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Requirements and Law

General Regulations

NURSERY WATERS are closed to fishing at all times.

FIELD DRESSING AND DISPOSAL OF FISH – It is unlawful to possess a fish in any form or condition other than in the whole or having the entrailsremoved while on shore, along the waters of the Commonwealth, onboard a boat or on a dock, pier, launch area, or parking lot adjacent thereto. Fish may beprocessed fully if they are being prepared for immediate consumption on site. This does not apply to fish processed at a fish cleaning station officiallyrecognized by the Commission or by a permitted charter boat/fishing guide operation. It is unlawful to discard any fish carcass or parts thereof into the watersof the Commonwealth or upon any public or private lands contiguous to the waters unless disposal is on lands with permission from the landowner or it iswhere fish are properly disposed into suitable garbage or refuse collection systems or at an

officially recognized fish cleaning station.

TAGGED FISH The PFBC and agencies in adjacent states apply tags to fish for special research purposes. If an angler catches a tagged fish and wishes tokeep the fish, the tag number and location of the catch should be reported to the address or phone number on the tag or to the PFBC. If the angler doesn’t wishto keep the fish, no attempt should be made to remove the tag unless special instructions have been posted at access areas, by the media, or elsewhere. Forexample, sometimes the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission uses two-part tags and parts of or all of the tags should be removed in some cases withscissors or a knife. This type of tag typically resembles rubber spaghetti, and information such as tag numbers and toll-free phone numbers can be easilyread. Tagged fish that are not kept should be returned to the water immediately after removing the tag or recording the information from the tag. In no caseshould tags be pulled from a fish as this will cause significant injuries.

It is unlawful for a person to implant tracking devices in or to tag, brand, mark, or fin clip any fish taken from Commonwealth waters unless the fish arepurchased from an authorized commercial aquaculture facility, are part of a Commission-recognized and sanctioned stocking by a cooperative nursery, areauthorized by a scientific collector’s permit issued by the Commission, are part of a tagged fish contest in a boundary lake for which the Commission hasissued a permit, or are part of a Commission-partnered tagged fish contest.

Tackle and Equipment

RODS, LINES, AND HOOKS. An angler may use a maximum of three lines fished either by rod or hand when fishing for gamefish, baitfish, or both.An exception to this rule exists for those fishing through ice in winter (see Ice Fishing Equipment below). On open water (not covered by ice), it is unlawfulfor a person to fish with more than three fishing rods at a time. There is no restriction on the number of hooks used on each fishing line. All rods, lines, andhooks shall be under the immediate control of the person using them. SNAGGING HOOKS may not be used or possessed while in the act of fishing. Asnagging hook is a device designed or modified to facilitate the snagging of fish and may be a hook with a single barb, weighted on a shank below the eye andabove the barbs, or a hook otherwise designed or modified to make the snagging of

fish more likely than it would be with a normal hook.

ICE FISHING EQUIPMENT. It is unlawful while ice fishing to use more than five fishing devices, which may consist of rods, hand lines, tip-ups, or anycombination. Each device shall contain a single fishing line with no restriction on the number of hooks used for fishing, except when fishing in thePymatuning Reser- voir where no more than three hooks shall be attached to each line. Self-hooking devices such as jaw jackers and automated fishermanare allowed. Holes cut in ice may not exceed 10 inches between the farthest points as measured in any direction. All lines, rods, or tip-ups shall be under theimmediate control of the person using them. On Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission lakes, shelters or shanties must be removed when through fishing forthe day.

GAFF OR LANDING NET. A gaff or landing net is permitted to assist in landing fish caught using a lawful device. Nets of all types can be no larger(excluding the handle) than 4 feet square or 4 feet in diameter. The use of a cast net or throw net in any Commonwealth waters except waters listed at theCommission's website are a violation of the Fish and Boat Code. These waterways require permits. Cast net and throw net permits are available online. It isunlawful to use any type of net or seine to catch or take gamefish.

