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A Matter of Opinions

Anglers and boaters care. They care about their sport, and they care about the resource. They care about the Fish & Boat Commission and its programs, and they care about proposed changes to fishing and boating regulations. Anglers and boaters have a wide variety of opinions. Anglers and boaters don't hesitate to let us know what they think, and they often communicate their views in no uncertain terms.

Let's look at a couple of examples that the Commission, the Boating Advisory Board and the staff are currently reviewing. The Commission received a petition to change special boating regulations on Beltzville Lake in Carbon County. The petitioners, avid water skiers, want the current regulations modified to open the entire lake to water skiing and expand the times when water skiing is allowed. At a public meeting held at Beltzville State Park, the comments were about evenly divided between supporters and opponents of the proposed changes. For every water skier who wanted the current regulations changed, there was an angler or other boater who thought his or her recreation would be hurt by more water skiing. After due consideration of the widely split opinions on this issue, the Commission decided to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking (and start a formal public comment process) on a proposal to keep the water-ski zone as is, while expanding the hours when water skiing is allowed.

Boating regulation proposals are not the only ones that attract wide divergences in public opinion. Proposed changes to our Delayed-Harvest trout fishing program have also attracted a lot of interest. Delayed-Harvest management is one of the most popular and widely used special-regulations programs the Commission offers.

The underlying principle in Delayed Harvest centers on the use of trout-stocked stream sections to offer a high catch-rate fishery that places less emphasis on harvest, creates less need for constant stocking, and provides opportunity to extend the "no-kill" experience to more anglers. The "no-kill" period extends from September until mid-June of the following year. From mid-June through Labor Day, the limited-harvest component allows anglers to take three trout per day. These trout would otherwise be lost to natural mortality as a result of stress induced by elevated water temperatures and reduced flows.

Delayed-Harvest management is a deliberate attempt to extend the use of stocked trout and to permit more types of anglers to experience no-kill angling. "Recycling" of trout is a key component of the Delayed-Harvest concept.  Therefore, to minimize hooking mortality, an Artificial-Lures-Only tackle restriction was created.

The Delayed-Harvest program began in 1983 with one water, a 1.25-mile section of Cool Spring Creek, Mercer County. In the past 15 years or so, Delayed Harvest has continued to grow. Today, there are 26 Delayed-Harvest, Fly-Fishing-Only (DHFFO) waters, and 51 Delayed-Harvest, Artificial-Lures-Only (DHALO) projects.

The Commission is currently seeking public comment on a concept to merge the two different tackle restrictions applicable to Delayed Harvest into a single DHALO program. This would provide for simpler regulations and more diverse trout fishing opportunities at a time of reduced trout stocking. The proposal has attracted a good deal of opposition from fly fishers who want to maintain the DHFFO restrictions.

The proposed change to Delayed-Harvest regulations does not affect the Heritage Trout Angling program, which was created specifically to reflect the tradition fly angling has played in Pennsylvania trout angling and conservation. The eight waters under the Heritage Trout Angling regulations offer no-kill trout fishing opportunities for fly-fishers only.

Even before the Commission approved publication of a notice of proposed rulemaking to seek public comment on the proposed changes to the Delayed-Harvest program, the idea of allowing fishing with artificial lures on Delayed-Harvest waters currently limited to fly fishing only attracted a lot of comment. Using today's modern communication techniques, including the Internet and e-mail, fly-fishers sent in many messages opposing any change to the Delayed-Harvest regulations. At the same time, supporters of "traditional angling" have contacted the Commission to indicate their opposition to any special tackle restrictions on trout waters. They want the Delayed-Harvest waters open to all tackle and oppose even the artificial-lures-only restrictions.

In the face of these diverse opinions, the Commission decided to seek public comment on proposed changes to the Delayed-Harvest program. In a similar move, the Commission decided to seek public comment on a suggestion to reduce the daily creel limit on panfish from 50 per day to 25 per day, effective in 2003. In seeking public comment on both these proposals, the Commissioners were not endorsing them.

It's important for anglers and boaters to understand the importance of their input in this process. The Commissioners (and the staff) read all public comments and give them full and fair consideration. A public comment period is a chance for anglers and boaters to share their reasoning as well as their conclusions.

The members of the Fish & Boat Commission cannot promise you that their decisions on regulations and policies will always agree with your opinions. But they can promise you that they will review and consider all viewpoints and make the very best decision they can in the best interests of the Commonwealth, fishing, boating and the resource.

Peter A. Colangelo
Executive Director
Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission


September/October 2001 PA Angler & Boater


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