FISH AND BOAT COMMISSION
[58 PA. CODE CH. 61]
Fishing; Seasons, Sizes and Creel Limits
[52 Pa.B. 5649]
[Saturday, September 3, 2022]
The Fish and Boat Commission (Commission) proposes to amend Chapter 61 (relating to seasons, sizes and creel limits). The Commission is publishing this proposed rulemaking under the authority of 30 Pa.C.S. (relating to Fish and Boat Code) (code). The proposed amendment updates the Commission's regulations concerning Atlantic striped bass fishing in the Delaware River, West Branch Delaware River and River Estuary.
A. Effective Date
This proposed rulemaking, if approved on final-form rulemaking, will go into effect on January 1, 2023.
B. Contact Person
For further information on this proposed rulemaking, contact Wayne Melnick, Esq., P.O. Box 67000, Harrisburg, PA 17106-7000, (717) 705-7810. This proposed rulemaking is available on the Commission's web site at www.fishandboat.com.
C. Statutory Authority
The proposed amendment to § 61.2 (relating to Delaware River, West Branch Delaware River and River Estuary) is published under the statutory authority of section 2102(b) of the code (relating to rules and regulations).
D. Purpose and Background
The specific purpose and background of the proposed amendment is described in more detail under the summary of proposal.
E. Summary of Proposal
At its May 2022 quarterly meeting, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC), which includes the Commonwealth as a member, approved Amendment 7 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic striped bass. The most recent striped bass stock assessment determined the stock was overfished and that overfishing was occurring. Based on these findings, the ASMFC's striped bass management plan calls for management actions to rebuild the stock. As part of Amendment 7, new requirements were established to address recreational release mortality, among other management plan components. Recreational release mortality is a large component of annual fishing mortality and Amendment 7 establishes a new gear restriction which prohibits gaffing striped bass when fishing recreationally. This new restriction, along with the existing circle hook requirement when fishing recreationally with bait, are intended to increase the chance of survival after a striped bass is released alive. To align with the provisions of Amendment 7, it is recommended to prohibit the use of a gaff when fishing for striped bass in the Delaware River, West Branch Delaware River and River Estuary.
In addition to the ASMFC mandated amendment, Commission staff identified an opportunity to further clarify language in § 61.2(b) pertaining to the legal harvestable size range for striped bass. The current language describes the minimum legal harvestable length but does not account for the maximum legal harvestable length in the striped bass slot limit. Although the harvest slot limit in the regulation chart clearly defines the upper and lower limits to the legal harvestable length range, it is recommended to add clarifying language to the body of the text in the regulation.
The Commission proposes that § 61.2 be amended to read as set forth in Annex A.
This proposed rulemaking will not increase paperwork and will not create new paperwork requirements.
G. Fiscal Impact
This proposed rulemaking will have no adverse fiscal impact on the Commonwealth or its political subdivisions.
H. Public Comments
Interested persons are invited to submit written comments, objections or suggestions about this 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 by completing the form at www.fishandboat.com/regcomments. If an acknowledgment of electronic comments is not received by the sender within 2 working days, the comments should be retransmitted to ensure receipt. Electronic comments submitted in any other manner will not be accepted.
TIMOTHY D. SCHAEFFER,
Fiscal Note: 48A-339. No fiscal impact; (8) recommends adoption.
TITLE 58. RECREATION
PART II. FISH AND BOAT COMMISSION
Subpart B. FISHING
CHAPTER 61. SEASONS, SIZES AND
§ 61.2. Delaware River, West Branch Delaware River and River Estuary.
(a) It is unlawful to take, catch, kill or possess fish, except during the seasons specified in this section. It is not a violation of this section if a fish caught out of season from water where fishing for other species is lawful is immediately returned unharmed to the waters from which it was taken.
(b) It is unlawful to take, catch, kill or possess fish of less than the minimum size or greater than the maximum size specified in this section. It is not a violation of this section if an undersized or oversized fish taken from waters where fishing is otherwise lawful is immediately returned unharmed to the waters from which it was taken.
(c) It is unlawful to take, catch or kill more than 1 day's limit of any species of fish as specified in the following chart during 1 calendar day. It is unlawful to possess more than 1 day's limit of any species of fish as specified in the following chart except under the following circumstances:
(1) A person may possess any number of lawfully caught fish at the person's residence.
(2) A person who is engaged in a fishing trip away from home for 2 or more consecutive calendar days may, while transporting fish from the place where caught to his residence, possess a number of fish equal to no more than two times the daily creel limit for that species of fish. In prosecution for violation of this section, it shall be a rebuttable presumption that a person transporting fish from a fishing site caught all of the fish during 1 calendar day.
(3) A fish will not be considered to be caught in violation of this section if it is immediately returned unharmed to the waters from which it was taken.
(4) A fish caught that is not to be counted in the creel limit shall be immediately released unharmed into the water from which it was taken. Except as otherwise provided in § 53.24 or § 63.40 (relating to tournament and fishing derby permits; and fishing tournaments and fishing derbies), a fish placed on a stringer, or confined by any type of container, structure or device, or not returned immediately to the water, will be considered as part of the daily creel or possession limits. Fish returned to the water shall be handled carefully and be returned unharmed to the water from which taken.
(5) Fish may be given to another person, but the fish shall be counted in the donor's creel limit and neither the donor nor the recipient may kill or possess (while in the act of fishing) more than the limit allowed.
(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.1) It is unlawful for any person to gaff or attempt to gaff any striped bass at any time when fishing.
(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:
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[Pa.B. Doc. No. 22-1345. Filed for public inspection September 2, 2022, 9:00 a.m.]
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