Our Special Regulations Winter Trout Streams

These well-managed trout streams are open to fishing year -round and feature a heady combination of stocked and native trout up to 8 pounds! Here's where to find them this month. (February 2010)

February is typically the coldest month of the year in the Keystone State, but that doesn't mean that trout fishing has to be put on ice.

If you are the adventuresome, open-water type, here is a list of locations where you can try your luck this winter:

East Licking Creek

Traveling to East Licking Creek in the middle of winter can be an adventure in itself. Its four miles of Delayed Harvest Artificial Lure Only water is literally in the middle of a forest. Only one road, Licking Creek Drive, provides access to this piece of Tuscarora State Forest. During the winter months, the road is not plowed. If you plan to go here, be prepared for tricky travel.

Although there are four miles of stream, much of the flow is no more than 6 feet wide. It is fast-moving water, but there are numerous pockets, pools and undercut banks where the trout can hide.

The stream is stocked with adult fish several times each spring, and holdover trout are common. Don't be surprised to catch some native brook trout or brown trout that have been spawned by the holdover hatchery fish. Most of the trout will be less than a foot long but, in such small water, they are trophies in their own right.

It could take more than a few days of warm weather to energize the lethargic fish in this stream. Hemlocks surround the stream, shading the water and keeping the snow from melting.

Fishing the deepest pools with heavy spinners or weighted nymphs is by far the best way to take winter trout here. Be patient when fishing these small pools. The water will be clear and the fish somewhat sluggish in winter, but they will bite when a proper presentation is made.

For more information, contact the Tuscarora State Forest headquarters in New Germantown at (717) 536-3191.

Valley Creek

Unless the winter is exceptionally cold, anglers should be able to find open water on Valley Creek most of the year. Valley Creek flows through historic Valley Forge National Park and contains some sizable brown trout.

The stream is managed under Catch-and-Release, All Tackle special regulations imposed by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission. Normally, this regulation allows fishermen to use any bait or lure. However, the National Park Service has imposed special bait restrictions on the stream where it flows through the park. In addition, not all of the stream is open to fishing. A small section near Washington's headquarters is off-limits to anglers. Posters for both the bait restrictions and off-limit areas are posted along the stream to advise anglers. Call the park office at (610) 783-1077 for the most current information.

While brown trout are present and do grow to large sizes, expect colorful fish between 10 and 12 inches in length. Although the stream is stocked, many of the fish that are caught have been spawned in the stream by the stocked fish, wary quarry that are used to heavy fishing pressure. Be patient and make longer-than-normal casts when fishing this stretch of stream.

CAMP RUN WATERSHED

If you are looking for a truly wild experience for winter trout, why not look to the western portion of the state? The Laurel Highlands region contains numerous small streams that hold native brook trout. One stream in particular stands out for this winter adventure.

Camp Run Watershed in the southeastern portion of the county offers more than four miles of true wild trout stream that is open to year-round fishing. Managed under the Wild Brook Trout Enhancement Program, there are no tackle restrictions for trout fishing. The only restriction is that all brook trout must be caught and released immediately.

The stream, which narrows to just a few feet in width at some points, requires some hiking to reach the best portions of it.

Anglers here have a chance at some truly colorful trout. Pennsylvania's wild brook trout are not big, but their sheer beauty against a backdrop of fresh snow is something to behold.

This stream is typically fast moving, with small pools where trout may spend the winter, and the fishing can be tough during periods of cold weather. However, an afternoon of sunshine can spark a feeding frenzy. Look for areas that receive a good deal of afternoon sun, especially any area of the stream with a dark bottom. It only takes a degree or two of temperature change to make lethargic fish feel like feeding.

The key to success during this time of the year is to fish during the afternoon hours to take advantage of any fish activity. As soon as the sun starts to dip low in the western sky, the fishing will start to drop off for the day.

For more information, contact the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau in Ligonier at (800) 333-5661.

RAYSTOWN BRANCH

Starting at Raystown Lake, the lower reaches of the Raystown Branch are unheralded winter trout waters. Although only a mile of the river is stocked with trout -- the first mile from the dam downstream -- the entire stretch is capable of producing trophy-sized fish.

This trout fishery is open year 'round. For specific information, consult the listing found under Miscellaneous Special Regulations in the 2010 fishing digest.

One unusual aspect of fishing this stretch of river is the possibility of catching lake trout in addition to the brown, brook and rainbow trout that are stocked here during the first week of trout season. Lakers make their escape from Raystown Lake when there is high water or when the lake level is lowered. These fish tend to congregate in the channel that runs from the power plant outflow.

Following a release of water, this small stretch may be crowded with shoulder-to-shoulder anglers, mostly local anglers. Armed with either shiners or large yellow Rooster Tail spinners, they land fish in the 4- to 6-pound range regularly until the fishery dies down and they must wait until the next water discharge.

Earlier this fall, Raystown Lake was lowered several feet for shoreline erosion reconstruction. If the area receives an abundant amount of rainfall or if there is a midwinter thaw, this kind of action could repeat itself. Keep close tabs on the weather for the area, and be ready to go on short notice!

