Fish and Boat Commission wants to know what fish you're stocking in Pennsylvania waters (2024)

If you want to stock your own fish in a Pennsylvania stream or lake in 2024, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission wants to know about it.

The agency voted Monday to require notice of the number of fish and species individuals or hatcheries intend to release in a public or private waterway.

The requirement was made to improve the agency’s understanding of the stockings occurring in Pennsylvania, protect aquatic resources and address increased risks associated with aquatic invasive species and pathogens.

Dave Nihart, chief of fisheries management, said when anglers catch fish in one waterway and restock them in another stream or lake, there’s a chance an invasive species may be moved to a new area. “It’s one of the biggest ways we see fish being moved throughout the state,” he said.

The change would affect everything from an angler transporting the fish caught on one waterway and moving them to a stream or pond, as well as major stockings done by private fish hatcheries. Small ornamental ponds are exempt.

The agency reports more than 30 states have requirements for tracking how and when fish are stocked.Pennsylvania has been the only state in the Northeast that doesn’t require some form of documentation.

In March 2022, the agency considered a stocking authorization process instead of a notice of stocking. That effort garnered 1,073 public comments including 523 who opposed the proposal and 306 people who opposed portions of the proposal.

After meeting with sporting groups, private fish hatcheries and members of the aquaculture industry, the agency compromised, only requiring a notice of stocking.

Fish and Boat Commission wants to know what fish you're stocking in Pennsylvania waters (1)

Adam Pritts, speaking Monday on behalf of Laurel Hill Trout Farm in Somerset and Westmoreland counties, asked the board about holding off on a decision.

“A lot of good work has been put into it and this document is way better than it was a year or so ago when it started. That being said, I can’t get behind it as is. This isn’t an ideology issue. Everything that’s in there I can actually support from an ideological standpoint. The problem becomes some of the language is fairly gray," Pritts said.

As someone who financially relies on the industry, he would like some of the wording like “drainage areas” and “fish” better defined.

He said he believes the document is about 90% where it needs to be.

Dave Rothrock, of the Pennsylvania Council of Trout Unlimited, said the group supports the proposal. "We would certainly like to believe that is a step toward revisiting, hopefully, ultimately instituting a stocking authorization as well," he told the board. "We believe this is an essential tool to help the PFBC better manage our commonwealth’s waters.”

After the vote to implement the measure, Commissioner Richard Lewis of Gettysburg said, “This is a compromise situation. We, as a commission, didn’t get everything we wanted out of it and I’m sure, after hearing the public comments here this morning, that commercial fish nurseries have a few things that they felt they would have liked to get out of it. This is a compromise, and I think it’s a good compromise.”

The regulation requires an electronic or hard copy notice of the stocking to be present when the fish are being stocked. The change is effective Jan. 1 and the one-page document can be submitted online or by mail.

Stocking was one of the items that came before the commissioners at their quarterly meeting Monday in Harrisburg. In other matters:

Background on stocking notifications:PFBC wants to change regs for private trout fisheries. What does a hatchery owner think?

Wild brown trout protection

Commissioners approved a notice of proposed rulemaking to address Class A wild brown trout-designated streams that are also stocked with hatchery-raised rainbow trout in central Pennsylvania.

In an effort to protect wild trout, the board voted to change the regulations on 12 stream sections where brown trout will be catch-and-release only, but other species of trout like rainbow can be harvested under statewide general regulations.

The following streams would be added to the list of waters managed under miscellaneous special regulations:

  • Yellow Creek, Section 04, Bedford County
  • Pohopoco Creek, Section 04, Carbon County
  • Bald Eagle Creek, Section 06, Centre County
  • Penns Creek, Section 02, Centre County
  • Fishing Creek, sections 13 and 14, Clinton County
  • Little Lehigh Creek, Sections 04 and 07, Lehigh County
  • Monocacy Creek, Section 09, Lehigh and Northampton counties
  • Kishacoquillas Creek, Section 05, Mifflin County
  • Martins Creek, Section 01, Northampton County
  • Monocracy Creek, Section 08, Northampton County.

If adopted, the amendment would go into effect Jan. 1.

Let the little ones go:Should the minimum size for trout in Pennsylvania be raised? A study is underway

Boat decals

The board gave final approval for boat registration decals to expire Dec. 31 instead of March 31, which has been the past practice for the two-year licenses. The commission will begin issuing two-calendar-year boat registrations in October that will be valid from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31, 2025.

Paddleboarders and life jackets

Paddleboards may soon have the same life-jacket requirements as kayaks and canoes. The agency is making its regulations similar to the U.S. Coast Guard that defined paddleboards as vessels.

Laurel Anders, director of boating, said paddleboards are growing in popularity and there’s been confusion regarding life-jacket requirements. “Many operators don’t have life jackets on board and don’t realize their device is considered a boat according to the Coast Guard’s definition,” she said.

The agency will need a second vote on the new regulation before it becomes law.

Fish and Boat Commission wants to know what fish you're stocking in Pennsylvania waters (2)

Fishing cleaning station in Erie

The board approved additional funding of $100,000 for an Erie Access Improvement Grant to the Erie-Western Pennsylvania Port Authority for the construction of a fish cleaning station at Lampe Marina.

While the agency originally awarded $150,000 in April 2021 and $100,000 in July 2022, it was determined that an additional $150,000 was required to complete the project and planned improvements to the design.

Work is scheduled to start in the spring and the design will be similar to two other cleaning stations near Lake Erie, at the Walnut Creek Marina and North East Marina, that were constructed two years ago. Those stations were builtfor roughly the same cost.

Dan Pastore, board vice president from Erie County, said, “The two existing fish cleaning stations have been extremely popular with the anglers. I was at the Walnut Creek one last week, there was actually a line to clean fish. Six different stations, all of them cleaning fish. People love them, and so I think this is a nice place between the North East Marina and the Walnut Creek Marina.”

Brian Whipkey is the outdoors columnist for USA TODAY Network sites in Pennsylvania. Contact him and sign up for our weekly Go OutdoorsPA newsletter email on this website's homepage under your login name.Follow him on Facebook@whipkeyoutdoors ,Twitter@whipkeyoutdoors and Instagram atwhipkeyoutdoors.

Fish and Boat Commission wants to know what fish you're stocking in Pennsylvania waters (2024)
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