Sunday, July 19, 2015

Pennsylvania Fish And Boat Commission Looks To Create Premium Trout Fishing Opportunities

Harry Wade, manager of the Fish and Boat Commission’s
Reynoldsdale hatchery in Bedford County, holds a net full of
trophy brown trout. The commission plans to pack a
bunch of those fish in eight stream sections next year
in an attempt to create premium opportunities for anglers.
Pine Creek is going on the road.
Not the stream itself, of course. But the experience of fishing it.
The creek flows through Potter, Tioga and Lycoming counties. It's stocked with trout over more than 50 miles.
There's a 2.8-mile stretch of it, from Slate Run downstream to Bonnell Run, that stands out, though. It's stocked by a group of sportsmen known as the Brown Trout Club. This year, it put in $18,000 worth of trout measuring from 14 to almost 30 inches.
Anglers can fish for them year-round, under all tackle, catch and release regulations.
The big fish have, by all accounts, proven a draw, bringing in fishermen willing to spend money on tackle, food, gas, lodging and more in return for the chance to catch a monster trout.
“This is not a world-class fishery. The trout would have to be wild and naturally reproducing for that,” said Tom Finkbiner, owner of Slate Run Tackle shop and founder of the trout club.
“But it is a world-class fishing experience.”
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission wants to recreate that at eight points across the state.
Each year, the agency stocks 33,000 “trophy trout” — brooks, browns and rainbows — ranging in size from 14 to 20 inches in waters across Pennsylvania. They go in at a density of five to 10 fish per stream mile.
Starting next spring, the commission plans to stock 3,300 of those fish — 10 percent of the total — in just eight stream sections, each about one to two miles long, at a density of about 250 trout per mile.
The intent is to replicate the kind of trophy fishery that's proven so popular on Pine Creek, said Leroy Young, director of the commission's bureau of fisheries. Anglers should have a 25- to 50-times greater chance of landing a big fish on these waters than they would on others elsewhere in the state, he added.
“We're excited about this. We want to provide anglers with an opportunity to fish high-density waters for larger trout compared to the typical 11-inch fish,” Young said.
“It's quality, not quantity.”
The stream sections that will get the fish haven't been determined. Young said the commission wants to pick ones that are open along their entire length to public fishing, meaning those crossing public land may be good candidates. But commissioners won't announce the chosen streams until their Sept. 28-29 meeting in Erie.
Each of the eight commissioner districts will get one trophy water.
That would, for example, put one within the Butler, Clarion, Crawford, Erie, Forest, Lawrence, Mercer, Venango and Warren cluster known as District 1; another in the Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Fayette, Greene, Indiana, Washington and Westmoreland cluster known as District 2; and another in the Bedford, Blair, Cambria, Fulton, Huntingdon, Juniata, Mifflin and Somerset cluster known as District 4.
All of the chosen stream sections will be waters currently managed under delayed harvest, artificial lures only regulations, too, Young said. Those rules limit harvest at certain times of year and prohibit the use of bait. They allow for year-round fishing, though.
Young hopes that will alleviate concerns about the big fish drawing crowds so large as to be harmful or unpleasant.
“There shouldn't be a sort of opening-day effect. I don't think it will be a circus,” he said.
“The point is to give everyone a couple of months to fish for these trout,” said commission president Ed Mascharka of Erie County.
The fact that so many big fish will be going into such relatively little water is important, though, said commissioner Bill Sabatose of Elk County.
“So you should be able to notice it,” he said.
Anglers on other waterways won't be shortchanged, Young said. All of the waters statewide that have been getting trophy fish will continue to get almost as many as ever. They'll just get about one less per mile than previously, he said.
“I doubt we could detect that, and I doubt anglers will be able to detect it,” Young said.
That's important, said commissioner Rocco Ali of North Apollo. He likes the new program, he said, in part because it will provide a benefit without simultaneously causing harm.
“I think it gives delayed harvest anglers, or anglers willing to fish those waters, more opportunity. But I don't think it's going to hurt the general fisherman, which is important to me,” Ali said.
The idea of creating “premium” trout waters has been around since 2008, Young said. That it's finally launching next year is fitting, commission executive director John Arway said.
Much like how the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources first stocked golden rainbow trout — then called palominos — in 1963, in honor of the state's 100th anniversary, the commission is going to launch its trophy trout program next year, when it's celebrating its 150th anniversary, he said.
The potential of the program is what's really exciting, though, he said.
“These programs have successfully demonstrated that destination fisheries can be created, drawing anglers from across the state, and even the country, and providing an economic boost to local communities,” Arway said.
Young said the commission will evaluate the program as time goes on, measuring angler use and economics, to see if they're doing all that's hoped.
So what's it going to be called?
What the Fish and Boat Commission's new trophy program doesn't have yet is a name.
That will be up to fishermen.
Leroy Young, director of the commission's bureau of fisheries, said staff in that section usually name new programs. Almost invariably, no one likes what they come up with, he said.
“So this time we're not going to do it,” Young said.
Instead — in what is also an attempt to build excitement and get angler buy-in — the commission is going to give fishermen the chance to name the program. They may be given options to choose from, like the blue ribbon, lunker or trophy trout program. But they'll also be able to write in their own suggestions, Young said.
Details on how, when and where votes will be accepted will be announced later.
Commissioner Len Lichvar of Boswell has an idea already, though. He and some friends only half-jokingly like the “trophy rat” waters program.
“That's because if you want to throw a mouse pattern or some really big fly or lure after dark, for big fish, these are going to be the places to do it,” Lichvar said.
Bob Frye is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @bobfryeoutdoors.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Veterans With Disabilities Goose Hunt Announced

