Special fund could be special for Erie fishing
Written by Beaver County Times   
Monday, 23 January 2006 13:56

Anyone who has fished for steelhead on the Lake Erie tributaries knows that access to the streams is the biggest issue facing anglers.  For a number of reasons, access to some of the best fishing areas has been lost at an alarming rate over the last several years.

 Luckily, some forward-thinking people have started to make efforts to reverse the trend and save access to the great fishery we have in the Lake Erie steelhead.

The first effort was back in 2002 when there was money left over after the original Lake Erie Permit was phased out in 1998. That $3 permit was created to provide recompense for holders of commercial fishing licenses, who were now prohibited from using gill nets.

The money sat until the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission received permission from the legislature to spend it. In 2002, Commission officials presented $100,000 to North East Township, Erie County. The grant was used to support acquisition and protection of the mouth of Twenty Mile Creek and beaches adjacent to its shoreline in public ownership.

Though the idea of purchasing property along Lake Erie had been bantered around, that initial purchase provided the impetus to move forward.

Last year a new Lake Erie Permit was created to raise funds for the purchase of property along the Lake Erie shoreline and its tributaries. There is currently a little over $600,000 in the account and the first effort is under way to acquire land with the monies.

The Commission recently committed $200,000 to a group, including the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Fairview Township, Department of Environmental Protection's Coastal Zone Management Program and Lake Erie Regional Conservancy. It is working to acquire a 3½-acre parcel of land that includes 450 feet of Lake Erie frontage near Trout Run.

The property is privately owned and posted against trespassing. It lies to the east of Trout Run and would be valuable, providing access to the shoreline and much-needed parking in the area.

Trout Run is a designated nursery water and fishing in the creek is prohibited. The mouth of Trout Run is the most popular place for shore fishing in the lake for steelheads and walleyes, but access and parking are problems.

The Fish and Boat Commission runs a nursery upstream on Trout Run, where it raises and milks steelheads as thousands of steelheads return to Trout Run every year. This provides excellent fishing for steelheads when the fish school off the mouth trying to enter this relatively small and shallow creek. Likewise, when fingerlings leave the creek in the spring, walleyes lurk offshore at night looking for an easy meal.

According to a Commission press release, if the purchase is secured by the township, the Commission grant would be the first expenditure from a new program that collects fees from recreational Lake Erie anglers and invests them in public access.

"The proposed purchase of this property is a perfect match with the Commission's vision for monies raised by the sale of Lake Erie Fishing Permits," Commission executive director Doug Austen was quoted as saying. "It really is the ideal project for the first expenditure from this special fund."

Fairview Township has agreed it will use the site, in part, to improve access to Lake Erie and Trout Run. The township will grant to the Commission conservation or access easement to allow public access along the lake shore.

An agreement between the township and commission will include specific provisions for the protection of the commission's interests, the angling public, and the development of parking facilities that can be accommodated.

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