With an increasing number of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) cases occurring within certain areas of Pennsylvania’s deer herd, the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) is soliciting input from sportsmen on a response plan before more areas are affected.
To date the CWD has designated three CWD areas: Disease Management Area 3 (DMA3), encompasses WMU 2E and includes parts Jefferson and Indiana counties; DMA2, the largest of the affected areas, covers WMUs 4B, 4A, 5A and parts of 2G and 4D; DMA4 covers Lebanon, parts of Lancaster and Berks counties.
These areas cover 8,000 square miles and as such makes it unlawful to intentionally feed deer within a DMA. Also, hunters in DMA’s may not use or possess urine-based deer attractants. And deer harvested within a DMA may not be transported out of the DMA unless the carcass parts with the highest risk of transmitting the disease are removed first.
According to the PGC, CWD is always fatal to deer and elk, it’s not known to infect people. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recommends never consuming meat from CWD positive animals.
The PGC’s potential actions within these CWD areas are as follows:
*Actions within CWD areas could include expanded deer seasons; the removal of antler-point restrictions and increased allocations of antlerless deer permits. In areas where a new, isolated CWD-positive deer is detected, allowing hunters to take additional antlered deer is also being considered.
*If disease management objectives are not reached through hunting, the post-season, small scale targeted removal of deer could be conducted in parts of CWD areas could be necessary.
Game Commission Executive Director Bryan Burhans said in a press release, “Hunters are essential to CWD management. Without the effort they put into hunting and harvesting deer, and submitting samples from deer they harvest in CWD areas, our collective fight to slow CWD’s spread and limit the disease where it exists in Pennsylvania would be an uphill battle.”
He goes on to say, “The PGC’s draft CWD Response Plan, puts hunters first in CWD management and their support will be fundamental to the final plan’s success.”
CWD first was detected in Pennsylvania in 2012. Through 2018, 250 free-ranging CWD-positive deer have been detected within the state – 246 of them within DMA2 in southeastern Pennsylvania.
Public comment on the plan will be accepted through Feb. 29, 2020 and will be considered for adoption as a final plan for implementation for the 2020-21 hunting seasons.
FALL TROUT STOCKING
The Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission’s fleet of stocking trucks will be on the roll again for the fall trout stocking in selected streams, and in a lot of cases, only portions of a stream.
In Lehigh County, only the Little Lehigh will be stocked 10-15; In Berks, Tulpehocken Creek, 10-16; Bucks, Levittown Lake, 10-23; Monroe, Brodhead Creek, 10-1, Bushkill Creek, 10-2.
For anglers holding a New Jersey fishing license, they will begin their fall trout stockings Oct. 8-16 with the closest to the Lehigh Valley being the Pequest and Musconetcong rivers.
When air temperatures stabilize towards the cool side, fresh water fish traditionally go on the feed as cooler water temps signal the feeding frenzy, says our local fishing reporters.
Willie, from Willie’s Bait & Tackle in Cementon, reports Leaser Lake is the hot spot with customers picking up muskies on jumbo minnows while bass anglers are nailing largemouths on large shiners. As for Lehigh River, Willie said it’s dead of late although one avid angler picks up an occasional trout or two but no smallmouths, which is rare for this time of year. Another avid trout angler persistently fishes the Hokendauqua Creek and continues to catch and release 5-6 trout from the various deep holes.
Chris, from Chris’ Bait & Tackle in Mertztown, says the usual productive Ontelaunee Reservoir has been slow. Two weeks ago customers were picking up largemouths there on 7-10-inch worms in the lily pads, but the crappie action suddenly died. Down at Blue Marsh Lake, bass action is good. Water temperature was 77 degrees last week and has only dropped three degrees over the past two weeks “We fished there last week and had 11 bass, with 5-6 of them over 15 inches. We threw swim baits, Senko worms and green pumpkin tube jigs with red flakes and rubber skirts,” said Chris.
Mike, from Mike’s Bait & Tackle in Nazareth, said the Delaware River is yielding some nice catfish. Flathead catfish were falling for 6-8-inch bluegills while channel cats were eating minnow-tipped jigs intended for walleye’s. An occasional small striper is caught and released, but most of the big ones are gone. River smallmouths were hungry for tubes and minnows and one customer caught a 20 incher. But that action has slowed as well.
Otherwise Mike hears good largemouth action at Mauch Chunk Lake where they can be caught all day long, but they’re mostly 14 inches and smaller. For trout, the lower end of Bushkill Creek around 15th Street has been productive. Mike thinks with the temperatures dropping, fishing will only get better.
On the Water Magazine reports that the Francis E. Walter Reservoir is being drawn down and the fish there are beginning to school-up. They say, “find the fish and you’ll find success.” A pair of anglers fishing there reported good crappie action on marabou jigs and and fathead minnows. Up at Lake Wallenpaupack, striper fishing has been good from the Pike and Wayne County sides and from Briar Hill to Mangan Cove using live bait suspended in 8-15 feet of water. They too believe fishing will continue to be good as temperatures cool.
SUNDAY HUNTING BILL BEING CONSIDERED
A bill introduced by Sen. Dan Laughlin (R-Erie) and Jim Brewster (D-Allegheny) have introduced SB147 and was passed by the state senate, will go to the House of Representatives to allow the PGC to permit Sunday hunting in the state.
If passed and signed by Gov. Tom Wolf, it would allow Sunday hunting on three Sunday's a year. More specifically, one Sunday during the firearms deer hunting season, another during the archery hunting season and the third date to be determined by the PGC.
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) is encouraging anglers to vote online for their favorite fishing license button for 2020!
