Friday, May 31, 2013

Shooting-Range Permit A Fake, Penalty Tops $1,000

Game Commission issues reminder that a new permit and license year begins soon.

A Pittsburgh man has been fined $1,100 after he presented a wildlife conservation officer with a phony shooting-range permit he could have bought legitimately for $30.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission views the case as a timely reminder for those who take target practice at ranges on state game lands, where most participants who do not possess valid hunting or furtaker licenses must hold permits to use the range.
Both hunting licenses and shooting-range permits for 2013-14 go on sale soon.
Hunting licenses go on sale June 10, three weeks before the start of the new license year. Those needing shooting-range permits for 2013-14 must wait until July 1 to buy them. The permits that are on sale now are valid until June 30. The next permit period runs from July 1 to June 30, 2014.
Those who will need licenses and permits in the coming months might be able to save themselves some trouble by buying them soon after they go on sale.
The Game Commission in 2011 began requiring permits for range shooters without
hunting licenses as a way to make sure all who use the agency’s firearms ranges contribute to the cost of their upkeep. Licensed hunters and furtakers are required to carry their licenses with them while using the ranges.
The range at which the counterfeit permit was presented is part of State Game Lands 203 in Allegheny County.
Wildlife Conservation Officer Dan Puhala said the range sees heavy use and he often patrols there. While at the range on March 13, Puhala observed a target shooter fire a series of about 10 shots, which he said was in violation of range rules that dictate a three-shot limit. Puhala asked to see the man’s shooting-range permit, and while the man presented a permit to the officer, it turned out to be counterfeit.
While shooting-range permits can be purchased online and printed at home, they have distinguishing markings that identify them as authentic, Puhala said.
The man was charged for the range violation and for possessing the counterfeit permit, and he pleaded guilty on Thursday to both counts. All told, the man was fined $1,100 and he faces a possible five-year revocation of his shooting-range permit and hunting-license privileges.
Shooting-range permits cost $30 per year for residents and nonresidents. Those 15 years of age and younger do not need a permit if they are properly accompanied by a licensed or permitted person 18 years of age or older. Additionally, each licensed hunter or range permit holder can bring along one unpermitted or unlicensed guest.
Like hunting licenses, shooting-range permits are valid from July 1 to June 30 each year. The permits can be purchased online at “The Outdoor Shop” on the Game Commission’s website ( Following the purchase, which requires payment by credit or debit cards, a downloadable permit is provided and can be printed on a home computer. The agency sells the permits through its Harrisburg headquarters and six region offices. However, since the purchase will be processed through “The Outdoor Shop,” only credit and debit cards are used for payment.

Hunting licenses also can be purchased online through the Game Commission’s website, and are available through a host of issuing agents. Countywide lists of issuing agents also are available at the commission’s website.

Friday, May 24, 2013


Meanwhile, reward offered in first case tops $7,000

HARRISBURG – A bald eagle found dead earlier this month in northwestern Pennsylvania is believed to have died from a bullet wound, the Pennsylvania Game Commission announced Thursday.

The investigation into the death of a mature eagle found dead May 5 in Clay Township, Butler County, is the second the Game Commission has announced this week.

The commission also is investigating the illegal shooting of a mature bald eagle in Allegheny Township, Cambria County. That bird was discovered injured by a concerned citizen May 10, and rushed for medical treatment, but later died of its wounds.

The Cambria County case, announced Monday, has drawn attention nationwide. And in Pennsylvania, individuals and groups have combined to offer more than $7,000 in reward money for information leading to the conviction of those responsible for the eagle’s death.

Additionally, the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs Inc. has set up a fund whereby individuals can pledge money toward a reward for information leading to a conviction in the case.

Tips leading to convictions in the Butler County case also may be eligible for monetary reward.

Anyone with information on either case is urged to call the Game Commission. The Game Commission’s TIP Hotline number is 1-888-PGC-8001. Additionally, callers can contact their appropriate regional office to report information.

The eagle found dead in Butler County was discovered in a stream by citizens in the area. Examination of the carcass revealed evidence the bird had been shot.

“We need the public’s help,” said Wildlife Conservation Officer Chip Brunst, who is helping to conduct the Butler County investigation. “I have seen the bald eagle population grow throughout my career. This senseless act is disturbing to me and all citizens.”

Brunst said any information the Game Commission receives will be kept in confidence.

Anyone with information regarding the Cambria County investigation also is urged to report it.

That eagle was discovered in the vicinity of Lincoln and Sharpe roads in Allegheny Township. A necropsy of the bird indicated that it had suffered at least one gunshot wound.