Forty applicants will have special opportunity at Pymatuning Wildlife Management Area.
Keith Harbaugh, director of the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Northwest Region, today announced a new initiative to honor military veteran hunters with disabilities. 

“We are proud to offer qualified veterans with disabilities the opportunity to hunt geese from a blind in the Pymatuning Wildlife Management Area located in Crawford County,” Harbaugh said.

The hunt will be held on Friday, Sept. 25, 2015. This is outside of the established shooting days for the Pymatuning Wildlife Management Area. This special opportunity will be limited to 40 successful applicants. Hunters may bring an individual to assist, if needed; but hunting will be limited to the lucky 40 hunters selected. 

“We are working with volunteers that will be available to assist if the hunter wants and/or needs some help. We have worked closely with the Crawford County Veterans Administration to make this hunt happen,” Harbaugh said. “We are excited to offer this opportunity to honor these individuals who have sacrificed so much for our country.”

Applications can be obtained from the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Harrisburg headquarters, all six region office locations, and the Pymatuning Wildlife Management Area. Applications also can be downloaded from the agency’s website  Click on the icon advertising the Pymatuning Veterans with Disabilities Goose Hunt.

Applications must be received at the Pymatuning Wildlife Management Area, 9552 Hartstown Road, Hartstown, PA 16131 by August 24, 2015.

A drawing will be held at least three weeks prior to the scheduled hunt. Successful applicants will be notified by mail.
1. Any veteran who has a disability that consists of the loss of one or more limbs, or the loss of the use of one or more limbs, or who has a disability rating of between 60 and 100 percent disabled as certified by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs and who meets all other qualifications of PA C.S. 34 (with regard to hunting license eligibility) and is otherwise mentally and physically fit, is qualified to apply to participate in this hunt.
2. Applicants shall provide a statement that the applicant is a veteran and that the qualifying disability was service incurred.
3. Successful applicants are required to possess a valid Pennsylvania hunting license, a valid Pennsylvania migratory game bird hunting license and a valid Federal Duck Stamp.
1. LEGIBLY PRINT all requested information on the application.
2. If this application is successfully drawn the applicant will receive a Permit Reservation with additional instructions which entitles them to hunt on the date listed above.
3. This application must be received at the Pymatuning Wildlife Management Area by August 24, 2015. Applications must be mailed to the Pymatuning Wildlife Management Area, 9552 Hartstown Road, Hartstown, PA 16131.
4. A drawing will be held at least three weeks prior to the date of the hunt. Successful applicants will be notified by mail.
5. Your name may only appear on one application for the Goose Hunt for Veterans with Disabilities. Application for this hunt does not preclude application to the regular season goose hunt.
6. This hunt will be conducted on September 25, 2015, outside established shooting days at the Pymatuning Wildlife Management Area, to honor veterans with disabilities, therefore no unclaimed blind permits will be available. Successful applicants will not be permitted to invite additional hunters as is done during the regularly scheduled shooting days.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Pennsylvania Reports Record Number Of Bald-Eagle Nests

Mid-year survey documents 277 nests statewide. 

t was a scene that warmed many hearts.
A bald eagle incubating two eggs in a falling snow, unwilling to budge as the nest turned white. As the flakes piled high, the bird was blanketed. Only its head could been seen, periscoping above the snow. 
A bald eagle incubates two eggs during a March snowstorm, as its mate stands atop the snow in a nest near Hanover, Pa. The event, which was livestreamed on the Pennsylvania Game Commission's Eagle Cam, drew national attention and helps to explain why the state's bald eagles have been so successful in their comeback. So far this year, a record-high 277 nests have been documented statewide. Get Image

The images captured in early March on the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Eagle Cam spotlighted the sacrifices parents make, and showed a lot about the resilience of bald eagles, and why they have been so successful in Pennsylvania and elsewhere.

And as the Game Commission releases its annual mid-year report on bald-eagle nests statewide, the preliminary numbers represent an all-time high. 

So far this year, 277 bald-eagle nests have been documented in Pennsylvania, with nesting eagles present in at least 58 of the state’s 67 counties.  

That shatters the 2014 preliminary number of 254 nests, which also was an all-time high. And more nests remain to be counted as the year goes on. 

Game Commission Executive Director R. Matthew Hough spoke with excitement about the record numbers. 

