FISH AND BOAT COMMISSION
Temporary Change to Fishing Regulations; Delaware River, West Branch Delaware River and River Estuary
[50 Pa.B. 1625]
[Saturday, March 14, 2020]
The Executive Director of the Fish and Boat Commission (Commission), acting under the authority of 58 Pa. Code § 65.25 (relating to temporary changes to fishing regulations), has taken immediate action to amend 58 Pa. Code § 61.2 (relating to Delaware River, West Branch Delaware River and River Estuary). Specifically, the Executive Director has amended this section to change the minimum size limit for striped bass to a 28 to less than 35 inch slot limit in the Delaware Estuary (from the Pennsylvania line upstream to the Calhoun Street Bridge) and Delaware River (from the Calhoun Street Bridge upstream) during the periods January 1 through March 31 and June 1 through December 31 (one fish daily limit), and to change the slot limit during the period April 1 through May 31 to 21 to less than 24 inches (two fish daily limit). The Executive Director also has amended the section to require the use of nonoffset (inline) circle hooks when fishing with bait for any species of fish in the tidal Delaware Estuary, including tributaries from the mouths of the tributaries upstream to the limit of tidal influence. These actions are being taken to meet the requirements of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC).
The ASMFC's management plan for striped bass calls for management actions when the coast-wide spawning stock biomass (SSB) or fishing mortality rates reach thresholds set within the management plan. The SSB threshold is 201 million pounds and the current SSB is below this at 151 million pounds. At the current fishing mortality rates, there is concern that the SSB will fall further below the threshold in the future under current management and fishing pressure. Also, because catch and release practices contribute substantially to overall fishing mortality, states are also required to implement mandatory circle hook requirements when fishing with bait to reduce release mortality in recreational striped bass fisheries. The ASFMC Striped Bass Management Board, which includes the Commonwealth as a member, has directed all coastal states to reduce fishing mortality rates by 18% beginning in 2020 and require circle hooks by 2021. The Commonwealth is taking proactive measures to implement the circle hook requirement beginning in 2020 to inform anglers and facilitate compliance with this important conservation measure ahead of the ASMFC mandate for implementation beginning in 2021. The amendments to 58 Pa. Code § 61.2 are designed to meet this objective.
To address the coast-wide regulation directed by the ASMFC, the Commission's Executive Director has taken immediate action to make the following modifications to fishing regulations:
§ 61.2. Delaware River, West Branch Delaware River and River Estuary.
* * * * *
(d) It is unlawful to fish with bait for any species of fish in the tidal Delaware Estuary, including tributaries from the mouths of the tributaries upstream to the limit of tidal influence using any hook type other than non-offset (in-line) circle hooks. The definition of a non-offset (in-line) circle hook is a non-offset hook where the point is pointed perpendicularly back towards the shank. The term ''non-offset'' means the point and the barb are in the same plane as the shank.
[(d)] (e) The following seasons, sizes and creel limits apply to the Delaware River, West Branch Delaware River and Delaware River tributaries, from the mouths of the tributaries upstream to the limit of the tidal influence and the Lehigh River from its mouth upstream to the first dam in Easton, Pennsylvania:
* * * * *
STRIPED BASS and HYBRID STRIPED BASS From Pennsylvania line upstream to Calhoun Street Bridge: January 1 until March 31 and June 1 until December 31
April 1 through May 31
From Calhoun Street Bridge upstream: open year-round
 28 to less than 35 inches
21 to  less than 24 inches
 28 to less than 35 inches
* * * * *
The Executive Director has found that this action is necessary and appropriate for the management of fish and to conserve and preserve fishing opportunities. The temporary modifications will go into effect on April 1, 2020, and will remain in effect until the Commission, by appropriate action, amends 58 Pa. Code § 61.2. At its meeting on April 27, 2020, the Commission will consider the publication of a notice of proposed rulemaking containing the proposed amendments and soliciting public comments for a period of 30 days.
TIMOTHY D. SCHAEFFER,
[Pa.B. Doc. No. 20-394. Filed for public inspection March 13, 2020, 9:00 a.m.]
No part of the information on this site may be reproduced for profit or sold for profit.
This material has been drawn directly from the official Pennsylvania Bulletin full text database. Due to the limitations of HTML or differences in display capabilities of different browsers, this version may differ slightly from the official printed version.