Don't limit your fishing to the daylight hours. The spillway area is equipped with numerous lights

, as is the power plant. These lights keep the area somewhat lit even during the blackest of nights, and the trout feed just the same as if it were daylight. Often, if an angler is paying attention to the water directly in front of him, he will be able to see a trout swimming in the current and make a cast to intercept the fish. The current keeps the bait in constant motion here, and the fish must keep moving in search of a meal.

Lower in this stretch of river, the deeper pools will contain the most trout. This stretch of water remains gin clear, forcing the fish to hold near the bottom or near any type of structure for protection from predators.

With eagles, ospreys, mink and muskies to contend with, the trout that call this water home are well adapted for survival and anything other than a stealthy approach will send them to cover.

For more information on the Raystown Region, contact the Huntingdon County Visitors Bureau at (888) Raystown.

TIONESTA CREEK

A second dam outflow, Tionesta Creek offers year-round trout fishing from the dam to the confluence with the Allegheny River. Stocked with adult brown and rainbow trout during the first part of the regular trout season, some holdover fish remain in the area throughout the year.

During winter, these fish tend to move upstream toward the dam to feed. The current from the outflow of the lake keeps the bottom stirred up, dislodging insect larvae on which the fish gorge.

Any stretch of this stream may contain a large trout, either one that has survived several fishing seasons in this stream or one that has migrated in from the Allegheny River. Although it is not common, trout of 8 pounds or more may be encountered here. Normally, fish average closer to 12 inches.

This fishery is regulated under the Approved Trout Waters Open to Year-Round fishing regulations. Any legal fishing method is allowed, but all trout caught between March 1 and the opening day of the regular trout season must be released.

For information on the region, contact NWPA Great Outdoors Visitors Bureau at (814) 849-5197.

YOUNG WOMANS CREEK

If you thrive on solitude during the middle of winter, Young Womans Creek is for you. Situated in Sproul State Forest, this 5.7-mile stretch of stream is open year 'round under the Catch-and-Release special regulation clause.

The stream is stocked twice per year with adult trout, mostly rainbows. These fish hold in deeper pools and will readily take a bait or lure that is properly presented.

Although it may seem desolate in the middle of winter, the stretch of stream that falls under these regulations is not that far from a road at any point. The nearby state forest roadways are not always maintained in winter, so plan your trip to coincide with a winter thaw or the arrival of spring to make sure you can reach the water. Otherwise, you may have to walk in from a maintained roadway to reach the open section of the stream, which could be an adventure in this territory.

This stream is subject to severe changes in water level. The landscape surrounding this stream acts as a funnel when precipitation hits the region. Any heavy rainfall or sudden snowmelt can quickly add a foot or more to the depth of the stream. The stream can return to a normal flow almost as quickly, and any stained water is usually gone in a day or two.

For more information, contact the Clinton County Tourism Promotion Agencies at (570) 748-5782 or visit www.clintoncountyinfo.com.

LACKAWANNA RIVER

Busy highways and large buildings are nt the typical backdrop of a great trout stream, but don't let the setting fool you. The Lackawanna River is a true trophy trout stream, and thanks to Trophy Trout Project special regulations, it is home to an abundance of trout.

The 5.2 miles of water falling under these regulations were stocked with adult trout three times in 2009. The last stocking occurred as an additional, unannounced release in early July. Because trout fishing pressure typically drops off dramatically by mid-June, there should be a surplus of fish waiting for anglers to test their skills.

Access to this stream is easy because of its urban environment. Instead of white-knuckle driving on dirt roads that may not have seen a plow all winter, anglers will be driving on well-maintained blacktop highways that parallel the stretch of water between Archibald and Olyphant.

Although surrounded by numerous small bodies of water noted for their great ice-fishing, the Lackawanna River can remain open for long periods during the winter months. It will freeze on occasion, but a warming trend will quickly open some pools where anglers may wet a line. The shoreline can be difficult to navigate because of mud, snow and ice.

For more information about trout-fishing opportunities in the Lackawanna region, contact the Lackawanna County Convention and Visitors Bureau at (570) 963-6363.

OIL CREEK

Located in northwest Pennsylvania, Oil Creek is subject to unpredictable winter weather created by the Great Lakes effect. As a result, the stream may be surrounded by snow measured in feet, or there could just as easily be barren land leading to the edge of the stream.

The stream is mostly wide and shallow, but there is a scattering of deeper pockets within the nearly three miles of Delayed Harvest Artificial Lure Only waters.

Anglers seeking trout should stay away from the easy access points where the stream is next to the roadway or around the Oil Creek State Park headquarters. These are areas where angling pressure is the heaviest and where fish tend to be the smartest.

To fish the middle stretch of Special Regulations waters, anglers must walk in from the road. This may be difficult if mud or snow is involved, but the trail leads to deeper water and less angling pressure. There are even a couple of small islands to fish around in this section.

For more information, contact the Oil Creek State Park headquarters at (814) 676-5915.

For more information on all of the Special Regulations trout waters in Pennsylvania, contact the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, 1601 Elmerton Avenue, Harrisburg, Pa. 17106-7000; call (717) 705-7800 or visit the agency's Web site at www.fish.state.pa.us.

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