Pennsylvania anglers get more stream access; bow anglers might get approval for snakehead

Brian Whipkey
Pennsylvania Outdoors Columnist

Anglers are getting more places to fish thanks to agreements being made in several parts of Pennsylvania, and bow anglers might soon have a new species to pursue.

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission Board of Commissioners voted Tuesday to authorize several agreements with private landowners to allow public fishing.

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission has preliiminarily approved adding northern snakehead, an invasive species, to the list of fish that can be shot by bow anglers.

The agency approved a property easement along the West Branch of the Susquehanna River in Susquehanna Township, Cambria County. With funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program, the commission will pay $71,000 to the property owner for public fishing and boating access and riparian and fishery management rights on two properties totaling 5,925 linear feet. The West Branch Susquehanna River offers Class A wild brown trout fishing opportunities.

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In northwestern Pennsylvania, two new access areas are being finalized.

The board approved a property easement along Crooked Creek in Springfield Township, Erie County. The agency will use Erie Access Improvement Program funds to pay $85,000 to the YMCA of Youngstown, Ohio, to obtain public fishing and boating access and riparian and fishery management rights on 4,990 linear feet. Crooked Creek is known to be a good steelhead fishing area. 

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Commissioners also approved a property easement on the Hedstrom property along Elk Creek in Erie County. Using funds from the Natural Resources Conservation Service Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program, and pending due diligence, the commission will pay $14,000 to the property owner to obtain public fishing and boating access and riparian and fishery management rights on 860 linear feet on the popular steelhead stream.

Scott Bollinger, statewide public access program manager, said the three locations are "new access areas for fishermen. They may have been open before, but it wasn’t officially open to the public. This guarantees it will be now and into the future because these easements are permanent."

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Additional funding was approved to complete a fish-cleaning station in the Lampe Marina. The Erie Access Improvement Grant to the Erie-Western PA Port Authority project was granted $150,000 in 2021, but with the cost of supplies increasing the project will actually cost $250,000. The board approved an additional $100,000 that includes a concrete pad for a second fish-cleaning table, water service, wastewater drains, adding a building roof and enclosure with sidewalls to the refrigeration building, and a chain-link fence. 

For those who like bow fishing, the commission took the first step to add snakehead to the list of fish bow anglers can shoot including carp, suckers and catfish. Snakehead are an invasive species mostly found in southeastern Pennsylvania in places like the lower Delaware basin. They were first found in Pennsylvania in 2002 at Franklin Delano Roosevelt Park near Philadelphia. 

The commission recommends that all snakeheads caught should be disposed of properly and not be released. The measure to include bow fishermen will be considered at a future meeting.

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The board also voted on changes to further regulate bow fishing across the state. The changes will prohibit bow fishing on any special regulation trout waters; make it unlawful to cast direct rays of a spotlight from any watercraft upon any occupied building or another watercraft; and limit noise from generators used aboard a boat while bow fishing to no more than 90 A-weighted decibels, which is consistent with regulations for noise produced by motorboats.

The changes were made in an attempt to address complaints about lighting and general noise made to the agency’s law enforcement staff about bow fishing boats. 

Brian Whipkey is the outdoors columnist for USA TODAY Network sites in Pennsylvania. Contact him at bwhipkey@gannett.com and sign up for our weekly Go Outdoors PA newsletter email on your website's homepage under your login name. Follow him on social media @whipkeyoutdoors.