“Like many Pennsylvanians, I remember a time when bald eagles were absent just about everywhere in the state, and it truly is astonishing how things have turned around,” Hough said. “Through our reintroduction program, our protection of eagles and effective management, we’ve gone from three nests statewide to what soon could be 300, all within the span of my career with the Game Commission. 

“It’s an accomplishment of which all Pennsylvanians can be proud,” Hough said.
Of the nests reported so far this year, 20 are new, which could mean they were built and used for the first time this year or, if they existed previously, they were reported for the first time this year.

The Game Commission urges all eagle nests be reported.  

Even if nests were reported in a previous year, it’s important to report them again if they were used again this year, said Patti Barber, a biologist with the Game Commission’s Endangered and Nongame Birds section.  

People who have reported a nest as active in a previous year might not realize they should report back each year to help the Game Commission track the population over time, Barber said. It’s one of the challenges of documenting bald-eagle nests as the population of eagles continues to grow. Also, folks might assume bald eagles they’re seeing are associated with long-established nests, as opposed to new pairs setting up territories near established nests, Barber said.  

Reports of bald-eagle nests always are appreciated. Perhaps the easiest way to report a nest is to contact the Game Commission through its public comments email address:, and use the words “Eagle Nest Information” in the subject field. Reports also can be phoned in to a Game Commission Region Office or the Harrisburg headquarters. 

“Even if nests are well known locally, please don’t hesitate to report them,” Barber said. “You might be adding a new nest to the list, or making certain that one reported in a previous year is accurately counted this year.”  

Each year, bald-eagle nests continue to be reported as the year goes on. In 2014, for instance, the preliminary number of 254 nests ballooned to 273 nests by year’s end. Other years have produced similar results.  

But the mid-year numbers are an accomplishment in their own right, Barber said.
In 1983, when the Game Commission launched a seven-year reintroduction program, only three bald-eagle pairs were nesting statewide. Today, there are 277 with more remaining to be counted.  

“We so often refer to the story of the bald eagle as one of the greatest wildlife success stories out there, but it just keeps getting better all the time,” Barber said. “People are fascinated with eagles, and their chances to see them and watch them are better now than they’ve ever been.”

Hough said the nearly 1.4 million people who viewed the Game Commission’s Eagle Cam online this year illustrate the connection people have with bald eagles. And that connection is an important part of the bald eagle’s success, he said. 

“Without people who care, we wouldn’t have nearly the number of bald eagles we have in Pennsylvania today, and we probably wouldn’t have them at all,” Hough said. “When bald-eagles were in decline, it was people who led the way for their recovery. We joined to clean up the environment, entrusted wildlife agencies like the Game Commission to jumpstart restoration of eagle populations, and placed priority on protecting eagles to give them a chance to take hold. 

“The rest we left up to the eagles, and they continue to prove they’ll continue to be here for more and more Pennsylvanians to enjoy,” Hough said. 

Eagle reintroduction 

       While Pennsylvania’s bald-eagle population is soaring, just a few decades ago, the bald eagle’s future looked bleak. 

Its population decimated by the effects of water pollution, persecution and compromised nest success caused by organochlorine pesticides such as DDT, only three pairs of nesting eagles remained in the state – all of them located in Crawford County, in northwestern Pennsylvania along the Ohio border. 

In 1983, the Game Commission launched a seven-year bald eagle restoration program. The agency, as part of a federal restoration initiative, sent employees to Saskatchewan to obtain eaglets from wild nests. 

Initially, 12 seven-week-old eaglets were taken from nests in Canada’s Churchill River valley and brought to specially constructed towers at two sites. At these towers – at Haldeman Island on the Susquehanna River near Harrisburg, and at Shohola Lake in Pike County – the birds were “hacked,” a process by which the eaglets essentially are raised by humans, but without knowing it, then released gradually into the wild. 

In all, 88 bald eaglets from Canada were released from the sites as part of the program, which was funded in part by the Richard King Mellon Foundation of Pittsburgh and the federal Endangered Species Fund. 

This reintroduction jumpstarted the recovery. 

By 1998, Pennsylvania was home to 25 pairs of nesting bald eagles. Within the next three years, the number of nesting pairs doubled and by 2006, more than 100 nests were confirmed statewide.        

The bald eagle population has continued to grow and expand in Pennsylvania and in 2014 the Game Commission removed the bald eagle from the state’s list of threatened species. 

Eagle-viewing tips 

        While the bald eagle is no longer threatened in Pennsylvania or nationally, care still should be taken when viewing eagles, to prevent frightening them. 

        Those encountering nests are asked to keep a safe distance. Disturbing eagles is illegal under the federal Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Some pairs are tolerant of human activity, while others are sensitive. Their reaction often depends on the activity and approach of the individual, the nesting cycle stage, and if the eagles are used to seeing people. 

Adults that are scared from a nest could abandon it, or might not return in time to keep unhatched eggs or young nestlings at the proper temperature. Frightened eaglets also could jump from the safety of the nest, then have no way to return. 

Those viewing eagle nests are urged to keep their distance and use binoculars or spotting scopes to aid their viewing. 

For more information on bald eagles and eagle-viewing etiquette, visit the Game Commission’s website,