State beefs up fish poaching laws
BY KEVIN WOODRUFF
Wyoming County Press Examiner
New anti fish poaching legislation will give anglers who take more than their fair share something to think about.
The new legislation, signed into law by Gov. Tom Corbett, increased the maximum fine for illegally harvesting fish from $200 to $5,000 and extends the period of time the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission can revoke fishing and boating privileges from two to five years.
It also creates a new section for “serious unlawful take,” which increases the penalty for harvesting more than the legal creel limit from a summary offense of the first degree to a misdemeanor of the second degree.
The law also allows the PFBC to collect from violators the costs to replace the poached fish, and increases the amount of time a violator can be sentenced to prison from a maximum of 90 days to two years.
In addition, the law increases the penalty for those who fish with a suspended license. Previously, that violation was a summary offense of the first degree, subject to a $200 fine. The penalty is now a third degree misdemeanor, subject to a fine up to $5,000.
Waterways Conservation Officer Kadin Thompson, who patrols Wyoming County, said the legislation is tailored more towards trophy fish in Lake Erie.
“It’s focused on steelheads,” Thompson said. ‘They tend to run in huge schools, and people have been known to poach large amounts of them at a time.”
However, Thompson said there are some implications locally.
The local poaching cases that Thompson generally deals with locally involve trout.
“We run into issues of people taking more than the daily limit of trout every year,” Thompson said. “We had a few cases the beginning of trout season last year.”
Thompson said the vast majority of the cases he deals with involve people taking their limit of trout in one location and then moving on to the next and filling up their stringer again.
Thompson said anglers will have a little more to think about when they’re looking to take more than their share.
“It adds stiffer penalties for violators,” Thompson said. “And maybe people will think twice.”
Thompson pointed out that when people take more than their fair share of trout, they are basically stealing it from their fellow anglers.
“When it’s a situation with stocked trout, there are only so many of them,” Thompson said. “So they’re basically taking it away from the next guy.”
Thompson said local poachers generally don’t focus on bass.
“I can’t say it’s the same for everyone, but most of the time people that fish for bass in this area will catch them and throw them back,” Thompson said.
He noted that not only is poaching inconsiderate to fellow anglers, it is also an act of stealing.
“There are a set of rules you are supposed to follow when you get a license,” Thompson said.