RULES AND REGULATIONS
FISH AND BOAT COMMISSION
[58 PA. CODE CH. 65]
Fishing; Special Fishing Regulations
[52 Pa.B. 5950]
[Saturday, September 17, 2022]
The Fish and Boat Commission (Commission) amends Chapter 65 (relating to special fishing regulations). The Commission is publishing this final-form rulemaking under the authority of 30 Pa.C.S. (relating to Fish and Boat Code) (code). The amendment removes Penns Creek, Section 03, from the Commission's miscellaneous special regulations.
A. Effective Date
This final-form rulemaking shall take effect on January 1, 2023.
B. Contact Person
For further information on this final-form rulemaking, contact Wayne Melnick, Esq., P.O. Box 67000, Harrisburg, PA 17106-7000, (717) 705-7810. This final-form rulemaking is available on the Commission's web site at www.fishandboat.com.
C. Statutory Authority
The amendment to § 65.24 (relating to miscellaneous special regulations) is published under the statutory authority of section 2307(a) of the code (relating to waters limited to specific purposes).
D. Purpose and Background
The specific purpose and background of the amendment is described in more detail under the summary of changes.
E. Summary of Changes
Penns Creek is a large, limestone-influenced stream that supports a robust wild brown trout fishery in its upstream reaches. The stream is approximately 67 miles in length and is delineated into 8 stream sections for fisheries management purposes. The Commission has documented wild trout in approximately 37 miles of the stream from the headwaters downstream to Glen Iron, with approximately 29 miles being designated as Class A wild trout waters. Penns Creek, Section 03, extends for 7.0 miles from the confluence with Elk Creek in Coburn downstream to 600 meters downstream of the confluence with Swift Run. Section 03 was managed as a stocked trout fishery until 1992 when it was designated by the Commission as a Class A wild trout stream and the stocking of hatchery-reared trout was discontinued in favor of wild trout management.
To address landowner and angler feedback, increase the abundance of large wild brown trout in the population, and provide the opportunity to use all tackle types and harvest some trout, a new miscellaneous special regulation in § 65.24 regarding slot limit was established on Penns Creek, Section 03, beginning January 1, 2014. The slot limit regulation allows for year-round fishing, use of all tackle types, and the harvest of two trout per day that are at least 7 inches but less than 12 inches in length, from the opening day of the regular season for trout through Labor Day, with no harvest permitted the remainder of the year.
Penns Creek, Section 03, provided a unique opportunity to evaluate this new special regulation on a productive limestone stream. The Penns Creek trout population was monitored before and after implementation of the slot limit regulation. Results of the monitoring revealed a substantial increase in the electrofishing catch rates of larger brown trout (greater than or equal to 16 inches in length) during the slot limit regulation implementation period (2014—2019). These results suggest that the slot limit regulation likely played an important role in the increased electrofishing catch of large brown trout in Section 03. In addition to fishery independent monitoring, staff conducted an angler use, harvest and opinion survey to evaluate the social aspects of the regulation change and estimate angler harvest in 2019. Results documented low harvest of trout during the survey and high angler support for continuance of the slot limit regulation. Despite low angler harvest under the current slot limit regulation, this regulation provides the opportunity for anglers to harvest intermediate-sized trout if desired, which was an important social consideration when the regulation was originally implemented.
Given the success of the experimental slot limit regulation program on Penns Creek, Section 03, and potential opportunities to utilize this regulation at other suitable wild trout waters, the Commission established a new special regulation program known as trout slot limit in 2021. The trout slot limit program has two subprograms: all-tackle trout slot limit and artificial lures only trout slot limit. As such, it is recommended that Penns Creek, Section 03, be removed from miscellaneous special regulations in favor of management under the newly established trout slot limit program. Upon removal of this regulation, Penns Creek, Section 03, will be proposed for designation into the all-tackle trout slot limit program § 65.4c (relating to all-tackle trout slot limit) at a quarterly Commission meeting later in 2022 with an implementation date of January 1, 2023. If approved, the name of the regulation applied to Penns Creek, Section 03, will change; however, the regulation itself would remain the same.
To facilitate transition of Section 03 into the all-tackle trout slot limit program, this water must first be removed from miscellaneous special regulations. Other fish species will be managed with Commonwealth inland waters angling regulations in § 61.1 (relating to Commonwealth inland waters).
This final-form rulemaking will not increase paperwork and will not create new paperwork requirements.
G. Fiscal Impact
This final-form rulemaking will have no adverse fiscal impact on the Commonwealth or its political subdivisions.
H. Public Comments
A notice of proposed rulemaking was published at 52 Pa.B. 1494 (March 12, 2022). The Commission did not receive any public comments regarding the proposal.
The Commission finds that:
(1) Public notice of intention to adopt the amendments adopted by this order has been given under sections 201 and 202 of the act of July 31, 1968 (P.L. 769, No. 240) (45 P.S. §§ 1201 and 1202), referred to as the Commonwealth Documents Law, and the regulations promulgated thereunder, 1 Pa. Code §§ 7.1 and 7.2 (relating to notice of proposed rulemaking required; and adoption of regulations).
(2) A public comment period was provided, and no public comments were received.
(3) The adoption of the amendments of the Commission in the manner provided in this order is necessary and appropriate for administration and enforcement of the authorizing statutes.
The Commission, acting under the authorizing statutes, orders that:
(A) The regulations of the Commission, 58 Pa. Code Chapter 65, are amended by amending § 65.24 to read as set forth at 52 Pa.B. 1494.
(B) The Executive Director will submit this order and 52 Pa.B. 1494 to the Office of Attorney General for approval as to legality and form as required by law.
(C) The Executive Director shall certify this order and 52 Pa.B. 1494 and deposit them with the Legislative Reference Bureau as required by law.
(D) This order shall take effect on January 1, 2023.
TIMOTHY D. SCHAEFFER,
Fiscal Note: Fiscal Note 48A-324 remains valid for the final adoption of the subject regulation.
[Pa.B. Doc. No. 22-1423. Filed for public inspection September 16, 2022, 9:00 a.m.]
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