HARRISBURG – For years, shad fishing organizations and conservation groups have been petitioning the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission to help in the recovery of American shad in area waterways, including the Lehigh River.

A step in that direction was taken in January when the PFBC held its 100th quarterly business meeting at agency headquarters in Harrisburg. At that time, the board approved the publication of a notice of proposed rulemaking to apply catch-and-release regulations on American shad on the Lehigh upstream of the first dam in Easton and its tributaries and on the Schuylkill River upstream from the I-95 Bridge and its tributaries.

In addition to taking this first step to benefit regional angling, the PFBC approved a grant not to exceed $270,000 to the Wildlands Conservancy for water trail and access area development along the Lehigh River in Carbon, Northampton and Lehigh counties. A portion of the grant will be used to rebuild the boat launch and expand the parking area at the Walnutport access in Walnutport.

Grant funds will also be used to construct a parking area and a concrete boat launch at Treichler's Bridge access in North Whitehall Township and to install new signs along the Lehigh River Water Trail. Walnutport Borough, the conservancy and the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources also are providing funding to the project.

During the meeting, the PFBC also recognized waterways conservation officers Scott Christman and Aaron Lupacchini for their attempt to save the life of a boater last July on Mauch Chunk Lake. Responding to a call for help, the WCOs discovered an elderly man had capsized his boat and was under the vessel, and when arriving on the scene they removed the man from the water and upon discovering the man was not breathing and had no heartbeat began CPR and established a pulse. Unfortunately, the individual failed to survive after being taken by Life Flight to Lehigh Valley Hospital, but in recognition for their efforts to save lives under extraordinary circumstances Christman and Lupacchini were presented with Lifesaving Awards by PFBC executive director John Arway and Law Enforcement director Tom Kamerzel.

New regulations were adopted which establish adaptive creel limits for walleye and yellow perch based on the annual quotas established by the Lake Erie Committee, which consists of fisheries managers from Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, Michigan and Ontario, Canada. Under the new regulation, the PFBC will set daily creel limits for these species by April 15 each year.

Also adopted were new regulations establishing a Lake Erie cast net permit for the harvest of emerald shiners and spottail shiners, which are popular baitfish for walleye and other fish species. Permits are $10 permit and allow anglers to harvest a combined daily creel limit of 200 emerald shiners and spottail shiners.

A grant of $75,000 was approved to the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay to assist with the operation of the west fish lift at the Conowingo Dam on the Susquehanna River, and a grant not to exceed $210,000 was approved from the Erie Access Improvement Program to the Erie-Western Pennsylvania Port Authority for the construction of a fishing platform at Liberty Park on the shores of Lake Erie in the City of Erie, with the total cost of the project approximately $747,000. Previously, the PFBC provided grants of $168,500 to the authority, and the balance is being funded by the authority ($150,000), and grants from the SONS of Lake Erie ($43,500), the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources ($100,000), and the Department of Environmental Protection and the Coastal Zone Management Program ($75,000).

A complete copy of the meeting schedule and the full agenda for the meeting can be found on the Commission's web site at www.fishandboat.com/minutes.htm [1]