the stream section up to All Tackle Catch and Release for the same number of years … or maybe just do the study on Slate Run and forget Penns Creek altogether.

What do you think?

Note: Just in case you didn’t catch my humor – I don’t actually think that bait anglers are “pesky.” They have just as much right to fish as anyone else.

Categories: Pennsylvania – Mark Nale

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