Pennsylvania Fishing Report – August 13, 2020

smallmouth bass

Northwest Region

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THE ‘OLE POWERED versus UNPOWERED WHO’S ON FIRST?!?!

Recreational boating has seen a numbers explosion of late, and participation has only increased through the 2020 season, heightening both confusion and (let’s use the word) “friction” between the powered and unpowered boating public… we previously discussed the need for both knowledge and understanding between these groups back in 2013, but it bears repeating again.

There’s a lot to unpack here, and it will get a little muddy; so remain patient, as well as objective, and don’t lose sight of the forest for the trees…

Referencing The Navigation Center website [US Department of Homeland Security/United States Coast Guard] (https://www.navcen.uscg.gov/)

Question 13 asks: Where do Kayaks and Canoes fit into the Navigation Rules? 

Answer: Kayaks and Canoes are defined as a vessel under oars and are addressed specifically in Rule 25, (regarding LIGHTS; yet, by definition/Rule, nowhere else)—
Furthermore, although a vessel under oars may lawfully be lit as a sailing vessel, one SHOULD NOT infer that they are considered to be a sailing vessel for other Rules {specifically, Rule(s) 9 [see 103.7 below], 10, 12, 18, and 35}.

Ultimately, the issue of whether a vessel under oars is the give way or stand-on vessel would fall to what would be required by the ordinary practice of seamen (IE: established Rules of the Road), or by the special circumstances of the case (Rule 2; see note below), and the notion that human powered boats are less able than most other vessels.  However these watercraft, by specific definition, are not: (1) a “vessel restricted in her ability to maneuver” (Rule 3; see note below); (2) a “vessel not under command”; or (3) “adrift” (given the immediate availability of steerage, as well as propulsion, by extension of the operator through a paddle).

NOTE(s): As taken from the USCG—Navigation Rules (updated 02 August 2020)

  • RULE 2—RESPONSIBILITY

(b) In construing and complying with these Rules due regard shall be had to all dangers of navigation and collision and to any special circumstances, including the limitations of the vessels involved, which may make a departure from these Rules necessary to avoid immediate danger.

  • RULE 3– DEFINITIONS

(g) The term “vessel restricted in her ability to maneuver” means a vessel which from the nature of her work is restricted in her ability to maneuver as required by these Rules and is therefore unable to keep out of the way of another vessel. The term “vessels restricted in their ability to maneuver” shall include but not be limited to:

(i) A vessel engaged in laying, servicing, or picking up a navigational mark, submarine cable or pipeline; (ii) A vessel engaged in dredging, surveying or underwater operations; (iii) A vessel engaged in replenishment or transferring persons, provisions or cargo while underway; (iv) A vessel engaged in the launching or recovery of aircraft; (v) A vessel engaged in mine clearance operations; (vi) A vessel engaged in a towing operation such as severely restricts the towing vessel and her tow in their ability to deviate from their course.

Therefore, upon applying both definition and Rule (law), canoes and kayaks don’t inevitably receive “right-of-way” over powerboats; however, powerboats encountering canoes/kayaks must be aware of the inherent limitations occurring with a vessel under oars; and, under Rule 2, shall apply due regard to all dangers of navigation, collision and to any special circumstances.

CLEAR AS MUD, RIGHT?!?!

Essentially, it goes like this…

  1. Under the established Rules, human powered boats (vessel under oars) are subject to the same navigational requirement as a powerboat; and, therefore, they must navigate under what would be required by the ordinary practice of seamen (IE: established Rules of the Road).

However, when a power boater encounters a “vessel under oars”, accounting for the special circumstances of each case, as well as human powered craft being less able (referencing maneuvering opportunity relative to time, as opposed to an inherent legal principle) than most other vessels, Rule 2 (see above) maintains that due regard (on the part of the power boat operator) shall be had to all dangers of navigation and collision and to any special circumstances, including the limitations of the vessels involved, which may make a departure from these Rules necessary to avoid immediate danger.

Therefore, regardless of who has the navigational right-of-way (stand-on vessel), neither operator has legal authority to “fail to take sufficient and proper action to avoid collision.”

  1. In meeting, crossing, and overtaking situations the Give-way Boat (without right-of-way) shall keep out of the way of the other boat by taking early and substantial action to keep well clear AND the Stand-on Boat (having right-of-way) shall maintain course and speed; and the Navigational Rules, absent special circumstances, dictate which role the powered as well as the unpowered vessel shall adopt. [Refer to Chapter 3 of the PA Boating Handbook and/or YouTube].
  2. Lastly, a channel (in its simplest form) is defined as “a natural or dredged lane restricted on either side by shallow water”, and by its nature encompasses both the type of vessel(s) and the “environmental constraints” of the circumstances encountered. Section 103.7, of 58 PA Code, covers Narrow Channels (aka Rule 9); furthermore, Rule 9, through context, and absent specified local reference, “leaves it to mariners to determine when the Rule applies.” That said, allowing best practice and prudence to govern, subsection (a) to (g), of 103.7, read as follows; and, unless specifically stated, exempt neither powered nor unpowered watercraft:

(a)  A boat proceeding along the course of a narrow channel shall keep as near to the outer limit of the channel which lies on its starboard—right—side as is safe and practicable.

(b)  Notwithstanding subsection (a), a power-driven boat operating in narrow channels on the Great Lakes, Western Rivers or waters specified by the Commission or Executive Director and proceeding down-bound with a following current, shall have the right-of-way over an up-bound boat. The boat proceeding up-bound against the current shall hold as necessary to permit safe passing.

