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PA Bulletin, Doc. No. 03-1309


[58 PA. CODE CHS. 65, 69 AND 97]

Fishing; Boating

[33 Pa.B. 3127]

   The Fish and Boat Commission (Commission) proposes to amend Chapters 65, 69 and 97 (relating to special fishing regulations; fishing in Lake Erie and boundary lakes; and operator provided equipment). The Commission is publishing this proposed rulemaking under the authority of 30 Pa.C.S. (relating to the Fish and Boat Code) (code).

A.  Effective Date

   The proposed rulemaking, if approved on final-form rulemaking, will go into effect on January 1, 2004, or upon publication of an order adopting the amendments in the Pennsylvania Bulletin, whichever occurs later.

B.  Contact Person

   For further information on the proposed rulemaking, contact Laurie E. Shepler, Assistant Counsel, P. O. Box 67000, Harrisburg, PA 17106-7000, (717) 705-7815. This proposed rulemaking is available electronically through the Commission's website (

C.  Statutory Authority

   The proposed amendment to § 65.24 (relating to miscellaneous special regulations) is published under the statutory authority of section 2307 of the code (relating to waters limited to specific purposes). The proposed amendments to § 69.12 (relating to seasons, sizes and creel limits--Lake Erie and Lake Erie tributaries) are published under the statutory authority of section 2102 of the code (relating to rules and regulations). The proposed amendments to § 69.33 (relating to use of trap nets) are published under the statutory authority of section 2903 of the code (relating to boats and net licenses for boundary lakes). The proposed amendments to § 97.2 (relating to fire extinguisher) are published under the statutory authority of section 5123 of the code (relating to general boating regulations).

D.  Purpose and Background

   The proposed rulemaking is designed to update, modify and improve the Commission's regulations pertaining to fishing and boating. The specific purpose of the proposed rulemaking is described in more detail under the summary of proposal. The Commission's Boating Advisory Board (BAB) considered the proposed amendments to Chapter 97 and recommended that the Commission publish a notice of proposed rulemaking containing the proposed amendments.

E.  Summary of Proposal

   (1)  Section 65.24. In the mid-1990s, miscellaneous special regulations were established on 228-acre Duck Harbor Pond to enhance management for larger trout. A 14-inch minimum length limit and two trout per day creel limit were imposed to enable hatchery fingerling and adult trout to attain a larger size given suitable habitat and forage for year around trout survival and growth. Results of sampling efforts have not given Commission staff reason to continue with the more restrictive regulations. In addition, it is suspected that the more restrictive regulations have discouraged trout anglers from fishing the lake as spring stocked trout averaging 10 inches or so in length are smaller than the legal size. Commission staff would like to continue stocking trout in Duck Harbor Pond but with Statewide regulations to encourage greater use at the lake. Accordingly, the Commission proposes deleting the miscellaneous special regulation on Duck Harbor Pond as set forth in Annex A. By removing the miscellaneous special regulation, Duck Harbor Pond will be considered approved trout waters open to year-round fishing. Trout may be harvested during the regular and extended trout seasons in accordance with Statewide regulations.

   (2)  Sections 69.12 and 69.33. Under § 69.12, walleye in Lake Erie and Presque Isle Bay are currently regulated by a season (January 1 to March 15, and first Saturday in May to December 31), a minimum length of 15 inches and a creel limit of six per day. The commercial trap net fishery is regulated by the same season in § 69.31, an annual total allowable catch (set annually) and a 15-inch minimum length limit in § 69.33.

   Walleye abundance in Lake Erie has continued to decline since population levels reached historic highs in the late 1980s. The reasons for the decline are not fully known but include repeated years of poor recruitment due in part to weather patterns and temperature variations, a shift in lake productivity due to zebra mussels and increased fishing rates. Sampling by Commission biologists and fisheries managers from the other Lake Erie jurisdictions has revealed that poor to almost nonexistent year classes of walleyes have been produced during 2000 and 2002. The 1999 and 2001 year classes have been stronger and represent the future spawning stock of Lake Erie walleye. Lakewide, the 1999 year class is the strongest since 1986. Thus, steps must be taken to protect these stronger year classes until they have the opportunity to grow and become a part of the adult spawning population.

   The Lake Erie Committee (Committee), a subcommittee of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, which includes representatives of Lake Erie's various jurisdictions, has recognized that walleye populations have dramatically declined. At its annual meeting in March 2003, the Committee held the lakewide total allowable catch (TAC) of walleye, which includes sport and commercial harvest, at a level equal to the last 2 years. The Committee also stated that based on current population and harvest information, a reduction in the TAC is warranted and should be expected in 2004. Additional discussion occurs at the Committee's June 2003 meeting. Jurisdictions are expected to take measures to reduce the harvest of walleye accordingly.