Cambria County is within the Game Commission’s Southwest Region, and reports can be made to the regional office at 724-238-9523.  Butler County is in the Northwest Region, which can be reached by calling 814-432-3187.

The reward offered in relation to the Cambria County case totals at least $7,250. The Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society Wildlife Trust have contributed $5,000, Cambria County Crime Stoppers is offering $2,000, and the Game Commission is offering $250.

The reward amount could grow, too, based on pledges by individuals.

Individuals wishing to contribute money to a reward in the Cambria County case can contact the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs Inc at 717-232-3480, or by email at The organization’s mailing address is 2426 North Second Street, Harrisburg, PA 17110. Checks can be made payable to PFSC Legal Fund.

The Game Commission currently classifies the bald eagle as a threatened species in Pennsylvania. They were removed from the federal endangered species list by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2007, because delisting goals had been achieved.

Monday, May 20, 2013


LIGONIER -- Pennsylvania Game Commission Southwest Region Director Pat Anderson today announced the agency is seeking information on the illegal shooting of a mature Bald Eagle in Allegheny Township, Cambria County.
The eagle was found injured by a concerned citizen on May 10 in the vicinity of Lincoln and Sharpe roads in Allegheny Township and reported to the commission. Wildlife conservation Officer Shawn Harshaw responded and was led to the injured bird by the caller. The injured eagle was captured and taken to the state vet laboratory in State College where the bird later died of its wounds. A necropsy of the bird indicated that it had suffered at least one gunshot wound.
"WCO Harshaw is investigating this incident and we are looking for any information that may lead to the successful prosecution of the person or persons responsible," Anderson said. "This was a senseless act. Although still rare, only recently have sightings of eagles become more common in Pennsylvania. The fact that someone shot one is an absolute shame."
"I am asking the public for help," Harshaw said. "If anyone knows or hears anything about this incident, I encourage them to call our regional office. Any information we do receive will be held in strict confidence. This senseless act sickens me and I will pursue every lead to find the responsible person or persons and bring them to justice."
The agency’s Southwest Regional office number is 724-238-9523. The Game Commission’s TIP Hotline number is 1-888-PGC-8001. Anyone providing information leading to the arrest of the shooter or shooters may be eligible for a monetary reward.
In 1983, the Game Commission began a seven-year bald eagle restoration program in which the agency sent employees to Saskatchewan to obtain eaglets from wilderness nests. The Richard King Mellon Foundation of Pittsburgh and the federal Endangered Species Fund provided financial assistance for this effort. In all, 88 bald eaglets from Canada were released from sites at Dauphin County’s Haldeman Island and Pike County’s Shohola Falls. The reintroduction effort along with improving environmental conditions led to the resurgence of the eagles in Pennsylvania.
When the restoration program began in 1983, only three Crawford County nests remained in the state. By 2006, the agency announced that the state had surpassed the 100 bald eagle nest mark. Just five years later, in 2011, the number of known bald eagle nests had doubled to 203 spread out over 50 counties.
The Game Commission currently classifies the bald eagle as a threatened species in Pennsylvania. They were removed from the federal endangered species list by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2007, because delisting goals had been achieved

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Reed Exhibitions of canceled Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show drops another shooting-related show

By Marcus Schneck Patriot-News, Harrisburg

Another shooting-related show has slipped away from Reed Exhibitions, which earlier this year canceled the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show in Harrisburg when an exhibitor boycott developed over Reed's decision to ban modern tactical-style rifles from the show.
shot show.jpgView full sizeThe National Shooting Sports Foundation is looking for new management for its annual SHOT Show for the firearms industry after ending a relationship of more than three decades with Reed Exhibitions.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade association for the firearms industry, has pulled the SHOT Show – the Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show – from Reed, beginning with the 2014 show next January in Las Vegas.
In a press release, NSSF said the organization "has reached an agreement with Reed Exhibitions to terminate the agreement the parties had for the management of the SHOT Show." As a result, Reed will no longer be manager and producer of the SHOT Show.
Reed "provided excellent service to NSSF and the customers of the SHOT Show for more than three decades," noted NSSF. "However, the company's decision to restrict the sale of certain types of firearms this year at its consumer hunting and fishing show – the ESOS, which was unrelated to NSSF and the SHOT Show – was in conflict with NSSF's mission to serve the shooting sports industry."
The NSSF statement explained, "As a result, both organizations decided it was in the best interest of the SHOT Show to end their relationship."
Reed officials could not be reached for comment.
NSSF is seeking a new show management company to manage and produce the SHOT Show, beginning with the 2014 SHOT Show.
Owned and sponsored by NSSF, the SHOT Show is billed as the largest and most comprehensive trade show for professionals involved with the shooting sports, hunting and law enforcement industries.
The 2014 SHOT Show will be held Jan. 14-17 at the Sands Expo and Convention Center in Las Vegas.
NSSF's mission is to promote, protect and preserve hunting and the shooting sports. Formed in 1961, the foundation has a membership of more than 8,000 manufacturers, distributors, firearms retailers, shooting ranges, sportsmen's organizations and publishers.
Following Reed's cancellation of the ESOS, which was estimated to have cost the region $88 million, a coalition of local economic development, tourism and government agencies announced that the National Rifle Association would manage a new show in place of the ESOS next February. The new show at the State Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg will be known as the Great American Outdoor Show.

