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HARRISBURG — The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission at its regular quarterly meeting voted to change bowfishing regulations.

Although the use of longbows, crossbows, spears and gigs used in bow fishing is already regulated in the Pennsylvania code, these changes are intended to address a growing number of staff complaints. responsible for the application of the PFBC law concerning the intense lighting and the noise of the generator which can be created by those who practice bow fishing. The changes will prohibit bow fishing in all special regulated trout waters; make it illegal to shine direct rays of a searchlight, mounted beacon or other artificial light of any kind from a watercraft onto an occupied building or another watercraft; and limit the noise of generators used on board a boat during bowfishing to a maximum of 90 dB(a), which is in line with regulations on noise produced by motor boats.

When measuring sound emissions, the test measurement shall be made with the sound level meter at a distance of at least four feet above the water at a point where the transom gunwale and the gunwale port or starboard cross each other.

Also related to bowfishing regulations, commissioners voted to approve the publication of a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would add invasive snakeheads to the list of approved species that can be targeted with bows. longs, crossbows, spears and gigs. Snakeheads are an invasive species found in some Commonwealth waters, primarily in the South East region, but range expansion to new waters across the state is threatening the fishery popular sport.

Many states surrounding Pennsylvania already allow bowfishing as a method of harvesting snakeheads to reduce their impact on the aquatic resources where they reside.

Under this proposal, it would remain illegal to possess and transport live snakeheads and to introduce live snakeheads into Pennsylvania waters. The PFBC recommends that all captured snakeheads be disposed of properly and not released.

This is still subject to final rule approval at a future meeting.

Council voted to change the snatch fishing, phishing and snag fishing regulations. In recent years, anglers have asked the CBFP whether devices such as trout beads are a legal device to use in Commonwealth waters. These devices consist of a small bead that sits several inches above the hook and usually hooks a fish outside of the mouth. According to current regulations, any fish not hooked inside the mouth must be released.

Under this change, the regulations would be amended to include language specifying that devices such as trout beads are permitted as long as the eye of the hook is no more than two inches below the device.

Commissioners voted to change the regulations relating to the illegal taking of fish using nets. In recent years, the DMOs have noticed an increase in the number of individuals using nets in an attempt to catch fish. As part of this change, the Pennsylvania code will be amended to include new language prohibiting the “try to catch fish” using unauthorized fishing methods.

Commissioners voted to change the regulations for officially recognized fish cleaning stations. In order to help correctly identify fish species that have already been processed at a non-commercial fish cleaning station, under this amendment anglers will be required to retain a two-by-two-inch piece of skin inches on fish fillets and to prohibit the cutting of fillets into pieces.

All approved changes will be effective upon publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.

Boating

The board voted to approve the publication of a notice of proposed rulemaking regarding electric boat motors. Current regulations limit boat propulsion to electric motors only on lakes owned or controlled by PFBC, certain state park lakes, and bodies of water specified in the Specially Regulated Counties Act.

Due to advances in technology that have resulted in electric motors capable of very high power and speed similar to gasoline internal combustion engines, this proposal would amend the following regulations to clarify that electric motors cannot not operate at speeds greater than slow, no-speed wake on certain waters.

In addition, where power limitations are prescribed, they only apply to internal combustion engines (i.e. petrol or diesel). Boaters should note that internal combustion engines attached or installed in boats do not need to be removed, but these engines cannot be used on these waters.

If adopted during the development of the final rules at a future meeting, this amendment will enter into force on January 1, 2023.

Commissioners voted to approve changes to the fire extinguisher regulations for recreational motorboats. This change, which will bring CBFP regulations in line with updated US Coast Guard rules, will not change which motorboats are required to have fire extinguishers on board, but relieves these recreational vessels of certain inspection requirements, maintenance and record keeping which are more suitable for commercial vessels.

The amendment would also establish that portable fire extinguishers, when required to be carried on pleasure motorboats, must be kept in “good and helpful” condition, which is consistent with the wording of the USCG rules. These changes will come into effect on January 1, 2023.

Council voted to approve changes to several by-laws relating to boat-towed water sports. Under these changes, the language in several sections of the Pennsylvania Code would be updated to better reflect current trends and provide consistency when referring to this type of boating activity.

After reviewing the model language adopted in 2021 by the National Association of Administrators of State Boating Legislation, the CBFP has identified opportunities to update the language to better include towed water sport activities and devices by modern boats and clarify the regulations, but not modify the activities currently prohibited or authorized.

Sin

The Board has approved changes to fishing regulations on Penns Creek, Section 03, a Class A wild trout stream with a robust population of wild brown trout in Central and Mifflin counties. Under this change, a miscellaneous special rule that had been in place since 2014 will be removed. The current Special Miscellaneous Regulations are an experimental trout slot limit regulations that permitted year-round fishing, the use of all types of tackle, and the harvesting of two trout per day from at least seven inches but less than 12 inches in length, from the opening day of the regular trout season through Labor Day, with no harvest permitted the remainder of the year.

Following CBFP surveys from 2014 to 2019 which revealed the presence of larger brown trout (over 16 inches in length) and favorable feedback from anglers during this experimental period, CBFP created an Official Trout Program Slot Limit with two sub-programs in 2021. Upon removal of the current Special Miscellaneous Rule, Penns Creek, Section 03 will be proposed for designation in the All-Tackle Trout Slot Limit Program at a future Board meeting.

It should be noted that while the name of the bylaw applied to Penns Creek, Section 03 will change, the bylaw itself will remain the same. This change will take effect on January 1, 2023.

The Board approved the addition of nine sections of watercourses to the list of Class A wild trout streams and the addition of 19 new waters to the list of wild trout streams in the CBFP. A list of proposed waters for Wild Trout Stream and Class A Wild Trout Stream designation can be found on the PFBC website. The Council also approved the addition of 19 new waters to the list of wild trout streams. All such additions will be effective upon publication of a second notice in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.




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Earnest A. Martinez