SPEARS OR GIGS. Spears or gigs may be used to take ONLY carp, suckers, and catfish. Spears or gigs may not be mechanically propelled, may nothave more than five barbed points, and may not be used in stocked trout waters.

BOW AND ARROW (including compound bows and crossbows) may be used for taking ONLY carp, suck- ers, and catfish on all Commonwealth waters,day or night, with the following exceptions: (1) bow fishing is strictly prohibited in stocked trout waters during the closed season and (2) bowfishing is strictlyprohibited in special regulations trout waters.


An adult who assists a child (15 years of age and younger) by casting or retrieving a fishing line or fishing rod is not required to possess a valid fishing licenseprovided 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. An adult is required topossess a fishing license if they intend to set the hook for the child. An adult may not fish or set the hook for their child in a designated Children/Special PopulationArea.


BAITFISH includes all forms of minnows; suck- ers, chubs, Fallfish, lampreys; Gizzard Shad 8 inches or less taken from inland ponds, lakes, orreservoirs; and all forms of darters, killifishes, and stonecats (except those listed as threatened or endangered species). Legally taken gamefish maybe used as bait. It is unlawful to use or possess Round Gobies, Tubenose Gobies, goldfish, comets, koi, and Com- mon Carp as baitfish while fishing.

FISHBAIT includes crayfish, crabs, and the nymphs, larvae, and pupae of all insects spending any part of their life cycle in the water.

For all crayfish species, the head must be im- mediately removed behind the eyes upon capture unless used as bait in the water from which taken.

SEASON, SIZE, LIMIT: No closed season (except as noted below) and no minimum size. The daily limit and possession limit is 50 combinedspecies. When purchasing bait, obtain and keep the sales slip or receipt. The receipt authorizes the posses- sion of the fishbait or baitfish sopurchased for a period of 15 days after its date of issue. Fishbait or baitfish purchased from a licensed dealer do not have a possession limit and do notcount toward your daily limit of fishbait and baitfish taken from Commonwealth waterways. Stocked trout waters are closed for taking fishbait andbaitfish from February 20 to the opening day of trout season. Most specially regulated trout waters are closed to taking fishbait and baitfish at all times.

TAKING AND KEEPING BAIT is permitted using rod and reel or handline, dip net, or minnow seine not over 4 feet square or in diameter, or aminnow trap with no more than two openings that shall not exceed 1 inch in diameter. All devices must be under the immediate control of the person usingthem. Unattended minnow traps or baitfish containers left in Commonwealth waters must be identified with the owner’s or user’s name, address, andtelephone number. If fishing in a group and the total number of fishbait or baitfish taken exceeds the possession limit (50), separate containers must be provided for the fishbait and baitfish. Total possession limit in any one container may not exceed 50 baitfish or fishbait combined.

MUDBUGS (dragonfly nymphs): No daily limit from lakes, ponds, swamps, or adjacent areas; the daily limit from rivers and streams is 50.

FROGS AS BAIT: Except for those listed as en- dangered or threatened or those with zero possession limit, frogs may be used as bait. Certain seasonsand possession limits apply.

Releasing fish from another state, province, or country into Commonwealth waters is illegal without written permission from the Commission. Transfer-ring fish from one Pennsylvania watershed to another where that species is not always present is also illegal without written consent from the Commission.

It is Unlawful . . .