Spider Rigging Can Be Successful As Black Crappies Enter The Pre-Spawn

JAMESTOWN, Pa. -- The southern end of Pymatuning Reservoir, in Crawford County between the dam and the nearby Ohio state line, is richly contoured with shallow bays that warm faster than the main body of the lake. Like the north end bays, they become prime crappie spawning waters in the spring when subsurface temperatures reach 56 to 64 degrees.

Lobbing spinners or bobber-and-bait near shore will catch them, and 9-inch to 12-inch crappies are not uncommon at Pymatuning.

Alabama crappie pro Dan Dannenmueller fishing 
Pymatuning Reservoir with a spider rig -- six 14-foot 
rods mounted 180 degrees  around the front of his boat.
But Dan Dannenmueller, a pro crappie fisherman from Wetumpka, Ala., had magnum-sized crappies in mind when he rigged up Wednesday during a tourist bureau-sponsored media workshop on the art and craft of catching crappies.

Voted 2011 and 2012 Crappie Masters Angler of the Year, and co-owner of Crappie Now magazine (, Dannenmueller showed the Pymatuning panfish something they had probably never seen before: a spider rig -- minnow and tipped jig on a half-dozen giant 14-foot rods slowly trolling in front of his bow.

"The myth is you need small hooks and you'll catch crappies in the spring and maybe in the fall," he said. "But you can catch crappies all year long in numbers. Here, the average would be 1 pound to a pound and a half -- maybe bigger."

At Pymatuning, Conneaut Lake and regional waters where the temperature is 56-58 degrees, black crappies are now in pre-spawn mode, staging before the big biological event.

"This right here is a haven for crappies," he said, reading the water as well as the depth finder. "It's a bay, the shallow water warms up quickly, it's got weeds, it's got stumps, it's got buck brush. It's got everything."

Crappies don't pair up and spawn over redds, the way bass breed. In the pre-spawn, crappie males colonize an area, holding in 4 to 8 feet near shallows protected from wind and current. As the spawn approaches, males move into shallower water with females gathering one contour deeper.

"When the temperature and everything is right, the females swoop through the shallows, laying some eggs in vegetation," Dannenmueller said. "The males follow them, fertilizing the eggs. More than one male fertilizes, strengthening that gene pool. There's no guarding of the eggs, like with bass."
White crappies spawn a short time later at about 58 degrees in 4 to 8 feet, dropping eggs around stumps and other wood.

"These are probably blacks, but I can't tell until I catch them," said Dannenmueller, pointing to dozens of dark blips hovering over colorful plumes on his depth finder -- crappies suspended over structure directly under his boat.

Spider rigging starts with long 12- to 16-foot ultra-light spinning rods with a lot of backbone and extremely light, sensitive tips (some steelhead rods can do the job). The reels are cheap ultra-lights with the drags set tight.

"We always go inexpensive because we're not using the reel except as a line holder," he said.
The line is 10-pound test. For crappies?

"That's sacrilegious for crappie fishermen up here," he said. "But the fish we have to catch to win a tournament average 2 pounds -- an average weight for us is anywhere from 10 to 18 pounds to win a competition of seven fish. So that tells you the quality of the fish we have to catch."

At the end of the high-visibility fluorocarbon-coated line, Dannenmueller ties a three-way swivel. Off an 8- to 12-inch, 8-pound test leader he ties a snelled Tru-Turn hook, red and as big as No. 1 or No. 2. Halfway down a 31-inch, 8-pound test leader (down to 6 pounds in very clear water) he wraps on a half-ounce sinker above a 1/6-ounce jig, often a Roadrunner or Rockport Rattler. The bare hook gets a 1 1/2-inch live minnow; the jig is tipped with the same.

