Outdoors Notebook: Fines and prison sentences increased for fish poaching

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Pennsylvania is setting the hook on wildlife poachers. In 2010, the state Game Code was amended to significantly increase poaching penalties, adding for the first time jail sentences for some first-time offenders. Last week, Gov. Tom Corbett signed into law House Bill 2293, which increases the maximum fine for illegally harvesting fish from $200 to $5,000 and gives the state Fish and Boat Commission authority to revoke fishing and boating privileges for as long as five years.

The law went into effect immediately. It adds a new section to the Fish and Boat Code for "serious unlawful take," increasing the penalty for harvesting more than the daily limit from a summary offense of the first degree to a misdemeanor of the second degree. It also enables the PFBC to charge violators for the costs of replacing illegally harvested fish, and increases poaching prison sentences from a maximum of 90 days to two years.

In a written statement, executive director John Arway suggested the new penalties may help deter steelhead poaching in Erie County, where every year conservation officers apprehend five or six poachers each in possession of dozens of fish over the legal limit.

"These are the individuals who deliberately come in after dark and take large amounts of game fish, often by using illegal methods such as netting or spearing in the streams," Arway said.

In another action, the governor approved House Bill 1417, which adds waterways conservation officers and their deputies to those who are protected under the aggravated assault provisions of the Pennsylvania Crimes and Offenses code.

Hunting with The Beard

Wednesday is the registration deadline for a chance to hunt pheasants with Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel. The contest winner and a guest will join Keisel and Gander Mountain personnel Nov. 20 at a regional hunting and fishing club for a half-day guided pheasant hunt with Keisel, a catered lunch and an autograph session. Entry forms for the Brett Keisel Outdoor Adventure Sweepstakes are available at Gander Mountain stores in Erie, Greensburg, Johnstown, Moon, Washington and West Mifflin. Details at www.gandermountain.com.

Marcellus Shale

International Angler in Robinson will host a free program on the impact of gas drilling on fishing and watersheds at 6 p.m. Tuesday. Details: 412-788-8088.

Personal flotation

New cold-weather life-jacket regulations mandate that all boaters wear a Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device Nov. 1 through April 30 while under way or at anchor on boats less than 16 feet in length or any canoe or kayak.

Youghiogheny Lake

Due to reduced pool level, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has closed the spillway boat launch for the season.



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