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The Future of Trout Fishing in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania is a leader among states in the trout fishing opportunities we provide. In recent years, Pennsylvania has been among the top states in trout fishing days. When you calculate the number of trout fishing days per licensed angler, Pennsylvania is clearly "tops in trout."

In 1983, the Commission moved into a new era in management of Pennsylvania's trout fisheries. In a bold break from long-established practices and tradition, statewide management was implemented similar waters were managed under the same guidelines no matter which county or region of the state. Gone were the days of county quotas and license sales driving the number of stocked trout assigned to counties. For the first time, trout fishery management decisions were made on individual waters based on resource classification, which took key biological and social factors into consideration in assigning waters to the appropriate resource category.

Among the characteristics considered were the presence and abundance of wild trout. Pennsylvania had formal management of wild trout, including removal of the very best wild trout waters from the stocking program. What seemed revolutionary in 1983 has become accepted and established. "Resource First" is the agency's motto, and public awareness and support for wild trout management has grown beyond the expectations of anyone involved with those first efforts in 1983.

The evolution of resource-based trout management is reflected in the statewide plan, which was completely updated in 1997. The plan strikes an appropriate balance among many factors. That balance involves use of hatchery trout while ensuring that wild trout populations are protected and, where possible, enhanced. In the years since the first statewide trout fishery management plan was developed, we’ve had the opportunity to evaluate biological and social effects of various management initiatives, and we’ve had the flexibility to adjust to meet angler expectations and resource/fishery objectives better. Our plan reflects program adjustments based on the knowledge gained from angler use-and-harvest surveys, angler opinion-and-preference surveys, and fish population/biological assessments across the state. The Commission and the staff have worked diligently to provide a high level of trout angling opportunities while offering a diversity of angling experiences and protecting the integrity of our precious wild trout fisheries.

The Commission is not alone in pondering issues related to the future of trout fishing in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania Trout, a council of Trout Unlimited, is currently in the process of preparing "A Trout Management Policy for Pennsylvania." In May 2001, members of our staff met with leaders of Pennsylvania Trout to discuss the elements of that organization’s policy and how it relates to the Commission’s trout management plan.

Today, there is an urgent need to focus on our state fish hatcheries and the need to upgrade them. This focus does not reflect any change in the Commission's policy of protecting the integrity of wild trout fisheries. It recognizes, as has Pennsylvania Trout, that “hatchery-reared, catchable-sized trout provide valuable recreational fishing for Pennsylvania anglers.” And it recognizes that the Commonwealth must reduce the number of adult trout that we can stock in Pennsylvania waters for 2002 and beyond.

On May 23, 2001, I reported to the House Game and Fisheries Committee that Pennsylvania’s state-owned fish hatcheries are in trouble. No one should be surprised by this news, because we’ve been reporting about the urgent need to upgrade our hatchery infrastructure for the last four or five years.

The problems we face in our hatchery system can be summarized in just two words: Water and money. Our hatcheries are facing challenges related to the quantity of water that flows into them and the quality of water that flows out of them. Addressing the urgent need to operate with less water and to discharge water of better quality will require a great deal of money. We have sought, and we are continuing to seek, funding for these projects.

House Resolution 500, passed in 2000, called on the Commission to take a comprehensive, independent look at the statewide hatchery system. This study effort is well under way. The Commission has contracted with FishPro Consulting Engineers and Scientists to undertake this comprehensive review. The Pennsylvania project is nothing new for FishPro. It's very similar to the work they've done for several other states. FishPro has been involved in more than 400 hatchery projects in about 40 states and provinces. Their effort will be completed next spring. This review will include full consideration of consolidation, reduced production, commercial procurement of fish for stocking and other steps to improve the efficiency of the hatchery system.

This study will provide the blueprint for the future of the Commonwealth's hatcheries. We will be able to make that blueprint a reality with the support of Pennsylvania's anglers, the General Assembly and the Administration.

Starting with the 2002 stocking year, we will reduce statewide adult trout production by more than 20 percent. Cutting production will reduce the quantity of water required to flow through the raceways. It will reduce the amount of food that needs to be fed to the fish and the amount of waste generated. We are cutting more than a million adult trout from our statewide stocking program.