Wednesday, the spider rig trolling configuration consisted of six long rods (three rods per angler is legal in Pennsylvania) mounted to cover 180 degrees off the bow.

"I'm pushing in front instead of pulling out the back," he said. "The problem with trolling out the back is they hear the trolling motor and won't always hit. Even with pushing, you'll get more hits on the rods on the outside than in the middle because they hear the motor coming and move off to the side."

With the screen showing fish suspended at 4 to 6 feet, Dannenmueller let out 2 to 3 feet of line, easing the boat forward at a crawl -- 0.3 mph to 0.4 mph. That heavy sinker kept the lines almost vertical. Those long rods advanced the boat by some 12 feet.

Bass are attack predators that will lunge up or down for prey. But crappies never look down, he said, and approach food more slowly.

"People miss out on big crappies because they're thinking of them like they're bass," he said. "What I'm saying to your readers is don't always think shallows for the big, big crappie. If you're catching crappies of average size, back off into deeper water. You ain't gonna get as many bites, but when you get one, it will be a quality fish."

Trout In The Classroom Program Reels In Students

By Bob Frye, Pittsburgh Tribune Review

This past week, on a day marked by occasional spitting rain and overcast skies, nearly four dozen Butler Junior High School students traveled to Thorn Creek in Butler County.
Unlike anglers who go to the water looking for trout, they were taking their fish with them.
Butler Junior High School students loof for fish in Thorn Creek
Wednesday, May 15, 2013 as part of the 'Trout in the Classroom'
project.  This is the fifth year they have taken part in the class
that has kids raise and release trout and see how electro-shocking works
The students released 125 brook trout fingerlings into the stream. They had raised the fish from eggs over the past six months through the Trout in the Classroom project, an endeavor that aims to teach students not so much about fish or how to catch them but about the importance of clean water, healthy watersheds and human impacts on the environment.

Participating classrooms get 250 to 300 brook trout eggs and a season's worth of food in early November. Students put those into 55-gallon or larger aquariums and raise them, watching as they progress from eyed eggs to sac fry feeding on their own yolks to fingerlings. They release them into approved trout waters in April or May.
Don't call it a stocking program, though.

“Sometimes people misconstrue this as a trout stocking program, and it's not,” said Justin DiRado, education and outreach coordinator for the Pennsylvania Council of Trout Unlimited, which sponsors the program in partnership with the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission and local groups. “It's not about turning kids into biologists or fishermen, either. We just want to give them the information and tools for a conservation mindset or background that they can take into their community.”

“The most important thing we stress is connecting students with the importance of coldwater resources,” added Amidea Daniel, Trout in the Classroom coordinator. “The ultimate goal is to educate students about how we as humans can impact waterways and the environment and how we can enhance it.”

The message, or at least interest in sharing it, is getting out.

When the program began in the 2006-07 school year, there were 11 classrooms statewide participating. Last school year there were 187, providing 19,000 students with more than 7,000 hours of instruction on fish management, watershed health, habitat needs, the life cycle of fish and more, Daniels said.

This school year there are 225 classrooms participating. The list includes dozens of schools locally, including elementary schools like Trinity North and South in Washington County, middle schools and junior highs like Greater Latrobe and Ligonier Valley in Westmoreland, Hopewell Memorial in Beaver and South Park in Allegheny and high schools such as Homer Center in Indiana and West Shamokin in Armstrong.

Dave Andrews' science class at Butler has been involved for five years. As many as 150 students participate in a given year, whether by feeding fish, monitoring water quality in the school's tanks and in Thorn Creek, or getting involved in some other way.

“The kids absolutely love it,” Andrews said. “It's one of our most popular programs.
“And it's such a neat curriculum. I praise it all the time. I tell all of the teachers I meet, if you can do it, if you can swing it, it's a great program.”

That's because it provides a bridge between the chemical, molecular and genetic brand of science taught in classrooms now and real-world biology, said Tim Lloyd, chair of the science department at Norwin High School, which launched a Trout in the Classroom program in its freshman honors biology class this year.

“There are some kids who may be inclined toward fishing or hunting or the outdoors anyway, but there are a lot who aren't,” Lloyd said. “This gives them some understanding of the natural side of things. It gives them a practical connection.”

Schools often incorporate the program into disciplines other than science. At Butler, in coordination with the history department and others, students taped interviews with one another to document what they learned. At Norwin, students produced video, including some with underwater footage, of their experiences.

There's fun to be had, too. A lot of schools tie the release of their brookies — chosen because they are Pennsylvania's native trout species — to other activities, such as fly tying and fly casting demonstrations, electroshocking exercises and mini-paddling sojourns.
“There are so many different avenues teachers take with it. It's fascinating for me to get out and see and hear what they're doing and what the kids think of it,” Daniel said.

