If you want to stock your own fish in a Pennsylvania stream or lake in 2024, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission wants to know about it.
The agency voted on July 24 to require notice of the number of fish and species individuals or hatcheries intend to release in a public or private waterway.
The requirement was made to improve the agency’s understanding of the stockings occurring in Pennsylvania, protect aquatic resources and address increased risks associated with aquatic invasive species and pathogens.
Dave Nihart, chief of fisheries management, said when anglers catch fish in one waterway and restock them in another stream or lake, there’s a chance an invasive species may be moved to a new area. “It’s one of the biggest ways we see fish being moved throughout the state,” he said.
The change would affect everything from an angler transporting the fish caught on one waterway and moving them to a stream or pond, as well as major stockings done by private fish hatcheries. Small ornamental ponds are exempt.
The agency reports more than 30 states have requirements for tracking how and when fish are stocked. Pennsylvania has been the only state in the Northeast that doesn’t require some form of documentation.
In March 2022, the agency considered a stocking authorization process instead of a notice of stocking. That effort garnered 1,073 public comments including 523 who opposed the proposal and 306 people who opposed portions of the proposal.
After meeting with sporting groups, private fish hatcheries and members of the aquaculture industry, the agency compromised, only requiring a notice of stocking.
Adam Pritts, speaking Monday on behalf of Laurel Hill Trout Farm in Somerset and Westmoreland counties, asked the board about holding off on a decision.
“A lot of good work has been put into it and this document is way better than it was a year or so ago when it started. That being said, I can’t get behind it as is. This isn’t an ideology issue. Everything that’s in there I can actually support from an ideological standpoint. The problem becomes some of the language is fairly gray,” Pritts said.
As someone who financially relies on the industry, he would like some of the wording like “drainage areas” and “fish” better defined.
He said he believes the document is about 90% where it needs to be.
Dave Rothrock, of the Pennsylvania Council of Trout Unlimited, said the group supports the proposal. “We would certainly like to believe that is a step toward revisiting, hopefully, ultimately instituting a stocking authorization as well,” he told the board. “We believe this is an essential tool to help the PFBC better manage our commonwealth’s waters.”
After the vote to implement the measure, Commissioner Richard Lewis of Gettysburg said, “This is a compromise situation. We, as a commission, didn’t get everything we wanted out of it and I’m sure, after hearing the public comments here this morning, that commercial fish nurseries have a few things that they felt they would have liked to get out of it. This is a compromise, and I think it’s a good compromise.”
The regulation requires an electronic or hard copy notice of the stocking to be present when the fish are being stocked. The change is effective Jan. 1, and the one-page document can be submitted online or by mail.
Brian Whipkey is the outdoors columnist for USA TODAY Network sites in Pennsylvania. Contact him at[email protected] and sign up for our weekly Go Outdoors PA newsletter email on this website’s homepage under your login name. Follow him on Facebook@whipkeyoutdoors,Twitter@whipkeyoutdoors and Instagram atwhipkeyoutdoors.