Anglers, boaters and even reptile hunters and amphibian gatherers need to pay attention to new rules and regulations recently adopted by the state Fish and Boat Commission.
Right now, anglers may purchase their fishing licenses in three- and five-year increments.
Multi-year fishing licenses are available for all anglers, including non-residents. The trout and salmon permit and Lake Erie permits also are available with the new multi-year licenses.
"It is kind of a win-win for both the agency and the angler," said Jerry Barton, manager of the commission's Northcentral Region. "It allows the angler to buy their license, knowing ahead of time they are covered."
Customers who buy multi-year licenses save money by not having to pay transaction and processing fees each year, according to the commission.
Fishermen and women may fish all year long, for those three or five years.
New opportunities on Pine Creek
The commission is proposing to move two popular sections of Pine Creek to its list of "approved trout waters open to year-round fishing."
During 2011-12, the commission developed a fishery management plan for Pine Creek, an 87-mile-long stream that originates in Potter County and flows through Tioga, Lycoming and Clinton counties.
In it, staff identified ways to improve angler opportunities.
"The fisheries management plan identifies sections 10 and 12 as excellent candidates for the year-round program because the stream sections are popular with anglers and tend to warm quickly due to their large size, with temperatures often becoming marginal for trout by early June," Dave Miko, chief of the PFBC Division of Fisheries Management, said in a news release.
According to the commission, Section 10 extends for 11.1 miles from the Route 414 bridge in Blackwell downstream to the confluence with Slate Run. Section 12 extends for 15.1 miles from about 492 feet upstream of the confluence with Naval Run downstream to the confluence with Little Pine Creek in Waterville.
The sections now are under "Approved Trout Waters" regulations.
The two sections, if switched over to an year-round fishing program, would be open to fishing from March 1 through the opening day of trout season, on a catch-and-release basis. The rest of the year, "Standard Approved Trout Waters" regulations would apply.
"This change would increase recreational angling opportunities for stocked trout on this (creek) by an
additional four to five weeks," Miko said in a news release. "This time period often provides excellent fishing, including some of the stream's best insect hatches for fly fishing, which is the most common type of tackle used on Pine Creek."
The public has a chance to comment on the proposal this month. The board will make a final vote at its April 16 quarterly meeting.
If approved, the change will be effective in January.
Comments may be submitted electronically by completing the form available online at www.fishandboat.com/regcomments. Reference Pine Creek on the form under "Number of Rulemaking or Title of Notice."
Send comments in writing to: Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, Fisheries Management Area 3, 450 Robinson Lane, Bellefonte, PA 16823.
Anglers who violate laws concerning the number or size of fish they can catch and keep now will face increased penalties.
The agency is focusing more on those who grossly violate the law.
Under the code, it is called "serious unlawful take," and it is defined as someone who, during the closed season, takes, catches, kills or possesses fish having a replacement cost in excess of $500; or who takes, catches, kills or possesses three or more times the daily limit of fish.
The law was adopted in October.
"If someone makes a mistake or has a lapse of judgment and takes one extra fish, the law doesn't apply to that.
"It is the people who go and take the limit of fish and go home and come back and take another limit of fish ... obviously intending on breaking the law," said Gerald Barton, north central region manager of the commission's Bureau of Law Enforcement.
Even if only two fish over the limit are taken, an angler will be cited but will not face the major violation mentioned above.
Barton said the law also applies to people who, during closed seasons, harvest fish, such as trout.
If the season and waters are not open to a certain species of fish, and someone is taking and possessing or killing fish, they can be cited through the serious unlawful take law.
The replacement cost of the fish also is involved with this violation and is based on the American Fishery Society's guide to the cost of raising the fish involved in the violation.
Barton urges anglers to read the fishing laws booklet and be sure they fully understand it.
Snakes and license
This year will mark the first time that anyone who obtains a permit to take a reptile or amphibian, such as timber rattlesnakes, also will be required to have a fishing license.
State law previously declared that a license was not needed to pursue reptiles and amphibians that were on land, only those that were in water.
"The law was changed to now include reptiles and amphibians on the lands of the commonwealth," Barton said.
The reason for the change was, primarily, to alleviate confusion.
However, the agency is responsible for the protection and management of all reptiles and amphibians - regardless of where they live.
"While it's not a significant number, people who are involved with catching reptiles (such as snakes) should be helping with protecting (them)," he said.
Anyone who obtains a snake permit this season will be made aware when they apply about also obtaining a fishing license.
Certain boating regulations also were tweaked last year.
Owners of boats who allow someone to operate their crafts, while knowing that person is "under a violation" also will be subject to prosecution under the law.
"Under violation" may refer to being under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances, failure to obtain a boating safety certificate, or being underage.
Both the boat owner and operator could be subject to fines.
"It used to be for a juvenile that was operating the boat, and the parent or legal guardian could be cited for that," Barton said. "Now it's more encompassing."
He said it happens a lot with watercrafts such as jet skis. A jet ski owner may let a friend drive the ski even though he or she does not have a safety certificate, which is required by state law.
Those who plan to operate boats must remember to meet all the legal requirements to do so, Barton said.
Wear your PFD
Although the cold months are passing, anyone who operates a boat that is 16 feet or shorter still must wear a personal flotation device. This law is in effect from Nov. 1 through April 30, for all ages.
Barton said nationwide studies found that coldwater fatalities were high.
The commission said that over the last 15 years, coldwater incidents represented only 8 percent of boating-related accidents, but resulted in 24 percent of the fatalities.
"The number of people who could be saved wearing life jackets could be significant," Barton said.
"This is something the commission pursued for a number of years, for smaller boats ... not just having them on the boat but being worn while on the boat," he said.
The new law was passed last year.