Andrews, vice president of the Connoquenessing Watershed Alliance when he's not teaching, said the program is popular enough at his school that it added a second fish tank this year. He expects it to stay strong into the future.

“We're in this for the long haul,” he said. “It brings together everything we're trying to teach, and the kids just can't get enough of it.”

To get involved
Want to see Trout in the Classroom in your school? That opportunity exists.
It's open to students in grades 3 through 12, and new schools are welcome to sign on, said Amidea Daniel of the Fish and Boat Commission. The deadline is June 11 to register for the 2013-14 school year.

Registration information can be found at or by contacting Daniel at or 814-359-5127.

It costs schools about $1,000 to $1,200 to gear up for the program initially, said Trout Unlimited's Justin DiRado. Maintaining the program costs between $50 and $250 thereafter, he added.
Grants are available to help schools get involved, though there's not enough money to fund every classroom completely, he said.

Curriculum guides, which tie the program to state standards for science, math and even sometimes subjects like history, help teachers incorporate the program into a variety of disciplines. There's also a workshop for teachers new to the program each year

Friday, May 17, 2013

Springtime Alert: Do Not Disturb Young Wildlife

HARRISBURG – The leaves are green, the flowers are in bloom and, once again, it’s that time of year when a new generation of wildlife is making its arrival.
And it’s almost a certainty that Pennsylvanians will encounter young wildlife, whether it be in their backyards or high on a mountain.
“Being outdoors in the spring is an enjoyable way to spend time and learn more about nature.” said Calvin W. DuBrock, who directs the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Bureau of Wildlife Management. “Whether enjoying your backyard or hiking in the woods, it is time for our annual message for Pennsylvanians to leave wildlife alone and in the wild, especially young of the year,”
DuBrock said that in the coming days and weeks, Pennsylvanians could find young deer, rabbits, birds, raccoons or other wildlife, some of which might appear to be abandoned.
“Rest assured that in most cases, the young animal is not an orphan or abandoned and the best thing you can do is to leave it alone,” DuBrock advised.
DuBrock noted adult animals often leave their young while the adults forage for food. Also, wildlife often relies on a natural defensive tactic called the “hider strategy,” where young animals will remain motionless and “hide” in surrounding cover while adults draw the attention of potential predators or other intruders away from their young.
“While it may appear as if the adults are abandoning their young, in reality, this is just the animal using its natural instincts to protect its young,” DuBrock said. “Also, young animals often have camouflaging color patterns to avoid being detected by predators.
“Wild animals are not meant to be pets, and we must all resist our well-meaning and well-intentioned urge to want to care for wildlife. Taking wildlife from its natural settings and into your home may expose or transmit wildlife diseases to people or domestic animals. Wildlife also may carry parasites – such as fleas, ticks or lice – that you wouldn’t want infesting you, your family, your home or your pets.”
DuBrock noted that, each year, people ignore this advice by taking wildlife into their homes and then are urged to undergo treatment for possible exposure to various wildlife-borne diseases, such as rabies.
In addition to protecting public health, Game Commission Bureau of Wildlife Protection Director Rich Palmer said that the agency also is concerned with wildlife implications from humans handling wildlife.
“Habituating wildlife to humans is a serious concern, because if wildlife loses its natural fear of humans it can pose a public safety risk,” Palmer said. “For example, a few years ago, a yearling, six-point buck attacked and severely injured two people. Our investigation revealed that a neighboring family had illegally taken the deer into their home and fed it as a fawn. This family continued to feed the deer right up until the time of the attack.
“This particular incident was the subject of numerous news stories around the state, and serves as a fitting example of the possible consequences that can stem from feeding or simply getting too close to wildlife.”
In addition, Palmer noted that it is illegal to take or possess wildlife from the wild. Under state law, the penalty for such a violation is a fine of up to $1,500 per animal.
“Under no circumstances will anyone who illegally takes wildlife into captivity be allowed to keep that animal,” Palmer said. “While residents love to view wildlife and are very compassionate, they must enjoy wildlife from a distance and allow nature to run its course.”
Palmer also pointed out that, under a working agreement with state health officials, any “high risk” rabies vector species confiscated after human contact must be euthanized and tested; it cannot be returned to the wild. Though any mammal may carry rabies, species identified in the agreement are: skunks, raccoons, foxes, bats, coyotes and groundhogs.
“Except for some species of bats, populations of all other rabies vector species are thriving,” Palmer said. “Therefore, to protect public health and safety, it only makes sense to put down an animal for testing, rather than risk relocating a potentially rabid animal, and to answer the question of whether any people were exposed to the rabies virus.”
DuBrock said it is always wise to avoid wild animals and even unfamiliar domestic pets because of the potential rabies risk.
“Animals infected with rabies may not show obvious symptoms, but still may be able to transmit the disease,” DuBrock said.
People can get rabies from the saliva of a rabid animal if they are bitten or scratched, or if the saliva gets into the person’s eyes, mouth or a fresh wound. The last human rabies fatality in Pennsylvania was a 12‑year‑old Lycoming County boy who died in 1984.
Wildlife rehabilitators, who are licensed by the Game Commission, are the only ones who are permitted to care for injured or orphaned wildlife for the purposes of eventual release back into the wild. For those who find wildlife that truly is in need of assistance, a listing of licensed wildlife rehabilitators can be found on the Pennsylvania Association of Wildlife Rehabilitators website (
If you are unable to identify a wildlife rehabilitator in your area, contact the Game Commission region office that serves the county in which the animal is found so that you can be referred to the appropriate licensed wildlife rehabilitator. Region office contact information can be found on the agency’s website ( by putting your cursor over “ABOUT US” in the menu bar in the banner at the top of the homepage, and then clicking on “Region Information” in the drop-down menu listing.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Variety Of Techniques Can Help Fishermen Creel Walleyes

