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PA Bulletin, Doc. No. 02-1671




[58 PA. CODE CH. 69]


[32 Pa.B. 4707]

   The Fish and Boat Commission (Commission) by this order amends Chapter 69 (relating to fishing in Lake Erie and boundary lakes). The Commission is publishing this final-form rulemaking under the authority of 30 Pa.C.S. (relating to the Fish and Boat Code) (code).

A.  Effective Date

   The final-form rulemaking will go into effect on December 1, 2002, instead of January 1, 2003, as stated in the notice of proposed rulemaking.

B.  Contact Person

   For further information on the final-form rulemaking, contact Laurie E. Shepler, Assistant Counsel, P. O. Box 67000, Harrisburg, PA 17106-7000, (717) 705-7815. This final-form rulemaking is available electronically through the Commission's website (

C.  Statutory Authority

   The amendment to § 69.12 (relating to seasons, sizes and creel limits--Lake Erie) is published under the statutory authority of section 2102 of the code (relating to rules and regulations).

D.  Purpose and Background

   The final-form rulemaking is designed to update, modify and improve the Commission's regulations pertaining to fishing. The specific purpose of the final-form rulemaking is described in more detail under the summary of changes.

E.  Summary of Changes

   Current angling regulations, established in 1996 to conserve yellow perch in the waters of Lake Erie and Presque Isle Bay, include a daily possession limit of 20 fish, an 8-inch minimum size limit and no closed season for sport fishing. On the open lake, these regulations were expected to constrain the harvest at or below the annual quota or total allowable catch (TAC) and reduce the harvest of small immature perch.

   The same angling regulations were imposed upon the yellow perch fishery in Presque Isle Bay that has been subjected to very high fishing mortality especially during the ice fishery. The ice fishery had been responsible for the excessive over-fishing harvest prior to the implementation of the 8-inch minimum size limit and 20 perch per day possession limit.

   The Commission's Lake Erie Research Unit is committed to continuing an intensive assessment of yellow perch to evaluate the yellow perch population, angler use and yellow perch harvest and to make appropriate adjustments to the yellow perch regulations. On the open lake, strong yellow perch year classes and conservative regulations have resulted in increased population abundance at the highest levels since 1990, and yellow perch catch rates continue to increase. However, a sizeable proportion of the open lake angler catch was released under the 8-inch minimum size limit and mortality of these release fish was high because of hydraulic decompression. The Lake Erie Boat Angler Survey in the summer of 2001 demonstrated that the 20 yellow perch creel limit was constraining the yellow perch harvest within the Lake Erie Committee TAC. The Presque Isle Bay yellow perch population has also rebounded subsequent to the implementation of the regulations. However, because of the high minimum size limit relative to the relatively slow perch growth, the Presque Isle Bay creel rate has been low. The harvest of Bay caught yellow perch was only 7--19% of those caught during the years 1997-2001.

   These intensive yellow perch assessments have shown that reducing the minimum size limit to 7 inches will continue to adequately protect yellow perch spawning stock under the condition of higher yellow perch population sizes. This should reduce complaints about catch and release mortality on the open lake and complaints about the low harvest rates on Presque Isle Bay. Commission staff expect harvest to increase by at least 30% by Presque Isle Bay anglers; however, on the open lake harvest, increases due to reducing the minimum size limit should be a little more than 15%.

   Accordingly, the Commission proposed to amend § 69.12 to reduce the minimum size limit of yellow perch on Lake Erie and Presque Isle Bay from 8 inches to 7 inches and to keep the daily creel limit of 20 and the no closed season in effect. The Commission, on final-form rulemaking, adopted an amendment that reduces the minimum size limit of yellow perch on Lake Erie and Presque Isle Bay from 8 inches to 7 inches during the period, December 1 through March 31, and that maintains the current 8 inch minimum size limit during the period, April 1 through November 30. According to input received from the Commission's fisheries management staff, this change is as protective of yellow perch as the proposed amendment and will provide additional recreational opportunities for anglers.

F.  Paperwork

   The final-form rulemaking will not increase paperwork and will create no new paperwork requirements.

G.  Fiscal Impact

   The final-form rulemaking will have no adverse fiscal impact on the Commonwealth or its political subdivisions. The final-form rulemaking will impose no new costs on the private sector or the general public.

H.  Public Involvement

   A notice of proposed rulemaking was published at 32 Pa.B. 1728 (April 6, 2002). Prior to the public comment period, the Commission received four comments opposing the proposed rulemaking. No comments were received during the public comment period. Copies of all public comments were provided to the Commissioners.


   The Commission finds that:

   (1)  Public notice of intention to adopt the amendment 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) and the regulations promulgated thereunder, 1 Pa. Code §§ 7.1 and 7.2.

   (2)  A public comment period was provided, and the comments that were received were considered.

   (3)  The adoption of the rulemaking 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 69, are amended by amending § 69.12 to read as set forth in Annex A.

   (b)  The Executive Director will submit this order and Annex A to the Office of Attorney General for approval as to legality as required by law.

   (c)  The Executive Director shall certify this order and Annex A and deposit them with the Legislative Reference Bureau as required by law.

   (d)  This order shall take effect on December 1, 2002.

Executive Director

   Fiscal Note: Fiscal Note 48A-126 remains valid for the final adoption of the subject regulation.

Annex A



Subpart B.  FISHING



§ 69.12.  Season, sizes and creel limits--Lake Erie.

   (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 specified in this section. It is not a violation of this section if an undersized 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 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 taken. Except as otherwise provided in §  53.24 or §  63.40 (relating to tournament and fishing derby permits; and fishing tournament 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 will 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)  The following seasons, sizes and creel limits apply to Lake Erie and Presque Isle Bay, including peninsular waters:

MUSKELLUNGE and MUSKELLUNGE HYBRIDS PIKE Inland seasons apply: See § 61.1. 40 inches1
   Northern24 inches2
WALLEYE*January 1 to midnight March 15 and 12:01 a.m. the first Saturday in May to December 31 15 inches6
January 1 to opening day of trout season in April and first Saturday after June 11 until December 3115 inches4 (combined species)
Opening day of trout season in April until first Saturday after June 11.*20 inches1
TROUT and SALMONFirst Saturday after April 11 until midnight Labor Day. 9 inches8 (combined species only 2 of which may be lake trout). Of the entire catch (combined species) only 5 fish total may exceed 15 inches in length.
12:01 a.m. the day after Labor Day until midnight on the Friday before the first Saturday after April 11 15 inches3 (combined species only 2 of which may be lake trout)
YELLOW PERCH From December 1 through March 31 7 inches 20
From April 1 through November 30 8 inches 20
Open year-roundNone50 (combined species)
BURBOT (when taken by scuba divers by use of nonmechanical spears or gigs at a depth of at least 60 feet) June 1 to September 30None5
ALL OTHER SPECIESInland regulations apply: See § 61.1

*It is unlawful to conduct or participate in a fishing tournament (as defined in § 63.40 (relating to seasons for fishing tournaments)) for bass on Lake Erie or Presque Isle Bay during the period from opening day of trout season in April until the first Saturday after June 11.

[Pa.B. Doc. No. 02-1671. Filed for public inspection September 27, 2002, 9:00 a.m.]

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