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Requirements & Law
NURSERY WATERS are closed to fishing at all times.

REFUGE AREAS on streams are CLOSED TO ALL ENTRY AND FISHING during the period March 1 through June 14.

FIELD DRESSING AND DISPOSAL OF FISH – It is unlawful to possess a fish in any form or condition other than in the whole or having the entrails removed while on shore, along the waters of the Commonwealth, onboard a boat or on a dock, pier, launch area or parking lot adjacent thereto. Fish may be processed fully if they are being prepared for immediate consumption on site. This does not apply to fish processed at a fish cleaning station officially recognized by the Commission or by a permitted charter boat/fishing guide operation.

It is unlawful to discard any fish carcass or parts thereof into the waters of the Commonwealth or upon any public or private lands contiguous to the waters unless disposal is on lands with permission from the landowner or it is where fish are properly disposed into suitable garbage or refuse collection systems or at an officially recognized fish cleaning station.

TAGGED FISH – The Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission and agencies in adjacent states apply tags to fish for special research purposes. If an angler catches a tagged fish and wishes to keep the fish, the tag number and location of the catch should be reported to the address or phone number on the tag or to the Fish & Boat Commission. If the angler doesn’t wish to keep the fish, no attempt should be made to remove the tag unless special instructions have been posted at access areas, by the media or elsewhere. For example, sometimes the Fish & Boat Commission uses two-part tags and parts of or all of the tags should be removed in some cases with scissors or a knife. This type of tag typically resembles rubber spaghetti and information such as tag numbers and toll-free phone numbers can be easily read. Tagged fish that are not kept should be returned to the water immediately after removing the tag or recording the information from the tag. In no case should tags be pulled from a fish as this will cause significant injuries.

It is unlawful for a person to implant tracking devices in or to tag, brand, mark or fin clip any fish taken from Commonwealth waters, unless the fish:

  • are purchased from an authorized commercial aquaculture facility,
  • are part of a Commission-recognized and sanctioned stocking by a cooperative nursery,
  • are authorized by a scientific collector’s permit issued by the Commission, or
  • are part of a tagged fish contest in a boundary lake for which the Commission has issued a permit.
BOATING – Coast Guard-approved wearable personal flotation devices (PFDs) are required for each occupant on all types of boats in all waters. Children 12 years of age and younger must wear an approved Type I, II, III, or V PFD while underway on Commonwealth waters in any boat 20 feet or less in length and in all canoes and kayaks. See PFD (life jacket) requirements.

Motorboats (including boats powered by electric motors) must be registered. Boat operators of boats with greater than 25 horsepower and born on or after Jan. 1, 1982, may not operate unless they have obtained and have in possession a Boating Safety Education Certificate.

Owners of unregistered, unpowered boats (canoes, kayaks, rowboats, etc.) that launch their boats at Commission lakes, access areas and properties, and at PA state parks and forests must display the Commission’s launch use permit. PA state park launching and mooring decals are also recognized.

View the PA Boating Handbook for boating laws and boating safety information.

Boaters are required, by law, to wear life jackets on boats less than 16 feet in length or any canoe or kayak during the cold weather months from November 1 through April 30. This requirement is intended to protect boaters from the dangers of cold water shock if they fall into the water.

The risk of an accident being fatal is significantly higher when the air and water temperatures are colder in late fall through spring. Over the last 15 years, cold water incidents represented only eight percent of the boating-related accidents, but they resulted in 24 percent of the fatalities. Victims who are wearing a life jacket when exposed to cold water have potentially life-saving advantages.

See Personal Flotation Device (Life Jacket) Requirements page for more life jacket information.
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