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Q & A
Slot Limits
Question
I've heard that some states use slot limits, where you can legally take fish in a certain size range, but anything smaller or bigger has to be released. Has anything like this been considered for trout in Pennsylvania? Would it give more protection to those trout that are the prime breeders?
Answer
Slot limits were originally implemented for the management of largemouth bass fisheries. The basic idea with these regulations was to provide protection for some quality size fish and also protect a segment of the population for recruitment purposes.

The variation of the slot limit regulations that you asked about is very similar to a regulation that was used on an experimental basis to manage a wild brown trout fishery in Wisconsin during the mid 1980's. The study was conducted on a fertile limestone stream, similar in productivity to our limestone streams in Pennsylvania. Under this variation of the slot limit, anglers were permitted to harvest one trout per day between 14 and 17 inches in length.

The results of this study concluded that the slot limit regulations did not improve numbers of larger trout (20-inch range), and essentially the same results could have been accomplished with the use of a 14-inch minimum length limit. Therefore, at the completion of the study, it was recommended that the slot limit regulations should be replaced with a simpler 14-inch minimum length limit. Other studies using slot limit regulations for wild trout fisheries have provided mixed reviews, at best. In most cases, the best management practice for these special regulations fisheries would be to manage them with the use of an elevated minimum length limit such as 14 inches.

In Pennsylvania, we utilize a variety of management programs for wild trout. For example, Trophy Trout regulations are one form of special regulations designed to stockpile adult trout and provide a high catch and release rate fishery for trout that are somewhat larger than the average 10-inch catchable size trout. In addition, Trophy Trout regulations also provide anglers with an opportunity to catch some larger trout (greater than 14 inches in length) on the waters managed under these regulations. Typically, anglers do not place a great deal of emphasis on harvesting trout when they visit the waters that we manage under special regulations. Based on the results from some of our recent surveys, we know that many of the legal size trout caught by anglers in these areas are being released.

Fisheries Managers are sometimes criticized for implementing regulations that are confusing to the average angler. Slot limits are certainly more complicated than a simple minimum length limit. Considering the fact that slot limits have not been more effective (and in some cases less effective) than a simple minimum length limit, we have not implemented them as part of the special regulations package to manage Pennsylvania wild trout fisheries.

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