  • To possess, introduce, or import, transport, sell, purchase, offer for sale, or barter the following live species in the Commonwealth: snakehead (all spe- cies), Black Carp, Bighead Carp, Silver Carp, Zebra Mussel, Quagga Mussel, European Rudd, Ruffe, Rusty Crayfish, Round Goby, and TubenoseGoby.
  • To fish with more than three fishing lines at any time when fishing for gamefish, baitfish, or both.
  • To not have immediate control of all rods, lines, and hooks.
  • To fish (includes taking baitfish and fishbait) from February 20 to 8:00 a.m. on the opening day of trout season in any stocked trout water. Excepted are certain speciallyregulated waters and Stocked Trout Waters Open to Year-round Fishing.
  • To cast repeatedly into a clearly visible bass spawn ing nest or redd in an effort to catch or take a bass.
  • To take or attempt to take fish, or keep fish ac- cidentally caught, by snatch-fishing, foul hooking, or snag fishing. Handfishing is not permitted.
  • To catch, kill, or possess more than one day’s limit of any fish, except: (a) at your residence and (b) you may possess two days’ limit while traveling to your residence from an overnight fishing trip of two or more consecutive days.
  • To have on a stringer or in a container or otherwise in possession, while in or along waters of the Com- monwealth or immediately returning therefrom, more than the daily creel limit of any fish for one person.
  • To fail to immediately return unharmed to the waters from which it was taken, any fish caught out of season, undersize, or over the daily creel limit. Any fish placed on a stringer, in any container or given away, counts toward the possession limit of the person having caught it, and the person to whom it was given.
  • To kill any fish and fail to make a reasonable effort to lawfully dispose of it.
  • To fish in, or within 100 feet of, the entrance or exit points of any fishway, including fish ladders and other fish passage facilities.
  • To use gamefish as bait except when taken by rod and reel or handline in conformance with seasons, sizes, and creel limits or when purchased from an authorized bait dealer.
  • To sell baitfish or fishbait taken from waters of the Commonwealth, except that licensed and authorized commercial fishermen may take and sell baitfish from Lake Erie and Presque Isle Bay.
  • To sell baitfish or fishbait within the Common wealth, or transport same out of the state, except by authorized and licensed commercial bait dealers.
  • To sell any species of fish, reptile (with the excep- tion of Snapping Turtles), or amphibian taken from the Commonwealth.
  • To sell, offer for sale, purchase, or barter any fish parts or fish eggs obtained from fish taken from waters of this Commonwealth including boundary waters. This prohibition does not apply to fish parts or fish eggs (1) lawfully taken or sold or of- fered for sale by holders of Lake Erie commercial fishinglicenses if the particular species of fish is authorized for taking by commercial licensees, or (2) those obtained from fish taken lawfully from waters outside of this Commonwealth.
  • To release any species of fish, except those listed as approved by the PFBC, in Commonwealth waters without written permission from the executivedirec- tor of the PFBC.
  • To place an obstruction in any waterway that blocks the free movement of fish.
  • To use or have in possession while on or along Commonwealth waters, nets larger than 4 feet square or in diameter except with a special permit issued by the PFBC.
  • To conduct an organized fishing tournament in which there are 10 or more participants without apermit issued by the Commission. Applications must be submitted 60 days before the date of theproposed tournament. Fishing tournaments may not be conducted for a species of fish during the closed season for that species. Unless a special exemption is granted, fishing tournaments may not beconducted on the opening day of the season for any species of gamefish. Contact the nearest region office (page 3) for further information and permit applications. Applications are also availableonline.
  • To conduct an organized fishing tournament and fail to submit an accurate fishing tournament catchreport when required.
  • To conduct a tagged fishing tournament in bound- ary waters without a permit issued by the PFBC.
  • To throw, leave, discard, or deposit litter, debris, or trash of any kind in or along waters or lands adjacentto or contiguous to waters of the Commonwealth.
  • To obstruct the ingress, egress, or regress to a person’s property, cattleways, or fields.
  • To dig in or drive upon any lands.
  • To cut or damage trees or shrubs.
  • To build or tend open fires without permission.
  • To run any vehicle, except fording in the most direct manner, in any stream.
  • To interfere with officers authorized to enforce the Fish and Boat Code in the performance oftheir duties or to refuse to accompany any officer after having been arrested for a violation of the Fishand Boat Code.

If a Violation Occurs . . .

Persons accused of violating the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Code or rules and regulations may be issued a citationand have a right to a hearing before a district justice. Law enforcement personnel have the authority to confiscateor seize as evidence fish and fishing equipment that are illegal or used to violate fishing laws or regulations. The PFBCmay, upon proper notice, suspend or revoke the fishing privileges, boating privileges, or other permits of anyperson convicted (or acknowledging guilt) of a violation of the Fish and Boat Code or PFBC regulations.

