Is That Legal?
Inside the Outdoors, May 9
, 2014

A couple of weeks ago, I received a phone call whereby an individual wanted to be sure as to the length different species of fish have to be before one is allowed to keep them. I asked the chap almost immediately in a somewhat bewildered state, “Don’t you ever read the fishing summary booklets that are handed out when you bought your license?” His answer – “Nah, I never read those things,” he said. I could only shake my head in disbelief in what I was hearing.

On the other hand, I can tell you right now, he is not the only one who has fallen short by not educating him or herself with such valuable information available. Not to sound corny but is true, inside the cover of the 2014 Pennsylvania Fishing Summary of Fishing Regulations and Laws periodical is found valuable information that must be ingested as well as digested. In other words, this booklet contains everything you’ve always want to know but not known where to look when it comes to fish species, their sizes of harvest and limit of fish he is allowed to take home if he or she is planning to take on the challenges of freshwater fishing in the confines of the Commonwealth.

So back to the conversation I had with the middle-aged angler. “So, all bass caught at Keystone State Park Lake have to be 12 inches,” he stated. “Isn’t that what the legal size is?” “No,” I said with hesitation. I wanted him to think a little bit about what he was asking. I then stated, “If you were to read page 9, where it talks about the ‘Big Bass Program Special Regulations’ section and lists the various water basins according to counties, it can be seen that for Westmoreland County, there are seven lakes governed by this regulation: Bridgeport Reservoir, Upper and Lower Twin Lakes, Mammoth Dam, Northmoreland and Keystone State Park Lake.

Largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass have to be 15 inches in length from Jan. 1 through April 11 and June 14 through Dec. 31. There is to be no harvesting of bass April 12 through June 13. If they are caught, they must be immediately released.

Bass not found in compounds listed above may be taken from opening day bass season June 14 through Oct. 31 may be harvested measuring 12 inches with a total of six per day combined species for one’s daily limit. The same species of bass may also be harvested in rivers and streams beginning June 14 through Sept 30 also with the same size and the same daily limit.

If one is fishing outside of the county, make sure the summary booklet is checked on the noted page for rules governing bodies of waters fished.

Years back when I had a store, a proud mother entered through the front door exclaiming, “My son just caught a big fish in the Loyalhanna and is bringing it in to show you. With that he appeared carrying a 27-inch musky. Was there a problem here or not? I turned to the woman stating, “Better get that thing away from public view. If you would have checked the summary book, you would have seen that a fish of that species has to be 40-inches in length to harvest it and not 27.” Her smile quickly turned into a frown.
And what about panfish? Surely they can be kept at any size, right. Wrong. In 10 counties throughout Pennsylvania, there are special regulations governing crappie, yellow perch and even sunfish.

Pertaining to Westmoreland County, in order to harvest crappie at Northmoreland, Upper or Lower Twin Lakes, these fish must be the minimum of nine inches. At Northmoreland Lake, sunfish must be seven inches in length in order for them to be bucketed for future meals. Eight of the other counties within the state also have sunfish stipulations equivalent to our county.

Here is a question I get often. “Does an adult who assists a child cast and retrieve a fishing line need a fishing license?”

The first question that has to be asked here is, “How old is the child?” If he or she is 13 or over, the youth is not considered a child any more. The way the law reads, ‘An adult who assists a child (12 years of age and under) by casting or retrieving a fishing line or fishing rod is not required to possess a valid fishing license provided that the child remains within arms’ reach of the assisting adult and is actively involved in the fishing activity. An adult may assist a child by baiting hooks, removing fish from the line, netting fish, preparing the fishing rod for use and untangling the line without possessing a valid fishing license.’

Here is an important consideration. ‘An adult is required to possess a fishing license if he intends to set the hook for the child.'


- Paul J. Volkmann
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