Choices on this year’s ballot are a solid color vintage green, or a fish skin design depicting the colorful scales of a pumpkinseed sunfish. The selected button for 2020 will be available for purchase on Dec. 1 through the PFBC’s online store - The Outdoor Shop - and at more than 700 license issuing agents across the state.
Online voting is open now through Friday, September 13 at noon using the following link:
The PFBC re-introduced the availability of an annual Pennsylvania fishing license button in 2014. Brought back by popular demand, this custom button is similar to the vintage buttons offered by the PFBC in the past. Each custom button measures 1 3/4 inches with a high-quality, pin-back design and feature the angler's customer identification number (CID), the same number displayed on a paper license. As long as the angler is carrying a valid paper license, a valid button is the only display requirement.
The purchase of an annual or multi-year fishing license or voluntary youth license is required in order to purchase a license button. The purchase of a button is not a requirement in addition to the purchase of a license.
Labor Day marks the start of the fall boating season, a time for cooler weather, uncrowded waterways and great fishing. But according to BoatUS, this time of year also brings its own unique safety challenges, especially for boaters or anglers in smaller craft.
“There are reasons why September-November are the deadliest months of the year for boaters,” says BoatUS Foundation Director of Boating Safety Chris Edmonson, according to Coast Guard Recreational Boating Statistics. “But the good news is that there are some common sense steps that may prevent a small mishap from becoming serious.”
Here are some U.S. Coast Guard statistics along with some fall boating safety tips:
*While there are more accidents in the summer months when recreational boating is in full swing, the odds of dying if you are in and accident go up during fall months. BoatUS cites 22 percent and 25 percent of all accidents in fall months result in deaths.
*Statistics also show over half of all boating deaths occur with small boats. That’s because they are usually open to the elements and more vulnerable to wind, waves and swamping.
*Cold water quickly saps away your strength. Wearing a life jacket could give you the time needed to safely re-board if you accidently fall overboard. Also ensure you have a means to quickly get back aboard without assistance if fishing alone. Over two-thirds of all fatal boating accidents victims drowned and of these, 90 percent were not wearing a life jacket.
*Don’t let sunny skies fool you. Dress appropriately and recognize that even slight changes in the weather can make hypothermia a real threat if you’re not prepared.
*In fall, there are very few fellow boaters and anglers near by (your closest potential rescuers). Without the help of fellow boaters, you float plant is your only back-up. Share with a family member or friend where you plan to go and when you expect to return, so they may notify authorities if you are overdue returning. If you fall in the water and don’t have a waterproof cover on your cell phone, that device will not be of much use to you. And that’s if it doesn’t fall in too and goes to the bottom of the lake.
Heed these words of wisdom and you’ll better enjoy your time on the water when the fish are on their fall/winter feed.
With the archery deer hunting season set to kick off locally Sept. 21 in WMU’s 2B, 5C and 5D, now’s the time to check your bows, bow strings, arrows and tree stands if you use one.
According to Rick Weaknecht, of Weaknecht Archery in Kutztown, bowhunters shouldn’t wait until the last minute to bring their bows in for new strings that may be frayed or stretched from use or to have arrows made. Arrows in particular, he says, takes time in that they require cutting shafts to customer lengths, gluing feathers or fletching on, and for some, fletching specific color combinations. His words are similar to what happens the day before the trout opener when anglers wait to the last minute to buy their licenses and get new line put on their reels.
Commercial tree stands and steps need a check for frayed or worm straps before installing them. And wooden homemade stands that have been in place over the seasons may be in need of new wood that could be rotted, weakened from the weather or chewed by squirrels. Those are the most dangerous.
I should also point out that the archery bear season also gets underway on Sept. 21 and runs until Nov. 19 in the same WMUs.
You may be curious to know what other bowhunters have bought for the upcoming season. A recent survey done by Southwick Associates during the period of May-June 2019, shows that 60 percent of archers bought new arrows; broadheads accounted for 29.9 percent; bows, 19.5 percent (survey doesn’t show if these were conventional or crossbows); releases and tabs, 19 percent; archery targets, 18.8 percent; bow cases, 17.4 percent; quivers, 15.3 percent; stabilizers, 13.9 percent; and strings and accessories, 11.0 percent.
They also surveyed tree stands with hang-ons accounting for the majority at 34.1 percent; ladder stands, 19.2 percent; tripod stands at 9.9; ladders/steps, 9.9 percent; harnesses and accessories 9.9 percent.
Insofar as tree stands are concerned, September is Tree Stand Safety Awareness (TSSA) Month, which is the month most hunters head back into the woods to hang stands for the upcoming seasons. The program is intended to inform and educate hunters in tree stand safety in an effort to reduce tree stand accidents that occur every hunting season. And those falls can sometimes lead to serious injuries or even death. In fact, TSSA says a 2018 study showed there were an estimated 3,001 tree stand falls requiring a hospital ER visit.
The folks at TSSA strongly remind hunters to always remove and inspect your equipment; buckle on a full body harness; and connect to the tree before you leave the ground.
Before all the new harnesses and stands came on the market, I used a heavy all steel Screaming Eagle hang-on tree stand that secured to the tree with a steel chain. I would always worry upon stepping onto it after hooking up the chain as the instructions said to jump on it a couple times to set the u-shaped support teeth to the tree. On two occasions it slipped, but I did wear a nylon rope harness (the best at the time) similar to what line-men use to climb utility poles. It was a hefty and strongly built stand and the company would show a picture of it holding up a VW Beetle in its magazine ads. Needless to say, I sold it.
So bowhunters, TSSA says to heed their advice and be extra careful when hanging/installing a stand this season.
Nick Hromiak has been an outdoors and automotive writer for over 30 years. He's been published in numerous national and state-wide outdoor magazines and newspapers.