Important Concepts for Harvesting Fish in Pennsylvania

Angling is certainly a fun sport, and there's always the question of what to do with the fish once it's landed. On one hand, some fishermen put them back - they practice the "catch and release", and fish for the fight, excitement, and the sport. On the other hand, some take the fish home - they appreciate the fight, as well as the flavor of the fish (Some species are extremely good table shares). Of course there are a set of rules for taking certain species of fish in Pennsylvania, as well as minimum requirements (in terms of size, for example).

As a matter of fact, I went fishing at the Schuylkill Banks yesterday (Walnut street bridge), and ended the day harvesting 42 White Perch. Many people asked me if it was "legal" to take so many fish at one time, not to mention that some of them were really small. My answer was immediate: "There's a maximum limit per day, per species - which in the case of White Perch is 50 a day, and there's no minimum size to take it." Therefore, hence I've gotten so many questions about this subject, I've decided to post the Boat and Commission page on "Sizes, Seasons, and Creel Limit":

Please note that there are three factors that are very important when harvesting fish, as the title of the page implies:

(1) the period of the year you are fishing at: Some fish can only be harvested during certain seasons of the year. For example, the bass can't be harvested from April 16Th to June 17Th, which is the time for their spawning season. Other fish are opened year-round, and trout and salmon have special restrictions when it comes to their fishing periods.

(2) The size of your fish: Species that are abundant don't usually have a specific minimum size requirement (invasive species ALSO). The Gizzard Shad is one example, as well as the Carp, Perch, etc. Some fish, on the other hand, are not so abundant - such as fish from the Bass family. Therefore, one should always watch out for these regulations, and stay in legality.

(3) The maximum amount of fish you can take: For the same reasons stated above, some fish have a creel limit. Trout, which is stocked by the Boat and Commission, has a limit of ONLY 5 per day on the regular season. American Shad and Muskellunge are up to only 1 a day. The law for harvesting Striped Bass is also very strict: only 2 a day.

Note that taking fish that does not comply with the Boat and Commission's rules are strictly illegal, and will result in a penalty (probably a charge). If the person is nice enough, your equipment will stay with you. If not, they will even take your equipment away. These same rules also apply when the person is fishing without having a fishing license. I believe the minimum penalty for that is $120 dollars.

Also, please note that the Boat and Commission made these rules to protect the aquatic biodiversity and prevent overfishing. Also, they give suggestions towards many different species, as well as information on them, at their website below:

One example of a useful suggestion is the recommendation of taking Snakeheads out of the PA waters for being an invasive species. Another one is to take Flatheads out of the water for unbalancing the aquatic biodiversity. For more information on invasive species, feel free to check the Boat and Commission's websites below:

Lastly, it's VERY IMPORTANT to check the website below, which is on Threatened and Endangered species. Believe me: you do not want to hold a specie of fish that is classified under one of these two! You are going to gain a heavy penalty if the Boat and Commission sees you with it, not to mention that you are possibly killing a fish that is very valuable for its aquatic cycle. Even one fish counts when it comes to these two classifications. Also, note that there's a section for "Candidates", which means species of fish that can be classified as threatened or endangered in the future. Even though the Boat and Commission does not have a law to release them, one may consider the fact that they are endangered, and release them. The website is below:

And this is a direct link for the list of endangered species:

Once someone told me that laws are made towards certain actions surely because certain actions happened before. Therefore, people must have taken a lot of small fish in order for the Boat and Commission to create minimum size requirements, and so on. Overfishing is a scary global environmental problem, and possibly the nightmare for all fisherman! After all, what will be of us fishermen if one day we do not have fish to fish anymore? Two examples of overfishing can be clearly seen in Philadelphia right now:

(1) The populations of Smallmouth Bass in the Schuylkill River: One may say that their population is low due to the quality of the water. However, it's evident that this species of fish was over fished at the river. They were already in very small quantities, and fishermen didn't give them enough time to reproduce, and grow their populations. Nowadays, it's quite rare to land a good sized Smallmouth at the Schuylkill River; below the Fairmount Dam.

(2) The populations of Largemouth Bass and Snakehead in the Lakes at the FDR Park (Franklin Delano Roosevelt): Just because there are not rules for Snakeheads at the Boat and Commission's website, it does not mean that they should be taken or killed despite their sizes. As a matter of fact, the Commission highly encourages the removal of this species for being invasive here in PA. However, as a fisherman, it's up to the person to catch and release or take it. The quantities of fish at the FDR park dropped dramatically during the past years, and will continue to drop for two main factors: people are consecutively taking fish out of those waters, and those waters are not stocked right now.

It's up to us to take the right actions and preserve fish here in Philadelphia. Doesn't it hurt to think that our future generations will not be able to enjoy what we do simply because we are the ones destroying the aquatic environment right now? It's a matter of fact that the World is not sustainable right now. However, I truly believe we should do our best to at least preserve it the most we can. I've seen many fishermen complaining that the fishing is "not like before". Therefore, I'm just saying: we should all follow the laws, and work together for a better aquatic environment.

Reinforcing what I said above: what will be of us fisherman without fish in our waters?

Think carefully, as I did one day.

Best of luck for all of us!

Long days and pleasant nights,


Leo S.


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