Share This Page

Posted waters don't necessarily end fish stocking

| Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013, 7:19 p.m.

It admittedly seems odd at first blush.

Fish raised in hatcheries, using the money supplied by anglers through their license dollars, being put into waters that are, at least in part, closed to public fishing, that is.

But it happens more than you'd think.

The issue has been on the minds of a lot of sportsmen in the past couple of weeks because of a situation in Erie County. A landowner along Elk Creek, in the area south of Route 5 known locally as “the tubes,” has posted his property against trespassing. That's put about 500 feet of stream, give or take, off limits.

Some anglers writing on internet message boards have cried foul.

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission stocks steelhead in Elk Creek. It put 240,501 in there in 2012, more than any other stream and about 24 percent of the total one million released.

They run up the stream from the lake, into and through the newly posted section.

That's left some anglers to say it's not fair that landowners can limit access to those fish. They want the commission to declare posted sections of stream like that around the tubes as “nursery waters,” a designation that would prohibit all fishing.

That's not going to happen.

“I don't think it's a done deal that we'll never access that section of stream again. We continue to look into some things,” said Tom Edwards, assistant supervisor in the commission's northwest region office.

“But for now we're asking people to respect the landowner's wishes at this time.”

That's actually the situation on a lot of stocked waters all across the state.

When it comes to trout, for example, the vast majority of stocked streams flow at least in part over private land, and more than a few flow over land that's partly posted.

The commission put publicly funded, adult-sized, catchable trout in 1,111 stream sections this year. Only 142 of those, or 13 percent, flow completely over public land.

By comparison, 37 percent flow completely over private land. Seventeen percent flow across land that is — at least in part — posted against trespassing.

“We are highly dependent on privately owned lands for a lot of our trout-stocking program,” said Leroy Young, director of the commission's bureau of fisheries. “It's a huge part of what we do.”

If 5 percent or less of a stream section is posted, it's treated as if it were all open in terms of how many trout it gets, Young said. If 5 to 15 percent of it is posted, it gets fewer trout, with the decrease matched to the percentage of posting. If 15 to 25 percent is posted, it gets fish but far less than it would otherwise. When posting exceeds 25 percent of a stream section, stocking ceases.

There's no such formula for steelhead streams, but posting doesn't mean a water won't get fish. The commission looks at waters individually and determines what to do on a case-by-case basis, he said.

“If we didn't stock steelhead in any water that had posting on it, we wouldn't stock very much,” Young said.

The commission has worked in recent years to guarantee anglers access to steelhead. Proceeds from the sale of its Lake Erie stamp — required of anyone fishing Lake Erie or its tributary streams — had generated about $5.5 million in income as of March 31 of this year. The commission has spent about $3.9 million of that, with $1.9 million going to secure permanent fishing easements on about 16 miles of stream, and the rest funding boat access and stream habitat improvements and other projects.

It's actively looking to spend the remaining $1.6 million on other projects, said Scott Bollinger, statewide public access program manager for the commission. He believes there are opportunities still out there, too.

But it takes a willing landowner.

The commission wants to pay for easements offered in perpetuity, which would require the landowner — and anyone who might inherit or buy the land — to allow fishing access for all time. At least two landowners, including the one on Elk Creek, have declined to sign agreements because they want deals that renew every year or every couple of years, Bollinger said.

The commission doesn't want to go that route, so anglers will have to fish on lands open to them and stay off those that aren't, Bollinger said.

“When you really think about it, we are asking a lot of landowners. We're paying a fair amount for easement, but still,” he said. “That's why I'm really thankful to the people who have signed up for the access program. I appreciate it.”

Bob Frye is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at bfrye@tribweb.com or via Twitter @bobfryeoutdoors.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.