(c)  A boat of less than 20 meters (39.4 feet) in length, or a sailing boat, may not impede the passage of a boat that can safely navigate only within a narrow channel.

(d)  A boat may not cross a narrow channel if the crossing impedes the passage of a boat which can safely navigate only within that channel.

(e)  A boat shall, if the circumstances of the case admit, avoid anchoring in a narrow channel.

(f)  A boat nearing a bend on an area of a narrow channel where other boats may be obscured by an intervening obstruction shall navigate with particular alertness and caution.

(g)  A boat engaged in fishing may not impede the passage of another boat navigating within a narrow channel or fairway.

The Commonwealth’s waterways have become increasingly more crowded and are likely to remain so.  Now more than ever, every watercraft operator (regardless of type) has both a duty and obligation to understand, practice, and abide by the established “Rules of the Road” during their outdoor adventures upon Pennsylvania’s “endless waters.”

Northeastern Region

Wyoming County

Water temperatures and conditions have been excellent for recreational boating activities on lakes throughout the district. Lake Winola and Lake Carey have been busy with recreational boating activity. The best times to enjoy lower amounts of activity on the bigger bodies of water are earlier and later in the day.

Channel catfish have been biting extremely well on the Susquehanna River throughout Wyoming County. Catfish up to 10 pounds have been caught during the evening and night hours on cut and live bait. Smallmouth bass fishing has been steady with decent numbers of fish being caught on crankbaits, jigs, and top water plugs. Other good spots for Bass have been Lake Carey and Stevens Lake.

Southern Pike and Northeast Monroe County

Unusually high temperatures for the month of August and low water conditions have stifled daytime angling efforts in most waterways throughout the district. Anglers report having good luck for Largemouth Bass in the evening using a variety of natural and artificial baits.

Northcentral Region

Clearfield County

If you’re an early bird and feel like strapping on the hiking boots head into one of the county’s many smaller mountain streams or “bluelines” for a chance at some native brook trout. Fishing with “terrestrial” dry flies imitating beetles, crickets, or grasshoppers will provide hours of entertainment.

To see a complete list of streams, lakes, and ponds please visit FishandBoat.com and use the interactive map tool.

West Branch Susquehanna River

This past week has finally brought some much-needed rain to the waters of Clearfield County. Anglers are currently catching smallmouth bass in some of the deeper holes and holding locations. One young angler recently reported catching a 20-inch smallmouth bass on the West Branch which he claimed was now his Personal Best or “PB”. Anglers are also currently catching Muskellunge with some fish exceeding the 40-inch mark. Anglers are reporting success in the evening hours while fishing for Catfish. Chicken livers are currently working well. Anglers are reporting the best success in the early morning or evening hours. If you are planning to release your fish, try to do so quickly as the heat of summer has put a lot of additional stress on the fish due to lower dissolved oxygen levels.

Curwensville Lake

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission stocked with juvenile tiger musky about 12-14 inches in length this past week. Tiger musky are capable of reaching 20 inches in their first year and by the second year it is possible for fish to reach 3 inches. It won’t be long before these fish will be pulling drag.

Centre County

Sayers Lake

Anglers are currently having success fishing for crappies. Live minnows or artificial twister-tails under a float are currently proving to work well. Areas under the causeway and the fishing pier at Lower Greens Access area are the current hot spots. Anglers are also catching Channel Catfish in Hunter Run Cut, Lower Greens, and the Upper Greens access areas. Chicken livers and nightcrawlers are currently working well in the evening hours.

Bald Eagle Creek

Anglers are currently catching trout from Milesburg Bridge downstream to Sayers Lake. Evening hours have been best with anglers using a variety of live bait, spinners and fly patterns. Nymphs have proven to be the most productive.

Black Moshannon Lake

Anglers are currently catching Pickerel and Bass fishing from the shoreline. Spinners, rubber bass baits, and live baits are currently working well for these fish.

Southeastern Region

N. Bucks County

River levels are still up from the tropical storm and rainfall. Be sure to watch out for debris, such as submerged logs and fallen trees. Make sure to check all safety equipment and have it on board before setting out. It is important to check these items regularly as equipment can deteriorate. Always have a float plan and let somebody know where you plan to be and the time you will return. If using a state access, launch permits are required for unpowered craft and can be purchased at fishandboat.com. Some access areas may have mud, silt or other debris so use with caution.

S. Bucks County

Due to recent storm activity, water levels are still high and there is plenty of debris, both floating and submerged, in the water.  Ensure to keep a proper lookout to avoid Breaking Out Another Thousand for those repairs.

There has been an increase in Personal Watercraft (PWC) operators boating without first obtaining a Boater Safety Education Certificate (BSE).  All PWC operators of all ages are required to first obtain a BSE prior to operating a watercraft.  If you are going to allow someone to operate your PWC, it is your responsibility to ensure they have first obtained a BSE.  To learn more, visit the PFBC website at https://www.fishandboat.com/Boat/BoatingCourses/Pages/default.aspx.

Boaters, be advised that the ENTIRE length of the Neshaminy Creek is a Slow No Wake Zone.  It is up to you as the operator to recognize conditions that require you to operate at a Slow No Wake Speed.  One of the many examples includes operating a boat at slow, no-wake speed within 100 feet of the shoreline, docks, launch ramps, swimmers or downed skiers, persons wading in the water, anchored, moored or drifting boats and floats.

Slow, no-wake speed is the slowest possible speed of a motorboat required to maintain maneuverability so that the wake or wash created by the motorboat on the surface is minimal.

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