The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission wants to crack down on problems caused by nighttime bow fishing, which has become extremely popular on the lower Susquehanna River in recent years.
“The biggest complaint law enforcement receives is the number of homes lit by this activity,” said Col. Clyde Warner, director of the agency’s Bureau of Law Enforcement.
Excessive noise from generators that power special lights used for bow fishing is another common complaint the Fish and Boat Commission hears.
And according to agency officials, most bowfishing complaints in Pennsylvania come from the south-central region, which includes Lancaster and York counties under the state division of the Fish. and Boat Commission.
“Primarily on the Susquehanna River seems to be where the bulk of complaints are coming from with fixed properties on the shore,” Warner said.
The lower Susquehanna River – particularly from Washington Boro north to Harrisburg – is one of the most popular areas in Pennsylvania for bow fishing, and there are many homes and camps along the river in this stretch.
At their annual winter meeting last month, members of the Fish and Boat Commission gave preliminary approval to three new bowfishing rules.
The first is to make bowfishing, spearfishing and jigging illegal on all special regulated trout waters, such as those classified as Catch and Release All Tackle, Delayed Harvest Artificial Lures Only and Trophy Trout All Tackle, among others.
In Lancaster County, these waters would be the Catch-and-Release, Fly-Fishing Only sections of Donegal Creek and West Branch Octoraro Creek.
The purpose of this rule is to minimize conflicts between bow anglers and trout anglers on waters designated specifically for trout fishing.
The second rule being considered would prohibit the use of generators with sound levels exceeding 90 decibels when bowfishing on boats. To measure noise, a decibel meter would be held right next to the boat at least 4 feet above the water.
According to Warner, 90 decibels is the maximum noise allowed for boat engines, and the proposed test for measuring generator noise is the same test mentioned in the law for measuring boat engine noise.
Boats specially equipped for bow fishing have a series of lights mounted on the sides and front to illuminate the water around the boat where anglers shoot arrows at fish.
To power these lights, boat operators often use gasoline-powered generators, which can be noisy.
The third proposed rule would declare, under the section of the state law that talks about bowfishing equipment, that it is illegal to shine a light from any type of watercraft directly at any building. or busy boat.
And this is where the proposed rules get a little sticky.
Technically, it’s already illegal to do so under the section of state law that talks about navigation lights.
“It is illegal for a boat operator to use mooring lights while underway except when docking and the boat is moving slowly with no wake speed and is within 100 feet of the approaching a wharf, mooring buoy or shore,” the law states. .
Under the law, a searchlight is defined as a “mooring light”.
What the Fish and Boat Commission wants to do is draw attention to the illegal lights that shine under the bowfishing section of the rules, given the unique lights used for this activity.
Ideally, boats with lights specially equipped for bow fishing only shine the light downward. But sometimes they throw light horizontally on the water.
In other situations, anglers simply shine the spotlight on areas where they are looking for fish.
In both situations, the light can be projected onto houses or other boats.
Since lights are an important part of navigating the water at night, anyone operating a boat should know the laws associated with these lights.
But having rules about lights contained in the discussion of bow fishing gear law should make it easier for bow anglers to find and understand those rules, Fish and Boat officials said. Committee.
However, some commissioners at the January board meeting said they were concerned that adding the new lights rule to the section of the act that talks about bow fishing would give the impression that bright lights on a house are legal as long as you don’t bowfish.
“Why not make it illegal to do this no matter what you do?” asked Commissioner Daniel Pastore.
Although they approved the new rules as proposed, the commissioners agreed that they might need to adjust the wording of the proposal before proceeding to the final vote. This could happen at the next board meeting in April.
Additionally, they said they wanted to get public feedback on what was being proposed to see if any recommendations came from the angling community.
What is unlikely to change, the commissioners agreed, is the spirit of the new rules, which are designed to reduce the problems and conflicts associated with bow fishing.
Bowfishing for Snakeheads
Northern snakeheads are an invasive species that are gradually entering Pennsylvania waterways.
The aggressive and toothy predators have been found in the Delaware River and Susquehanna River basins, and each year seems to yield sightings of the ‘Frankenfish’ in new waters.
They are not from Pennsylvania. They compete with native species for food and habitat. State fisheries managers don’t want it here.
There is no closed season or creel limit for snakeheads. In fact, the Fish and Boat Commission’s recommendation if you catch one is to kill it.
Given these parameters, you would think the agency would have no problem adding snakeheads to the list of fish that can be caught with bow fishing gear.
Currently, bow fishing is limited to catching carp, suckers and catfish.
At the agency’s board meeting in January, Kris Kuhn, director of the Fish and Boat Commission’s Office of Fisheries, said there had been discussions about allowing heads to be taken. snake by bow fishermen.
But fisheries managers do not support it.
The main concern, Kuhn said, is that anglers are confusing snakeheads with another fish native to Pennsylvania.
“Bowfins are often misidentified as snakeheads, so there is a concern that Bowfins are mistakenly put down,” he said.
Additionally, Kuhn said there can be unintended consequences when a species is identified for a particular form of fishing.
Sometimes, he says, this creates subgroups within the angling community that are dedicated to that species.
These ardent fans might be interested in moving this specific species to certain waters for their own benefit. It is illegal to move live snakeheads from one water to another in Pennsylvania.
Finally, Kuhn said, the main watershed where snakeheads are found in Pennsylvania is the lower Delaware.
And the snakeheads that bowfish there wouldn’t do much to limit their numbers.
“We want to promote the taking of snakeheads,” Kuhn said. “But given the area where their population is highest and densest, bow fishing would have little to no effect on the population.
“It wouldn’t result in any appreciable reduction in the population there.”
PJ Reilly is NL | Outdoor Writer LancasterOnline. Email him at [email protected].