By Bob Frye Pittsburgh Tribune Review

Be versatile. Multitask. Do more with less.

That's the advice you hear these days when it comes to staying alive in business. It turns out those same thoughts apply to walleye fishing.

Scott Gates, owner of S&S Bait & Tackle located in
Chalk Hill, displays the proper way to bait a nightcrawler
onto a jig, which is used for early season walleye fishing.
Walleyes became legal to harvest May 4 — you're allowed to keep six a day, provided they're at least 15 inches long — and the experts agree that if you want to bring any home, you'd better be able to adapt.

“To be successful consistently in walleye fishing, you've got to use a multitude of techniques,” said Pat Byle of Milwaukee, a top pro angler on the National Walleye Tour. Early in the season, from the spawn until the water warms significantly and when walleyes are concentrated, jigging is the way to go, Byle said. “Pitching jigs or vertical jigging is my favorite way to fish,” he said. “It can be effective in current, around dams, in slack water, near shore. You can fish a lot of structure in different parts of a river by jigging.”

This walleye was caught on a jig on the
Allegheny River, considered one of
the top walleye waters in all of
Pennsylvania by the Fish and
Boat Commission
If he's drifting with current, he uses a jig “just heavy enough to keep your line vertical while you're moving,” he said. If he's pitching, he wants a jig between ¼ and 3⁄8 ounces. He uses natural colors like silver, blue, black and green on clear or stained water and bright colors like chartreuse, white, orange and yellow in turbid water.

Jigs pitched toward shoreline structures — the same kinds of places bass anglers would target — can be especially effective if tipped with live bait, said Scott Gates of S&S Bait and Tackle in Chalk Hill. “A lot of guys tip their jig with a nightcrawler or, more often, even just a piece of a nightcrawler,” Gates said. “Sometimes the fish don't want the whole thing. They just want the head or the tail. You've got to let the fish tell you.”

Minnows fished below a bobber also can be good.

Mike Walsh, a waterways conservation officer for the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission in Allegheny County, boated a dozen walleyes in just a couple of hours on the Allegheny River one morning last week.

Using 6-pound test and a single size-8 hook, he had a minnow 6 feet below his bobber.
“I'd cast it out and let it sit for 10 or 15 minutes, letting the river take it wherever it would. Then I'd reel it in real slow. About half of the time, they were hitting on the retrieve,” Walsh said.

He said he checked several other anglers fishing in a similar fashion who boated limits of walleyes on the river.

Later in the season, after the spawn and when the water warms, trolling takes precedence. Some anglers use crawler harnesses, which are a set of tandem hooks baited with a worm — or better yet, half a worm — behind a spinner blade. Others troll crankbaits.

In all cases, the key is to be methodical until you find the fish, said Keith Eshbaugh of Dutch Fork Custom Lures in Claysville and a former walleye pro. He starts out trolling in water up to 10 feet deep, then moves to water 11 to 20 feet and then 21 feet and deeper until he gets into the walleyes.

“You divide the water into three columns. The fish are going to be in one of them, so it's a process of elimination,” Eshbaugh said. “Basically you're eliminating water to find the best bite.”