If you have been convicted of or plead guilty to a second or subsequent violation within a 12-month period, you may be assessed an additional fine of $200 for those offenses classified as summary offenses.

Fishing Privileges in Boundary Waters

The following fishing license agreements apply to boundary waters. You must abide by all other rules and regulations of the state in which fishing and where you launch or retrieve your boat.

A PENNSYLVANIA or MARYLAND LICENSE is valid on the Conowingo Reservoir or Youghiogheny River Lake when fishing from a boat (excluding coves and tributaries). DOES NOT INCLUDE SHORE FISHING.

A PENNSYLVANIA or NEW YORK LICENSE is valid on the Delaware River (including West Branch) between New York and Pennsylvania when FISHING FROM A BOAT OR FROM EITHER SHORE.

A PENNSYLVANIA or NEW JERSEY LICENSE is valid on the Delaware River between New Jersey and Pennsylvania when FISHING FROM A BOAT OR FROM EITHER SHORE. A Pennsylvania fishing license is required to fish in all other waters identified as being part of the Delaware Estuary.

A PENNSYLVANIA or OHIO LICENSE is valid on the Pymatuning Reservoir when fishing from a boat. DOES NOT INCLUDE SHORE FISHING.

A PENNSYLVANIA LICENSE is required to fish Kinzua Reservoir in McKean and Warren counties. No agreement has been established with New York.

NO FISHING AGREEMENTS have been made on any other boundary waters.

Saltwater Angler Registry: Delaware River and Estuary

Anglers who target or catch shad, striped bass, and river herring from the Delaware River below Trenton Falls or in the Delaware Estuary are required to register for free with the PFBC using the QR code on this page, register, for a fee, with the National Saltwater Angler Registry administered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), or meet the saltwater angler registration requirements of another state. Anglers do not need to register if they meet one of the following exceptions:

  • Are under the age of 16.
  • Hold a Highly Migratory Species Angling Permit.
  • Fish commercially under a valid license.
  • Possess a valid registration with the National Saltwater Angler.
  • Registry administered by NOAA or from another exempted state.

Pennsylvania fishing license holders may choose to register for free with the PFBC. Go online for registration details.

Anglers may also register with the National Registry website at with NOAA by clicking on the Angler Registry link or calling the tollfree registration line NATIONAL SALTWATER ANGLER REGISTRY: DELAWARE RIVER AND ESTUARY at 1-888-MRIP-411 (1-888-674-7411). Please note that registered anglers must still possess a valid state fishing license.

The following ENDANGERED and THREATENED native species have NO OPEN SEASON. The DAILY LIMIT is 0 (zero) and POSSESSION LIMIT is 0 (zero).

The Commission has identified some species of reptiles, amphibians, fish, and aquatic organisms as endangered, threatened, or candidate species. Endangered and threatened species face extirpation and have NO OPEN SEASON.


  • Eastern Mud Salamander (Endangered)
  • Green Salamander (Threatened)
  • Blue-spotted Salamander (Endangered)


  • Eastern Spadefoot (Threatened)
  • New Jersey Chorus Frog (Endangered)
  • Eastern Cricket Frog (Endangered)
  • Coastal Plains Leopard Frog (Endangered)


  • Eastern Massasauga (Endangered)
  • Kirtland’s Snake (Endangered)
  • Northern Rough Greensnake (Endangered)


  • Bog Turtle (Endangered)
  • Southeastern Mud Turtle (Endangered)
  • Northern Red-bellied Cooter (Threatened)

The following native reptile and amphibian species have NO OPEN SEASON. The DAILY LIMIT is 0 (zero) and POSSESSION LIMIT is 0 (zero).


