Slate Run, Pa. — Pine Creek is again scheduled to be a topic of discussion when the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission meets Sept. 29-30. And again, there are differences in opinion as to how the stream should be managed.
At issue is a 1.6-mile section of the “destination” stream in Lycoming County.
That stretch currently is classified as an Approved Trout Water and has regular statewide regulations typical of most stocked streams. These regulations allow trout to be creeled during certain times of the year and allow the use of all types of terminal tackle.
By action of the commission, come January, 2015, it will become Delayed Harvest Artificial Lures Only.
At their summer meeting, the commissioners voted unanimously to extend the current 1.2-mile delayed harvest area – adding that 1.6-mile section (from below Slate Run to the mouth of Bonnell Run) to the existing section.
This commission action, suggested originally by the Brown Trout Club, followed a standing-room-only public meeting in early June and a public comment period.
At the time, Commission Executive Director John Arway referred to that board action as “a necessary first step.” He said that the board would evaluate other options for the long-term management of this section of Pine Creek at its September meeting.
Commissioner Bill Worobec, of Williamsport, whose district includes Pine Creek, agreed that this step was necessary because of the current overcrowding in the existing 1.2-mile delayed harvest area.
“We created a more exciting fishing experience when we made that section of Pine Creek delayed harvest in 2007, and anglers flocked there from all over Pennsylvania, as well as other states,” he said.
“This year, I talked with a group of four fly-fishermen on the stream. They were from Maine, New York, Utah and Vermont, and they came here just to fish this section of Pine Creek.
“Making it Delayed Harvest Artificial Lures Only was the best that we could do. It was imperative that we acted to stop the over-crowding that was occurring in the current 1.2-mile special regs area. People were driving there, finding it too crowded and not coming back.”
Some local residents were unhappy with the commission’s decision, however, claiming that it excluded a certain segment of the angling population from fishing there.
“I see two groups of people here, one group of mostly local people, who claim that the regulation change will just take more stream away from local children and anglers who fish with bait – making it off limits,” commented Bill Sabatose, commissioner from Elk County.
“Another group claims that [the current 1.2-mile Delayed Harvest Area] is a special place that brings in people to the area. They spend money in the local area and it boosts fishing license sales,” Sabatose added.
Worobec admits that there are two groups of people with differing opinions, but he sees one small group with few facts to back their opinions and another larger group of mostly fly-anglers who have the facts on their side.
“I don’t believe that we should make resource decisions based on the ‘ballot box,’ but in this case we [the commission] received well over 900 comments about extending the delayed harvest section and fewer than 50 were opposed to the change,” Worobec said in a recent phone interview.
“We checked those comments and a number of those opposed were repeats by the same people and some of the people opposed didn’t even buy a fishing license.
“Even considering the public comment, it was my motion to direct staff to come up with other regulatory options – something with a better fit,” Worobec said.
“Is there a better way? I want the best regulation for that section of Pine Creek. By ‘best,’ I mean the regulation that creates the most broadly accepted fishing experience.”
Sabatose also wants the “best fit,” but he is strongly in favor of allowing the use of bait in this and all delayed harvest areas after June 15. Worobec seems bent on excluding bait.
Two things are happening with respect to Pine Creek – sections of the stream in discussion will be surveyed this month to see how many trout are there, and commission biologists are preparing a presentation for commissioners.
“Weather and water conditions permitting, our biologists are going to electro-shock two sections of Pine Creek – near the mouth of Little Slate Run and at DCNR’s Tomb Flats Access,” Sabatose said. “I plan to be there to see for myself.”
Chief of Fisheries Management Dave Miko addressed staff preparation for the meeting.
“The staff is putting together a presentation for the September commission meeting,” he said. “Jason Detar [a fish biologist] will present a framework for discussion for the commissioners, not a proposal. We will attempt to address the concerns of some of the people who are unhappy with the Delayed Harvest Artificial Lures Only regulations.
“The framework will make suggestions about how we could possibly involve a broader range of potential users, along with a rationale for those suggestions.
“Jason will put that out there and the commissioners will discuss it. We are open to new ideas from the commissioners.”
Although Miko would not discuss the details of the framework, he did say that it would not include a special children’s fishing area, nor a change away from delayed-harvest regulations to year-round catch-and-release.
Neither Worobec nor Sabatose anticipates any formal action of proposals for Pine Creek at the September meeting – just discussion. However, the board is obviously split on the issue.
While Worobec is happy with the artificials-only regulation that has been passed, Sabatose vowed, “This is far from over.”