With more than 83,000 miles of rivers and streams and thousands of lakes, impoundments and ponds, Pennsylvania has one of the largest and most diverse water resources systems in the nation. The Fish and Boat Commission has a mission to provide fishing and boating opportunities through the protection and management of the Commonwealth's aquatic resources. The work to fulfill that mission takes on many forms, from managing fish populations to conducting safe boating programs, from law enforcement patrols to producing publications on how and where to enjoy angling opportunities. It would be nearly impossible to recount everything the Commission achieved in fiscal year 1997-98, but here are some special highlights.
The fiscal year started on a positive note with the Commission receiving recognition for the work to build a coalition of citizens, businesses, and organizations interested in preserving nongame fish and wildlife species in the Commonwealth. The International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies presented the award to the Commission and its sister agency, the Game Commission, for joint efforts to build grassroots support for the creation of a stable funding source for nongame species.
The Commission also worked with other partners, including the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and Pennsylvania Trout, to award the first grants under the Coldwater Heritage Partnership Program. Seven grants, totaling $36,000, were awarded in late July to organizations involved in the protection of coldwater stream habitats.
A new initiative to develop a statewide network of scenic water trails was announced later in the fall. A 24-mile stretch of the Susquehanna River between Halifax and Harrisburg served as the pilot, and after development of a trail guide and camping sites, the "Susquehanna River Trail: An Island Adventure" was inaugurated in the spring. The long-term goal is to develop a series of self-guided "officially designated" water trails across the Commonwealth for non-powered and powered boat users. Ultimately, each trail leg will be "adopted" by a local sponsor and will be detailed in publications providing information on public access, camping, wildlife viewing, and history.
Speaking of boating guides, the Commission's Pennsylvania Boating Handbook was recognized by the Association for Conservation Information as the top publication of its kind in the nation. For the first time, the handbook was also posted online via the Commission's World Wide Web site: www.fish.state.pa.us.
There were plenty of new boaters with the opportunity to read the handbookthe number of registered watercraft in the state continued to rise. Year-end totals for 1997 showed a record high of 340,637 registered boats in the state.
To handle all those registrations, the Commission upgraded its computer processing system. The old software was more than 30 years old; the new software provides better fiscal checks and balances and addresses the "Year 2000" problem. Change is never easy, and the transition from the aging system to the new and improved one did come with a few growing pains. Implementation was initially slower than the software vendor had originally projected. Those issues were subsequently addressed and the system is now fully functional.
The Bureau of Law Enforcement's year-end report shows a total of 11,539 fishing and boating violations prosecuted and another 42,499 instances resulting in warnings.
A new state record for smallmouth bass was weighed in during the course of the fiscal year. At 8 pounds, 8 ounces, the new mark easily surpassed the old mark of 7 pounds,10 ounces.
Just how and when anglers should be allowed to catch bass was the subject of much discussion during the fiscal year. Staff and Commissioners traveled across the state, conducting four public hearings on a proposal to move toward a year-round bass fishing season.
The state's sportsmen also had their voices heard on Capitol Hill. Calling it a "repayment 30 years overdue," Governor Tom Ridge unveiled his budget proposal in the spring with nearly $800,000 in compensation to the Fish Fund for no-cost licenses issued to disabled veterans. Anglers, organized clubs, and some legislators had previously spent years joining the Commission in a push for proper repayment for the licenses.
The Commission's "Day at a hatchery" again ran successfully at the Linesville Fish Culture Station. The popular early spring open house showcased fish-rearing techniques, fisheries management tools, basic casting skills, clinics, and a fish fry.
The Commission stocked 780 streams and 110 lakes with adult trout between March 1 and April 17 in anticipation of trout season opening day. In all, the preseason stocking program covered nearly 4,800 miles of stream and 6,155 lake acres. A total of 2.6 million trout were released in the process.
Inseason trout stockings included an additional 3.7 million adult trout in 705 streams and 121 lakes. For the second year, the inseason stocking program included a popular series of announced Saturday stockings at various lakes across the Commonwealth. Designed specifically with beginning anglers in mind, the program also proved successful with anglers whose work demands keep them from fishing during the week.
Warmwater/coolwater stocking, and Lake Erie stocking, included: More than 1.5 million brown trout, steelhead, and coho salmon smolts; 20,500 lake trout; 54,700 largemouth bass; 29,096 smallmouth bass; more than 169,000 muskies and tiger muskies; more than 26,000 paddlefish; more than 652,000 saugers and saugeyes; more than 412,000 striped bass and striped bass hybrids; more than 74.7 million walleyes; and more than 938,000 various panfish species.
A major realignment of our production assignments gave a boost to warmwater/coolwater stocking programs. The biggest boost came from our Pleasant Mount Fish Culture Station, where retrofit raceways and advanced techniques in pond management improved production. The result was a number of species realignments that translate into significant program improvements for striped bass, hybrid striped bass, saugers, saugeyes, and muskellunge. As a result, the Commission is now less dependent on trade with other states to acquire these popular game fish.
Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission Financial Report for Fiscal Year 1997-98(July 1, 1997, through June 30, 1998) Ross E. Starner, Comptroller
Total Fish Fund Revenue $29,071,440 100%
Licenses and Fees $20,428,056 70%
Fines and Penalties $331,970 1%
Miscellaneous Revenue $2,207,633 8%
Augmentations $6,103,781 21%
Total Boat Fund Revenue $8,579,878 100%
Licenses and Fees $4,103,972 48%
Fine and Penalties $171,330 2%
Miscellaneous Revenue $2,083,530 24%
Augmentations $2,221,046 26%
Total Fish Fund Expenditures $27,301,756 100%
Personnel Services $18,829,211 69%
Operational Expenses $6,422,735 24%
Fixed Assets/Capital Improvements $1,678,451 6%
Grants and Subsidies $371,359 1%
Total Boat Fund Expenditures $9,443,907 100%
Personnel Services $5,772,159 61%
Operational Expenses $2,612,908 28%
Fixed Assets/Capital Improvements $995,483 11%
Grants, Subsidies, Adjustments $63,357 < 1%
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March/April 1999 PA Angler & Boater
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