The Commission is not taking the need to cut adult trout stocking lightly. We are working with the General Assembly and the Administration to obtain the funding to upgrade our hatcheries. We are looking at innovative alternatives to raise adult trout at different locations. We are making plans to reallocate the scarce stocked trout resource in a manner that reflects the resource and improves the efficiency and effectiveness of our stocking efforts.

Even as we address the "supply side" of the stocked trout equation in a comprehensive manner, the Commission recognizes the need to address the demand side as well. What is the demand for adult trout stocking in Pennsylvania? How important are stocked trout to the trout fishing opportunities we provide? If the number of fishing license buyers has declined over the past 10 years, shouldn’t the number of stocked trout also decline?

These are all important questions, and we will address them as part of our review of the future of trout fishing in Pennsylvania. The cuts in adult trout production for 2002, driven by water quality and water quantity concerns, are the equivalent of closing two hatcheries. We are undertaking a careful assessment of the need and demand for adult trout stocking. Such an assessment will be more complex than just calculating the number of stocked trout per license buyer. We believe more waters will be eligible for trout stocking in the future in light of improved water quality through Growing Greener and other programs. We will look at public access and posting. We will review angler demand considering the number of Pennsylvania trout anglers.

Finally, we will solicit and consider the views of our customers, Pennsylvania’s trout anglers. In May and June 2001, the Fish & Boat Commission conducted five public forums for Pennsylvania sportsmen to discuss the future of trout fishing in Pennsylvania. At the first two of these public forums, there were no calls for the Commission to reduce further the number of trout stocked. So far, here is what we are hearing from anglers:

-They want our state fish hatcheries to be fixed so they don't impair Commonwealth waters and so they can provide fishing opportunities.

-They support state funding to fix up our hatcheries.

-They support restoring the cuts in adult trout production when the hatcheries are capable of doing so with improved water quality.

The next few months will be critical for the future of trout fishing in Pennsylvania. For years, the Fish & Boat Commission has been calling for support for funding to upgrade our hatcheries. For years, the Commission has been devoting extra efforts and extra resources to our hatchery programs. Now, as our hatcheries set up for the 2002 stocking program, the crunch time has come. Pennsylvania anglers need to let their voices be heard and to speak up in support of a program to fund the necessary upgrades in state hatcheries.

Stillwater Access Dedicated

Officials of the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Pennsylvania-American Water Company recently dedicated the public access at Stillwater Reservoir, Susquehanna County.

The 85-acre lake, which is home to bass, panfish and other popular game fish species, is located off Route 171 near Uniondale. The access lets anglers and boaters enjoy the reservoir, which provides public recreation on a lake in an area where there are few similar opportunities. The access was developed as a cooperative project among the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which owns the lake; Pennsylvania-American Water Company, which leases the water rights to the impoundment; and the Commission, which constructed a parking area for 11 cars with trailers and 17 single cars. Parking for the physically challenged is also available.

"This is a perfect example of what a collaborative effort can produce," said Fish & Boat Commissioner Paul J. Mahon, who helped facilitate the project. "These projects don't happen overnight, but with a lot of cooperation by everyone involved, the outcome is something that we can all be proud to say we participated in."

All boats using these facilities must be under 18 feet in length and be properly registered or display a valid non-powered boat use permit. No internal combustion engine may be possessed or used to propel a boat on Stillwater Reservoir, and possession of marine fuel is prohibited on the property. Boats propelled by electric motors and any non-mechanically propelled boats may be used.

Group photo

Among those attending the dedication were (l to r) Commission Executive Director Peter A. Colangelo; Baltimore District Corps of Engineers Operations Director Christine Correale; Commission President Ted Keir; Greg Mollenkopf, Baltimore District Corps of Engineers; Fish & Boat Commissioner Paul J. Mahon; Pennsylvania-American Water Company Operations Manager Dave Kaufman; State Representative Sandra Major; and Mike Protz, Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmens' Clubs.

135 year patch

July/August 2001 Angler & Boater

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