There are many local waters where it would be worth your time to try those techniques. The Fish and Boat Commission lists the Allegheny River among the state's top walleye fisheries, and, indeed, the two biggest walleyes reported caught last year came from it. Greg Paul of Leechburg caught a 12-pound, 10-ounce walleye on a white jig, while Edward Dunmyre of Oakmont caught a 12-pounder on a Roostertail.

The commission also has Lake Erie, Pymatuning Lake and Lake Somerset on its list of “Pennsylvania's best” walleye waters. Lake Arthur, Yough Dam, Green Lick Lake, High Point Lake, Yellow Creek Lake and Cross Creek Lake are likewise good bets, said commission biologist Rick Lorson.

This is about the best time to be fishing, too. Walleye catch rates rise dramatically in May and peak in June on lakes, according to commission statistics. Walleye fishing on rivers, meanwhile, is traditionally as good this month as it's going to be until October.
The key is to get out there and be flexible, Byle said.

“One thing I know, and I've been doing this professionally since 1992, is that I never have figured it out completely,” he said. “Just when you think you've seen it all, you learn something new.”

Decline In Turkey Flocks Puzzling

By Bob Frye, Pittsburgh Tribune Review

Turkey season changes Monday when hunters are allowed to chase gobblers right up until a half hour after sunset.
But it's already changed in a bigger way. And not for the better.
For most of the past 30 years, the news about turkeys — in Pennsylvania, along the entire East Coast and into the Midwest — has been good. Trap-and-transfer efforts meant to re-establish birds in areas from which they had long since disappeared were hugely successful.
Pennsylvania's flock, which was down to perhaps 5,000 birds a century ago, reached 400,000 by 2001.
But that number's been dropping. The population is down to about 300,000 birds.
“We're not sure exactly what's happening,” said Mary Jo Casalena, turkey biologist for the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
In West Virginia, turkey populations have dropped from 200,000 to somewhere just above 100,000, said Curtis Taylor, chief of wildlife resources for division of natural resources. Pretty much every state with turkeys is experiencing similar declines, he added.
In recent days, wildlife biologists from around the country met to discuss what's happening.
“They're looking at everything that could be behind these steep declines. It's been a hot topic,” Taylor said.
There are a lot of theories.
It could be that populations are reaching “their own equilibrium” and settling in after those record highs, Casalena said. It's certainly true that several wet, cold springs — so hard on survival — have hurt recruitment of young birds into the flock, she said.
Allowing all-day hunting late in spring seasons may not be an issue. In Pennsylvania, only about 6 percent of the overall gobbler harvest comes from birds taken after noon, Casalena said.
But starting gobbler season too early might be a problem.
The trend has been for states — often at the hands of politicians rather than biologists — to open spring turkey seasons earlier to draw in hunters, Taylor said. In Georgia, for example, spring gobbler season starts in mid-March. That's two weeks before the first hens have started to roost.
Liberal harvests could be to blame, too. South Carolina wildlife officials are looking into that.
Habitat loss also might be a problem. Every new housing development, shopping center or strip mine means turkey habitat is lost.
It could even be that turkeys are suffering from competition with other wildlife, such as surging black bear populations. They compete with them for food such as acorns, Taylor said.
That's a lot to consider, so finding answers likely will take time, Casalena said.
“There are all these variables that we never had to look at before,” Casalena said. “Now we have to look at all these other factors that come into play in managing a game species.”

Saturday, May 11, 2013

2013 Pennsylvania Family Fishing Festivals Set for May and June

HARRISBURG, Pa.–The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) has scheduled several opportunities in May and June for families to learn fishing skills and enjoy fishing.

The PFBC is holding three Family Fishing Festivals in May and three in June. These events lead up to the two statewide Fish-for-Free Days - Memorial Day, May 27, and Independence Day, July 4.

“Family Fishing Festivals are a convenient way to introduce friends and family to the sport of fishing,” said PFBC Executive Director John Arway. “While we offer family fishing programs throughout the year, the May and June events call more attention to the importance of fishing in the lives of many Pennsylvania families. Through the events, former and new anglers can try fishing at no cost. We know that once people try it, particularly kids, they will see that fishing is a great recreational activity and they will want to do it more.”

Family Fishing Festivals are educational events designed for families with little or no fishing experience to have fun fishing together. Families will learn basic fishing skills and have an opportunity to practice those skills while fishing during the program.
Family Fishing Festivals will be hosted by the PFBC at these locations:
The PFBC is waiving the fishing license requirement during the program for registered Family Fishing Festival participants 16 and older. The program is open to all ages, including children ages 5 and up. The PFBC is providing equipment, bait and tackle. PFBC staff will be present to teach skills and assist those who fish. Preregistration is required.

