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Alabama rig would be legal for Pa. fishermen under new rule

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Easements acquired

Fish and Boat commissioners approved two easements that will give anglers guaranteed access to fishing.

The first is for 6,295 feet along the East branch of Conneaut Creek in Albion Borough, Erie County. Steelhead populate the stream late each fall. The commission paid $50,200 for the easement, using money collected from the sale of Lake Erie stamps.

The commission also secured an easement along 2,400 feet of Bennett's Branch of Sinnemahoning Creek in Benezette Township, Elk County. The creek was stocked with trout for the first time in perhaps 100 years this spring thanks to ongoing water treatment work.

The commission previously granted $50,000 to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy to help acquire 24 acres of property that includes the stream frontage.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

HARRISBURG — The Alabama rig is apparently coming to Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commissioners on Tuesday gave preliminary approval to a regulation change that will make it possible for fishermen — those who pursue bass or any species — to use the umbrella-type rig that contains five lures attached by wires to one jighead.

They've been illegal. Existing commission rules say “no more than three hooks shall be attached to a line used in fishing for game fish.”

The new rule would say “there shall be no restriction” on the number of hooks.

Commissioners still need to give the proposal final approval this fall before it goes on the books. But given that they passed the idea unanimously, that's considered a formality.

Commissioner Bill Sabatose of Elk County said he asked staff to consider the issue after hearing from tournament bass anglers in Pittsburgh. They'd been disqualified from competitions for using the Alabama rig, he said.

Corey Brichter, head of the commission's bureau of law enforcement, said there's no consensus on how surrounding states handle hooks. Ohio limits anglers to two rods and three hooks. Virginia and West Virginia prohibit anglers from using more than three hooks in trout season but have no limits otherwise. New Jersey allows up to nine hooks per line and New York five.

It's possible the Alabama rig will allow anglers to catch more bass, especially from habitats that previously have been “lightly exploited,” reads a commission staff report. That's been the case elsewhere.

But given that so few bass anglers keep fish and that mortality of fish released is low — typically 10 to 12 percent — it's probable any impact of the rig would “likewise be low,” according to the report.

Given all that, the hook limit doesn't make much sense, Brichter said.

“We found no real reason to have a three-hook limit,” he said. “The bottom line is that we regulate take using seasons and creel limits. Therefore the number of hooks doesn't really matter.”

“I can't see the problem with it,” Sabatose added.

John Arway, executive director of the commission, said allowing the rig to be used doesn't conflict with the commission's mission of protecting the state's aquatic resources. It can, though, benefit fishermen, he said, and that's also what the commission is about.

“We're going to be looking at all of this stuff to make it easier for people to fish,” Arway said.

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