WATERVILLE - A proposal to expand a "lure only" area on a section of Pine Creek drew an overflow crowd Thursday night to the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources' Tiadaghton Resource Management Center.
The state Fish and Boat Commission hosted the public meeting to take comment in preparation of a quarterly board of directors meeting and give reasons for the possible regulatory change.
The commission's Fisheries Management staff discussed the proposed extension of the current 1.2 mile delayed harvest, artificial-lures-only section downstream of Slate Run an additional 1.6 miles to Bonnell Run.
The 1.6 mile reach is managed as an approved trout water open to year-round fishing. Waters with this designation are open to fishing from March 1 through the opening day of trout season on a catch and release basis, with no trout allowed to be taken or possessed.
Anglers, both those for and against the regulatory change, sounded off and their comments were recorded on video to eventually be listened to by state Senators.
David Craig, president of the Susquehanna Chapter of Trout Unlimited, said the board favored extension of the delayed harvest. It will "reduce overcrowding" and provide "significant economic benefits," Craig said.
Over the course of the two hour meeting, the majority of speakers favored extending the delayed harvest area but there were others on the opposite side of the stream, such as Curt Brennan, who fly fishes and uses bait.
"It's not practical," he said. "I am opposed to placing any further restrictions or regulations on the Pine Creek watershed," he said. Brennan's main concern was for the "disabled, the weak, oversized and timid" fishers.
He said it was getting more difficult to find areas to fish where anglers aren't impeded by high grass, or posters on mowed lawns prohibiting their presence. His thoughts, too, were on younger fishers, those who don't have chestwaders or fly fishing gear.
Mark Jackson also expressed concerns about the proposed change.
"The largest segment of bait fishers are no longer able to use their preferred tackle methods," he said.
Some believed expanding the area would provide for a longer fishing season, which the Pine Creek business community supports as did other non-fly anglers.
A few of the anglers offered ways to managing overcrowding.
"Have all tackle catch and release trout only from Slate Run to Bottle Run," said Sam Shaheen, a long time valley resident.
For Walt Nicholson, who works in a field involving cleaning water, the best solution will preserve large brown trout from Slate Run down to Naval Run. He's hopeful the regulatory change may create a model on "how trout can survive."
"When people throw back trout the fish seek refuge in cold springs," he said.
Under delayed harvest regulations, fishing is permitted year-round, but no trout may be harvested prior to June 15. From June 15 to sunset on Labor Day, anglers can keep three trout per day and the fish must be at least nine inches. Tackle is limited to artificial lures and flies.
Standard approved trout waters regulations apply for the remainder of the year as follows: from 8 a.m. on the opening day of trout season through Labor Day, anglers can keep five fish per day and can use all tackle, including natural bait. From January 1 through the last day of February, and from the day after Labor Day through Dec. 31, "extended season" size and creel limits for trout apply.
After reviewing comments, which can be put on the commission Website, staff will provide a recommendation on the proposal to the board of commissioners for consideration at an upcoming quarterly meeting.