  • Eastern Hellbender
  • Four-toed Salamander
  • Jefferson Salamander
  • Marbled Salamander
  • Common Mudpuppy
  • Northern Ravine Salamander


  • Mountain Chorus Frog
  • Upland Chorus Frog
  • Western Chorus Frog


  • Eastern Hog-nosed Snake
  • Eastern Ribbonsnake
  • Eastern Smooth Earthsnake
  • Eastern Wormsnake
  • Mountain Earthsnake
  • Queensnake
  • Short-headed Garter Snake
  • Smooth Greensnake


  • Blanding’s Turtle
  • Woodland Box Turtle
  • Spotted Turtle
  • Wood Turtle


  • Eastern Fence Lizard
  • Northern Coal Skink

The following native reptile and amphibian species have NO CLOSED SEASON. The DAILY LIMIT is 1 (one) and POSSESSION LIMIT is 1 (one).


  • Allegheny Mountain Dusky Salamander
  • Eastern Red-backed Salamander
  • Red-spotted Newt
  • Eastern Long-tailed Salamander
  • Northern Dusky Salamander
  • Northern Red Salamander
  • Northern Slimy Salamander
  • Northern Spring Salamander
  • Northern Two-lined Salamander
  • Seal Salamander
  • Spotted Salamander
  • Wehrle's Salamander
  • Valley and Ridge Salamander


  • Eastern American Toad
  • Gray Treefrog
  • Fowler's Toad
  • Northern Leopard Frog
  • Pickerel Frog
  • Spring Peeper
  • Wood Frog


  • Eastern Gartersnake
  • Eastern Milksnake
  • Eastern Ratsnake
  • Northern Black Racer
  • Red-bellied Snake
  • DeKay's Brownsnake
  • Northern Ring-necked Snake
  • Northern Watersnake


  • Eastern Musk Turtle
  • Eastern Painted Turtle
  • Eastern Spiny Softshell
  • Northern Map Turtle
  • Midland Painted Turtle


  • Common Five-lined Skink

The practice of catch and release of amphibians and reptiles is encouraged.

Aquatic Invasive Species

Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) may be microscopic and can be plants or animals. AIS have the potential to cause significant economic and ecologic harm to our waterways by competing with native and game species for space and food. Anglers, boaters, swimmers, and others who contact waterways can unknowingly spread AIS. • Do not move or release animals or plants to other waterways. • Dispose of unwanted fishing bait in the trash.

Clean Your Gear! Before leaving waterways, check for and remove any aquatic life (plants and animals), mud, and other organic debris.

Glean Gear

Small Gear

  • For a minimum of 20 minutes, soak gear in hot water (120°-140° F) (may damage Gor-tex®) containing 1 cup of regular dish detergent per gallon of water OR freeze gear for at least 8 hours.
  • After cleaning or freezing, allow gear to dry for a minimum of 48 hours before next use.
  • Consider using your gear in only one waterway, thus eliminating the need to disinfect.

Boats and Heavy Equipment

  • Before leaving this waterway, drain water from boat, motor, bilges, bladder tanks, live bait wells, any other wet compartments, and portable bait containers.
  • Use a steam spray unit to thoroughly clean all parts of the boat or heavy equipment (including all wet compartments such as the bilge, bait compartments, and storage bunkers). If steam cleaning is not available, use a high pressure hot water sprayer. If these cleaning options are not available, put your boat through a hot water car wash.
  • Thoroughly spray all parts of a boat trailer and towing vehicle that contact the water.
  • Thoroughly flush the cooling system of all boat motors.
  • After cleaning, allow equipment to dry for at least 48 hours.


Bighead, Silver, and Black Carp are invasive carp. It is unlawful to possess, introduce or import, transport, sell, purchase, offer for sale, or barter these species in Pennsylvania.

These species pose a significant threat to the biodiversity of native species and habitat, along with imposing safety risks to boaters. Invasive carp had a devastating impact in the Mississippi River system and now pose this threat to the Great Lakes Basin. As Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS), these fish do not naturally occur in Pennsylvania waters and would only occur if transported and released.

