PA Fish & Boat Urges Safety During Winter and Spring Fishing and Boating Activites

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) began its quarterly business meeting by encouraging anglers to be safe on the ice and water when taking advantage of remaining winter fishing opportunities, especially during times when the temperature warms but the water remains very cold.

“Many anglers stay busy year-round by ice fishing on their favorite lake when conditions are safe, seeking out trophy steelhead on the tributaries of Lake Erie, or running their bass boats up and down the river when it’s not frozen,” said Tim Schaeffer, PFBC Executive Director.  “For those who remain active on the water and ice this winter, we ask them to stay safe by being mindful of changing weather conditions, checking for adequate ice thickness, ice fishing with others, and always wearing your life jacket.”

John Mahn, Second District Commissioner and Chairman of the Boating Committee reinforced the importance of life-jacket wear during the cold weather months.  Since 2012, the PFBC has required anyone aboard a boat less than 16 feet, including all kayaks and canoes, to wear a life jacket from November 1 through April 30.

“We believe many lives have been saved because of this requirement over the past decade, and the statistics back that statement up,” said Mahn.  “Over the past ten years, since this regulation took effect, the number of boating accidents in Pennsylvania during the cold weather months has remained about the same, but fatalities have decreased from 58% in 2012 to 17% in 2022.”

Schaeffer reminded anglers and boaters who are looking forward to spring that the PFBC is already preparing for pre-season trout stocking operations in anticipation of the statewide Mentored Youth Trout Fishing Day on Saturday, March 25, and the statewide Opening Day of Trout Season on Saturday, April 1.

“Our hatcheries are bustling with activity right now, as we get ready to stock millions of trout into hundreds of waterways for anglers to enjoy throughout the 2023 season,” added Schaeffer.  “Our hatchery staff and Waterways Conservation Officers look forward to partnering with local volunteers to make sure the trout are stocked safely and efficiently and will be ready to tug on your line on opening day and for many weeks to follow.”

Schaeffer noted that the 2023 Adult Trout Stocking Schedule will be published on the PFBC website ( during the first week of February and reminded anglers to revisit the stocking schedule frequently to remain aware of changes that may occur due to inclement weather and hatchery logistics.  The PFBC will stock approximately 3.2 million adult trout throughout the 2023 season, which is consistent with the number of fish stocked over the past decade.  Fishing licenses and permits may be purchased through the FishBoatPA mobile app, on the PFBC website, and by visiting nearly 700 retail license issuing agents.


The Board voted to adopt a notice of proposed rulemaking pertaining to boat registration regulations.  Under the proposal, the PFBC intends to comply with requirements of Act 28 of 2022, which established a calendar-year boat registration cycle that is valid from January 1 through December 31.  Currently, Pennsylvania boat registrations are valid from April 1 to March 31, which can be confusing to boaters and result in unintentional violations.  The change to a calendar-year registration period would provide clarity to regulations, be easier to remember, and result in customer service improvements.  Act 28 of 2022 requires the PFBC to publish amended regulations to implement the changes within 18 months.  The PFBC would begin issuing calendar-year boat registrations in October 2023 which would be valid from January 1, 2024, through December 31, 2025.  If adopted on final rulemaking at a future meeting, these amendments will go into effect upon publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.

Commissioners voted to adopt a notice of proposed rulemaking pertaining to boat registration applications (58 Pa. Code § 93.3.  Currently, for boats that have been previously registered, the PFBC requires the last registered owner to sign the REV-336 form (Application for Pennsylvania Boat Registration and/or Boat Title); or a bill of sale, signed by the last registered owner, may be substituted for the required signature on the REV-336.  Under this change, the PFBC would also allow a certificate of registration (boat registration card), signed by the last registered owner, to be accepted as sufficient documentation of ownership and consent to transfer registration to the purchaser of the boat.  The addition of this documentation to PFBC regulations is intended to simplify the boat registration process and provide better customer service.  If adopted on final rulemaking at a future meeting, this amendment will go into effect upon publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.


The Board voted to adopt an amendment to fishing regulations at Sheppard-Meyers Reservoir in West Hanover Township, York County.  This reservoir was completely dewatered during spring 2020 to upgrade the dam and spillway structures per Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection dam safety standards.  The PFBC plans to initiate stocking of adult trout prior to the 2023 spring trout season, followed by additional stockings in summer 2023 that will include fingerling plants of select fish species to establish a high-quality, warm-water and coolwater fishery.  Under this change, the lake reservoir will be managed under a miscellaneous special regulation that will allow fishing at the lake immediately upon refill and allow for the harvest of trout under Commonwealth Inland Waters regulations (58 Pa. Code § 61.1), but allow only catch-and-release fishing for all other species.  This approach will allow for the most rapid development of a balanced warm-water and cool-water fish community, while offering acceptable levels of recreational angling opportunities.  Once the warm-water fishery is re-established, the lake will be recommended for removal from the miscellaneous special regulation and inclusion in one of the PFBC’s existing warm-water regulation programs.  This amendment will go into effect upon publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.

The Board voted to approve the addition of 16 stream sections to the list of Class A wild trout streams, the addition of five new waters to the PFBC’s list of wild trout streams, and revisions to five stream sections on the PFBC’s list of wild trout streams.  A list of waters proposed for wild trout stream and Class A wild trout stream designation or revision can be found on the PFBC website.  All of these additions will go into effect upon publication of a second notice in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.

Commissioners voted to approve several exemptions to Pennsylvania Code (58 Pa. Code § 57.8a) that would allow for the continued stocking of trout at three Class A wild trout stream sections.  Historically, there have been very few streams where stocking of trout following Class A designation was considered and warranted.  However, there are rare cases, beyond the current 13 stocked Class A wild trout stream sections statewide, where a stocking exemption should be considered.  The following waters have met the required criteria, and the general exemption classification are listed below:

  • Salt Run (Section 02), Cameron County:  Youth fishing derbies
  • Little Lehigh Creek (Section 04), Lehigh County: Prior history of stocking
  • Little Lehigh Creek (Section 07), Lehigh County: Prior history of stocking

It should be noted that the Executive Director previously obtained approval from the Board to continue PFBC stockings at two of these stream sections (Little Lehigh Creek, Sections 04 and 07) in 2015; however, this request is specific to the continuance of stocking by private entities and not the annual trout stockings conducted by the PFBC.

The Board voted to authorize a Fish Passage and Habitat Restoration Grant to the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) for the removal of Spring Garden Dam on Neshaminy Creek, Bucks County, as it flows through Tyler State Park.  To facilitate the grant, the PFBC will receive $750,000 from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Delaware Watershed Conservation Fund, which will be granted to DCNR.  These funds will be combined with a DCNR funding contribution of $500,000, as well as in-kind services valued at $50,000 to perform the dam removal on DCNR property.  Spring Garden Dam is a concrete run-of-river structure that is a barrier to aquatic organism passage for migratory and resident fishes and is also a substantial safety hazard to canoeists and kayakers who paddle this portion of Neshaminy Creek.