When sunny days and fall foliage tempt the boater in you, don't forget about your life jacket, especially if you are planning to use a canoe, kayak or similar small boat.
Beginning Nov. 1 and lasting through April 30, boaters are required to wear a life jacket while underway or at anchor on boats less than 16 feet in length, or any canoe or kayak, under a new state regulation passed in September by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC).
Life jackets are the most important piece of safety equipment on a boat, says Laurel Anders, director of the PFBC Bureau of Boating and Outreach. According to Pennsylvania's boating accident reports, almost 80 percent of all boating fatalities happen to boaters not wearing a life jacket. A disproportionate number of the fatalities occur during the months of November through April. During these cold weather months, boaters are especially at risk due to the water temperature and the risk of sudden cold water immersion.
When a person is unexpectedly plunged into cold water below 70 degrees, the body's first response is usually an involuntary gasp. Without a life jacket, a victim may inhale while under water and drown without coming back to the surface. If an individual does make it back to the surface, his ability to swim is usually restricted because of a shortness of breath or hyperventilation.
The new regulation applies to all Pennsylvania waters.
Individuals who plan to fish, boat or hunt from a boat this fall or winter are encouraged to follow these cold water survival safety tips:
Always wear a life jacket, even when not required. Many models also offer insulation from cold air. Read the life jacket's approval label to be sure it's appropriate for your boating activity.
To learn more about life jacket wear and cold water survival, visit:
PFBC -- fishandboat.com/safety.htm
Coldwater Boot Camp -- www.coldwaterbootcamp.com/pages/home.html
Safe Boating Campaigns -- www.safeboatingcampaign.com/new-jacket-pages/angling-hunting-jackets.html.
Gov. Tom Corbett has signed into law tougher anti-poaching legislation which increases the maximum fine for illegally harvesting fish from $200 to $5,000, and extends the period the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission can revoke fishing and boating privileges from two to five years.
This new law will have an immediate impact on our ability to deter large-scale poachers from illegally taking fish, PFBC Executive Director John Arway said. 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. In the past, poaching was subject to a $200 maximum fine. Now we can hit violators with up to $5,000 in fines, as well as the cost of replacing the fish they illegally harvest.
The legislation was signed into law by Gov. Corbett last week and took effect immediately.
Weak laws made our waterways extremely vulnerable to poaching, with highly sought-after trophy species of fish repeatedly stolen from our waterways and sold on the black market, said Rep. Michael Peifer (R-Greentown), who sponsored the legislation as House Bill 2293. This is a serious problem that has a detrimental impact on our regional economy. Under this law, we finally have a punishment that fits the crime.
The law creates a new section in the Fish and Boat code for serious unlawful take, which increases the penalty for harvesting more than the legal daily limit of fish from a summary offense of the first degree to a misdemeanor of the second degree. It also allows the PFBC to collect from violators the costs to replace the poached fish, and it increases the amount of time a violator can be sentenced to prison from a maximum of 90 days to two years.
The law will be particularly beneficial in the Erie watershed, where the annual steelhead season is just beginning. Annually, PFBC waterways conservation officers apprehend and cite 5-6 individuals for large cases of poaching. These individuals typically have in their possession dozens of fish over the legal creel limit.
The law also substantially increases the penalties for individuals who fish while their license is suspended. Previously, that violation was a summary offense of the first degree, subject to a $200 fine. The penalty is now a third degree misdemeanor, subject to a fine up to $5,000.
Also, Gov. Corbett signed into law House Bill 1417, another piece of legislation sought by the PFBC to better protect and equip its WCOs for the challenges they face in the field. The new law adds waterways conservation officer and deputy waterways conservation officer to the list of individuals who are protected under the aggravated assault provisions of the Pennsylvania Crimes and Offenses code. It takes effect in 60 days.