These carp species are a threat due to their large size (some can grow to more than 100 pounds and 5 feet in length), reproductive success, habitat damage, and large, year-round food consumption. In addition, Silver Carp, when startled, can jump up to 10 feet out of the water, striking boaters and causing severe injury.

For more information and to report sightings or catches of these fish species and other AIS, go to STOP INVASIVE CARP! Grass Carp are also known as invasive carp. Diploid Grass Carp are banned from stocking in Pennsylvania, but Triploid (sterile).

Grass Carp are allowed to be stocked in lakes and ponds with a PFBC-approved permit.

General Boating Regulations

REQUIREMENTS – A Coast Guard-approved wearable life jacket is required for each person on all boats in all waters. See additional life jacketrequirements in the Pennsylvania Boating Handbook and online. Motorboats (including boats powered by electric motors) must be registered, andthey must be registered in their state of principal use. Boat operators born on or after January 1, 1982, who operate boats greater than 25 horsepowermust have a Boating Safety Education Certificate in their possession. All PWC (personal watercraft) operators must have a Boating Safety EducationCertificate in their pos- session. Persons 11 years old or younger may NOT operate a boat with greater than 25 horsepower or a PWC. Persons 12–15 years old may not operate a PWC with any passengers on board 15 years old or younger or rent a PWC. Unpowered boats (canoes, kayaks, rowboats, stand-up paddleboards, etc.) can be launched at Commission lakes and access areas or Pennsylvania State Parks and Forests if theydisplay a boat registration, Commission launch use permit, or Pennsylvania State Parks launch permit or mooring permit. An unpowered boat mayhave a registration OR launch permit, but it is not required to have both. The Commission does NOT recognize launch permits from other states. A Commission launch permit can be purchased on the PFBC’s website.

Boating and alcohol do not mix. Alcohol use increases the chances of having an accident. Alcohol affects balance, coor- dination, and judgment. It isillegal to operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance. Penalties include loss of boating privileges, significantfines, and imprisonment.

For additional information, see the Pennsylvania Boating Handbook or visit the Commission's website.



A copy of the Pennsylvania Fishing Summary and Pennsylvania Boating Handbook is available online in alternative accessible format.


Persons using a TTY may dial Pennsylvania Relay telephone number 711 to contact us.


A person who requires the use of a motorized wheelchair or similar device powered by an electric motor may use the device on Commission property. The Commission does not represent that its properties, except those specifically marked and designated for access by persons with disabilities, are suitable for this use. People needing the use of some other power-driven mobility device to access Commission property for fishing or boating opportunities may contact the Bureau of Law Enforcement for an application for access (also found on the Commission’s website): PFBC Bureau of Law Enforcement, P.O. Box 67000, Harrisburg PA 17106-7000.


To inquire about waters available exclusively for children 15 years of age or younger and special populations, please contact a PFBC region office.

Additional Resources:

The PFBC and its partners offer fishing and boating opportunities at a variety of facilities throughout the Commonwealth. Facility enhancements can provide greater access for all to enjoy Pennsylvania’s waterways. The Commission provides funding for the planning, acquisition, development, expansion and rehabilitation of public fishing and boating facilities. Some of the most successful funding requests come from townships, boroughs, and municipal governments that partner with nonprofit groups, private businesses, and service clubs. Find grant applications, guidelines, and more at


At the PFBC, we believe the lack of tackle should never be a reason to miss out on fishing. Partners across the Commonwealth loan out fishing tackle to get you casting a line into your local fishing spot. Find the loaner site closest to you on our website. Give us a call or visit our website if you or your organization is interested in becoming a loaner site.