   Fishery data collected by Commission biologists indicate that an increased minimum length limit is the most appropriate method for this Commonwealth to reduce the harvest of walleye beginning in 2004. A creel limit reduction will not effectively conserve enough fish to meet the goals. When walleye populations are low, catch rates are down and few people catch their limit of six walleyes. On the other hand, length limits have been shown to be an effective tool in protecting specific segments of a fish population. Creel survey data collected by the Commission from 1993--2002 show that a 20-inch minimum length limit would protect, on average, 31% of walleyes caught from harvest, including the important 1999 and 2001 year classes. This protection should result in an increased abundance of walleyes less than 20 inches and improve the stability of future spawning stocks. The Commonwealth currently has one licensed commercial fisherman. The proposed length limit would also apply to his activities.

   The Commission proposes to amend these sections to read as set forth in Annex A.

   (3)  Section 97.2. This section currently requires a fire extinguisher in all gasoline-powered boats that have the probability for entrapping gasoline vapors in closed compartments. This section is intended to reduce the incidence and severity of fires from ignition of gasoline vapors. The section tracks the Federal regulations on this subject with one exception. The Federal regulations contain examples of boat construction or situations when fire extinguishers are or are not required.

   Commission staff's original concept was to present a clarifying amendment to § 97.2 to deal with situations with jon boats and similar craft with after-installed flooring in them. When the Commission's BAB considered this item, it recommended that the Commission approve the publication of a notice of proposed rulemaking containing a broader amendment to require fire extinguishers on all boats with internal combustion motors. Although this proposed rulemaking goes beyond Federal requirements, it has the advantage of setting forth a clear line for requiring fire extinguishers. Accordingly, the Commission proposes to amend § 97.2 to require fire extinguishers on all boats equipped with internal combustion motors.

F.  Paperwork

   The proposed rulemaking will not increase paperwork and will create no new paperwork requirements.

G.  Fiscal Impact

   The proposed rulemaking will have no adverse fiscal impact on the Commonwealth or its political subdivisions. The proposed rulemaking will impose no new costs on the private sector or the general public.

H.  Public Comments

   Interested persons are invited to submit written comments, objections or suggestions about the proposed rulemaking to the Executive Director, Fish and Boat Commission, P. O. Box 67000, Harrisburg, PA 17106-7000 within 30 days after publication of this notice in the Pennsylvania Bulletin. Comments submitted by facsimile will not be accepted.

   Comments also may be submitted electronically to A subject heading of the proposal and a return name and address must be included in each transmission. In addition, all electronic comments must be contained in the text of the transmission, not in an attachment. If an acknowledgment of electronic comments is not received by the sender within 2 working days, the comments should be retransmitted to ensure receipt.

Executive Director

   Fiscal Note:  48A-146. No fiscal impact; (8) recommends adoption.

Annex A



Subpart B.  FISHING


§ 65.24.  Miscellaneous special regulations.

   The following waters are subject to the following miscellaneous special regulations:

County Name of Water Special Regulations
*      *      *      *      *

[Wayne] [Duck Harbor Pond] [Trout--minimum size limit--14 inches; daily creel limit--2 trout per day (combined species) from opening day of trout season to the last day of February. Other inland seasons, size and creel limits apply.]
*      *      *      *      *



§ 69.12.  Seasons, sizes and creel limits--Lake Erie and Lake Erie tributaries.

*      *      *      *      *

   (f)  Subject to the provisions of subsections (d) and (e), the following seasons, sizes and creel limits apply to Lake Erie, Lake Erie tributaries and Presque Isle Bay, including peninsula waters:

*      *      *      *      *

WALLEYE January 1 to midnight March 15 and 12:01 a.m. the first Saturday in May to December 31 [15] 20 inches 6
*      *      *      *      *


§ 69.33.  Use of trap nets.

*      *      *      *      *

   (b)  Species. A commercial trap net licensee may not possess or sell a fish except in compliance with the following size limits and seasons. The following size limits apply to commercial trap net licensees except that 5% of each licensee's daily catch by number per species may be undersized fish that may be lawfully sold:

Species Size Limit Season
*      *      *      *      *

   (Stizostedion vitreum)
[15] 20 inches January 1 to midnight March 15 and 12:01 a.m. the first Saturday in May to December 31. This season will close when the total allowable catch for walleye is taken.
*      *      *      *      *

Subpart C.  BOATING


§ 97.2.  Fire [extinguisher] extinguishers.

   (a)  Motorboats shall carry at least the minimum number of Coast Guard approved hand portable fire extinguishers required for their class as specified in Appendix A. Fire extinguishers shall be carried on all boats [that meet one or more of the following conditions. The boats:

   (1)  Have closed compartments under thwarts and seats where portable fuel tanks may be stored.

   (2)  Have double bottoms not sealed to the hulls or which are not completely filled with flotation material.

   (3)  Have closed living spaces.

   (4)  Have closed stowage compartments in which combustible or flammable materials are stowed.

   (5)  Have permanently installed fuel tanks.

   (6)  Are carrying passengers for hire.] equipped with internal combustion motors.

*      *      *      *      *

[Pa.B. Doc. No. 03-1309. Filed for public inspection July 3, 2003, 9:00 a.m.]

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