Visit to register or learn more about these events. Space is limited, and there will be no registrations accepted the day of the event. In addition, PFBC partners will be hosting events throughout the month. These events can also be viewed at this website.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Report Highlights Safe Hunting Milestones In PA

No hunting-related firearms fatalities in Pennsylvania in 2012.

HARRISBURG – Hunting is safe and getting safer.

That’s the conclusion of the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s newly released report on hunting-related shooting incidents (HRSIs) in 2012.

For the first time since the commission began tracking such incidents in 1915, a year came and went without a single human fatality related to gun handling in hunting and trapping. There were 33 non-fatal incidents, a number that also represents a decrease from the previous year, and extends a continuing trend of increased hunter safety statewide.

Hunting-related shooting incidents have declined by nearly 80 percent in Pennsylvania since hunter-education training began in 1959. Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director Carl G. Roe said the numbers are encouraging. “While one accident is too many, we are pleased to see that these types of shooting incidents continue to drop in Pennsylvania, and we look forward to continuing this impressive trend in safer hunting,” Roe said.

An HRSI is defined as any occurrence in which a person is injured as the result of a discharge from a firearm or bow during actual hunting or furtaking activities. Aside from the absence of fatalities, the report for 2012 contains what could be another first for Pennsylvania.

Statewide, there was not a single hunting-related shooting incident during the fall turkey-hunting season in 2012.

While the number of such incidents sharply dropped following the Game Commission’s 1992 requirement for all fall turkey hunters to wear hunter orange, there is no other year on record without at least one incident during fall turkey season.

In its annual reports on HRSIs, the Game Commission establishes an incident rate by computing the number of accidents per 100,000 participants. The 3.52 incident rate reported for 2012 is slightly lower than the 2011 rate of 3.88.

An analysis of offender ages revealed individuals ages 16 and younger had an incident rate of 5.86 per 100,000 participants. A total of 14 incidents – 42 percent of all 2012 incidents with an identified offender – were caused by individuals with 10 or fewer years of hunting experience.

However, no incidents in 2012 resulted from youth participating in the Mentored Youth Hunting Program – a program whereby hunters under the age of 12 are permitted to harvest certain wildlife species, if they are accompanied by a licensed adult. More than 33,400 mentored youth permits were issued during 2012.

The leading causes of hunter-related shooting incidents in 2012 were a sporting arm carried in a dangerous position and a victim being in the line of fire, each accounting for 24 percent of the total.

The Game Commission attributes the trend of declining hunter-related shooting incidents, in part, to mandatory hunter-education training and requirements for hunters to wear fluorescent orange during certain firearms seasons.

The Game Commission also has partnered with the National Wild Turkey Federation for the past 20 years to increase safety among turkey hunters. Nearly 38,000 students statewide were certified in 2012 through one of the commission’s Basic Hunter-Trapper education courses – an effort made possible by fewer than 2,300 volunteer instructors.

Roe applauded the commitment of instructors, and congratulated graduates of the course and the hunting public on a safe year of hunting in 2012. “For our hunters and ourselves, we are committed to many more years like this one,” Roe said. For more information on safe hunting practices, go to the Game Commission’s website,

All-Day Spring Gobbler Season To Begin May 13 In Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania turkey hunters are permitted to hunt from one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset, beginning Monday, May 13. The expanded hunting hours continue through the last day of the season, Friday, May 31.

All-day hunting during the second half of the spring season began in 2011 to provide
interested hunters with more time to be afield.

“By the second half of the season, hunter participation decreases significantly and nesting hens are less prone to abandon nests,” said Mary Jo Casalena, Game Commission wild turkey biologist. “All-day hunting during this portion of the season has had minimal impact to nesting.”

Casalena said the overall spring harvest since 2011 has not increased from previous harvests. 

Since 2011, afternoon and evening harvests have comprised 6 percent of the total reported harvests and 22 percent of harvests during the all-day portion of the seasons. In other words, even during the all-day portions of the season, 78 percent of the harvests have occurred before noon. 

           Casalena said the majority of the afternoon and evening harvests have occurred between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. Last year’s latest reported harvest was 8:50 p.m., about 20 minutes before the close of hunting hours in the western part of the state.

           Casalena said the Game Commission will continue to monitor the afternoon harvest in relation to population trends and age class of gobblers to gauge the impact of all-day hunting. Among the 49 states that conduct turkey seasons, Pennsylvania is one of the 34 that conduct all-day hunting for all or part of the season, she said.