Need a life jacket? We’ve got you covered. Let us connect you with our partners who loan life jackets across the state. Link to our partners at


Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Public Health Advisory Fish Consumption


Fish are nutritious and good to eat. Fish are low in fat, high in protein, and provide substantial human health benefits. Fish provide valuable vitamins and minerals and beneficial oils that are low in saturated fat. Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish are also beneficial, particularly in terms of cardiovascular health. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that consumers eat a balanced diet, choosing a variety of foods including fruits and vegetables, foods that are low in trans fat and saturated fat, as well as foods rich in high fiber grains and nutrients. A diet that includes a variety of fish and shellfish can be an important part of a balanced healthy diet. The United States FDA, EPA, the American Heart Association, and other nutrition experts recommend eating two meals (12 oz.) of fish per week. By following these advisories, you should feel comfortable making one of those meals (up to 8 oz.) a recreationally caught Pennsylvania sport fish.


While most recreationally caught sport fish in Pennsylvania are safe to eat, chemicals, such as mercury and PCBs, have been found in some fish from certain waters. While the levels of unavoidable chemical contaminants are usually low, they can be potential health concerns to pregnant and breast-feeding women, women of childbearing age, children, and individuals whose diet consists of a high percentage of fish.

Long lasting contaminants, such as PCBs, chlordane, and mercury, build up in your body over time. It may take months or years of regularly eating contaminated fish to build up amounts that are a health concern. Health problems that may result from the contaminants found in fish range from small changes in health that are hard to detect to birth defects and cancer. Mothers who eat highly contaminated fish for many years before becoming pregnant may have children who are slower to develop and learn. The meal advice in this advisory is intended to protect children from these potential developmental problems. Adults are less likely to have health problems at the low levels that affect children. If you follow this advisory over your lifetime, you will minimize your exposure and reduce health risks associated with contaminants in fish


We are not recommending that you stop eating sport caught fish, except where “Do Not Eat” is shown. When properly prepared, eating fish regularly offers important health benefits as a good choice to replace high fat foods. You will gain benefits if you follow the sport fish consumption advisory carefully to: choose safer places to fish; pick safer species to eat; trim and cook your catch correctly; and follow the recommended meal frequencies. Using this advice, you will reduce your exposure to possible contaminants.

Consumption advisories provide guidance to individuals or segments of the population who are at greater risk from exposure to contaminants in fish. Advisories are not regulatory standards but recommendations intended to provide additional information to high-risk groups. These advisories apply only to recreationally caught sport fish in Pennsylvania, not commercial fish. The FDA establishes the legal standards for contaminants in food sold commercially, including fish.


Pennsylvania has issued a general, statewide health advisory for recreationally caught sport fish: eat no more than one meal (1/2 pound) per week of sport fish caught in the state’s waterways. This general advice was issued to protect against eating large amounts of fish that have not been tested or that may contain unidentified contaminants.


Follow the general, statewide one meal per week advisory to limit your exposure to contaminants. To determine if more protective advice applies to the fish you have caught, find the locations and species of fish you’ve caught in the tables that follow. Find the meal advice for the fish you’ve caught. “Do Not Eat” means no one should eat those fish because of high contamination. The other groups are advice for how often to eat a fish meal.

One meal is assumed to be 1/2 pound of fish (8 oz. before cooking) for a 150-pound person. The meal advice is equally protective for larger people who eat larger meals and smaller people who eat smaller meals.

People who regularly eat sport fish, women of childbearing age, and children are particularly susceptible to contaminants that build up over time. If you fall into one of these categories, you should be careful to space fish meals out according to the advisory tables that follow. Your body can get rid of some contaminants over time. Spacing the meals out helps prevent the contaminants from building up to harmful levels in the body. For example, if the fish you eat is in the one meal a month group, wait a month before eating another meal of fish from any restricted category.

Women beyond their childbearing years and men generally face fewer health risks from these contaminants. However, it is recommended that you also follow the advisory to reduce your total exposure to contaminants. For these groups, it is the total number of meals that you eat during the year that becomes important and many of those meals can be eaten during a few months of the year. If most of the fish you eat are from the one meal a month category, you should not exceed 12 meals per year.

Sometimes, anglers catch fish with external growths, sores, or other lesions. Such abnormalities generally result from viral or bacterial infections and may occasionally be caused by exposure to certain chemical contaminants. The appearance of viral or bacterial infections in fish may be unsightly, but there is no evidence to suggest that these infections pose a threat to consumers of these fish. Whether or not to eat such fish is a matter of personal choice.


PCBs and most other organic contaminants usually build up in a fish’s fat deposits and just underneath the skin. By removing the skin and fat before cooking, you can reduce the levels of these chemicals. Mercury, however, collects in the fish’s muscle and cannot be reduced by cleaning and cooking methods. To reduce PCBs and other organics:

  • Remove all skin.
  • Slice off fat belly meat along the bottom of the fish.
  • Cut away any fat above the fish’s backbone.
  • Cut away the V-shaped wedge of fat along the lateral line on each side of the fish.
  • Bake or broil trimmed fish on a rack or grill, so some of the remaining fat drips away.
  • Discard any drippings. Do not eat them or use them for cooking other foods or in preparing other sauces.

IMPORTANT: You must follow these cleaning and cooking directions. The meal advice is for eating skinned and trimmed fish.

Also, remember that larger and older fish tend to collect more contaminants, and fatty fish (such as Channel Catfish, carp, and eels) tend to collect PCBs and other organic chemicals. Therefore, eating smaller, younger fish and avoiding fatty species can help limit your exposure. Your exposure depends not only on levels in the fish but the amount of fish you eat. The consumption of any fish from contaminated waters is a matter of personal choice.

Cleaning Fish

Trout stocked from Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission state fish hatcheries are subject to the blanket one-meal-per-week consumption advisory that applies to recreationally caught sport fish in Pennsylvania.

Snapping Turtle Consumption Advice: Snapping Turtle meat has been found to contain only small amounts of PCBs and is safe to eat without restrictions. Snapping Turtles do retain PCBs in their fat and internal organs. If you choose to eat Snapping Turtles, you can reduce your exposure by carefully trimming away all fat and internal organs and discarding them before cooking the meat or making soup.


The advisory listing was current at the time this summary went to press. Fish consumption advisories may have been issued or lifted since that time. Notice of such actions has been released to the public through press releases or can be found online.

For further information or the most current advice, contact:

Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection: 717-787-9637, (Questions concerning current advisory listings, waters sampled, and sampling methods)

Pennsylvania Department of Health: 717-787-3550, (Questions about effects of chemicals on human health)

Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission: 814-359-5147, (Questions about effects of chemicals on fisheries and current advisory listings)

Recognizing and Reporting POLLUTION or DISTURBANCE of Waterways

POLLUTION or DISTURBANCE of any waterway or watershed is a serious violation of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Code that must be recognized and reported to a Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission region law enforcement office. The law provides for criminal penalties for pollution or disturbances.

POLLUTION is an introduction into any waterway of anything that “might” harm or kill fish. Examples of “pollutants” are: electricity, explosives, sediment runoff, sewage, insecticides, poisons, high volumes of extremely hot water, liquid concrete or cement, paint, chemicals, petroleum products like gasoline or oil, brine runoff from gas or water well drilling, and manufacturing waste. Common pollution indicators are: dead fish including crayfish, frogs, and any other types of aquatic life; strange odors like manure, sewage, or chemicals; muddy, cloudy, or discolored water; shiny, oily sheen on water’s surface; foamy material floating on the surface; and extremely muddy water. DISTURBANCE of waterways or watersheds includes any alteration of a waterway, its banks, bed, or fish habitat that “might” cause damage to or kill fish. Common disturbance indicators are: removal of gravel from stream beds; earth-moving in or along a waterway; dragging logs across stream banks and through stream beds; installing pipes or culverts; building or installing bridges; making roadways through or along a stream; draining a waterway, wetland, or watershed; or changing the channel flow of a waterway. Various types of permits are required for any such work.

If you see anything suspected to be a pollution or disturbance of any waterway, regardless of how seemingly insignificant, report it immediately by calling the local Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission region law enforcement office or the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection at 1-800-541-2050 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week).