Things are looking good for Keystone State trout fishermen this year. Here's what biologists are doing to improve angling opportunities in your region. (March 2007)
Good numbers of stocked and holdover rainbows, browns and brookies await Keystone State anglers in 2007.
Photo by Steve Carpenteri
Keystone State trout anglers enjoy a variety of choices when the season opener rolls around in mid-April. The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission's has made changes to its stocking program that will affect the hatchery trout output. The outlook is also a promising one for wild trout.
Here's a look at what's new on the state's trout-fishing scene.
According to Tom Greene, the PFBC's Coldwater Unit leader, the biggest change in the stocking program will be a switch to fewer but larger fish. This is being done, he said, at the angling public's request.
"This year, the Commission will be stocking about 30 percent fewer catchable-size trout," Greene said. "But the average size of stocked fish will increase by about 20 percent."
In reality, trout fishermen can expect the average stocked trout to run about 11 inches in size, and fish will be significantly heavier than the run-of-the-mill hatchery product of a year ago. About 3.2 million adult trout will be stocked via pre-season and in-season stockings.
"Our hatcheries have the ability to produce only so many pounds of trout," said Greene. "We have three options: We could have allowed things to remain the same, stocking the same numbers of fish of the same size. Or we could have raised and stocked more smaller trout. Option three was to decrease the overall number of fish, but increase the average size. This is what most anglers indicated they wanted -- and this is the direction we are going."
Greene noted that no changes have been made in any of the Special Regulations programs that apply to trout.
Discounting any severe winter weather that could negatively impact wild trout populations, the forecast for stream-bred trout, as well as holdover-stocked trout, is good for 2007. Flows were good last summer, and temperatures remained relatively cool -- both of which favor trout survival.
The PFBC also stocks select waters with fingerling-stage trout in a program that has proved successful in many areas. Anglers can expect the fingerling program to continue and even expand as additional stocking possibilities arise.
For many trout anglers, one of the major concerns is stream access. On a statewide level, some waters are removed from the stocking list each year, while others are added.
In general, it seems the removal list is longer than the add-to list. In many cases, poor behavior by the public has been the reason for banning access to a specific stream. Anglers should do their part to ensure that their favorite streams remain open by picking up their trash and minimizing damage to private property.
What follows is a statewide snapshot of the 2007 trout-fishing picture. We've tried to include as many changes in the trout-stocking situation as possible. Also included is a compilation of various trout waters that the state's area fish managers feel are underutilized following the week after opening day.
Keep in mind, however, that changes can occur on a last-minute basis. Be alert for any late changes by watching for dispatches by the local media. Or visit the PFBC's Web site at Fish.State.PA.US.
In Indiana County, Repine Run has been removed from the approved trout-stocking list due to a loss of water, perhaps related to past mining activity in the area. Repine had received 300 trout annually, but also has some wild trout.
Streams in southwestern Pennsylvania that continue to be managed as wild trout waters include Camp Run, which falls under the state's Brook Trout Enhancement Program; and Higgins Run, which boasts a fair wild brown trout fishery, according to Rick Lorson, a PFBC fisheries manager.
Higgins Run is in Somerset County near Stoystown. Camp Run is in Westmoreland County and offers about 4.1 miles of water, most of which is in the public domain and thus open to the public.
Most of the trout streams in southwestern Pennsylvania receive a fair degree of attention from anglers. However, Lorson did feel a couple of waters in his area are underutilized following the opening weekend surge.
In Westmoreland County, Sewickley Creek flows through a suburban-rural setting. It's about 15 feet wide. The stocked section is above a point where mine-acid drainage enters the creek. Lorson said the stream has not been used as heavily as he had anticipated, given its close proximity to population centers.
Sewickley Creek has been stocked since the early '90s but may come off the list if angler interest doesn't increase.
Lorson also noted two important trout fisheries that are managed via the trout fingerling program. Included are the Youghiogheny River and Stoney Creek. The Youghiogheny is a large river that can handle more fishing pressure. Stoney Creek has been able to maintain good numbers of trout during the 10 years that it has been on the fingerling program.
A decade ago, water quality improved on Stoney Creek to the point where it could be stocked again. Browns and rainbows are the focus species on Stoney Creek.
In Lawrence County, the major change has been on Big Run, a tributary to the Shenango River. According to Freeman Johns, a PFBC fish biologist, about three miles of water has been added to the stocking list.
"The additional section is near New Castle," Johns reported. "One of the really nice things about this addition is that it will have a children's area on it. Three of the local sportsmen's groups -- as well as Joe Morris, the Lawrence County conservation officer -- have been instrumental in creating this children's area, which will involve about 1,000 feet of the creek. A handicapped-access area is also planned."
Johns explained that the lower portion of Big Run, which flows through Cascade Park, has been an established Approved Trout Water. The additional three miles are above the lower section and extend up to the Route 388 bridge.
"There are limited trout-fishing opportunities in the d
istrict where I work. But following the first two weeks, angler attention really tails off," noted Johns. "The lower two-thirds of Cool Spring Creek, near Mercer, has some really nice water. Yellow Creek goes into the stream, and there is a delayed-harvest area."
Neshannock Creek is the most significant trout water in this district, and the special regulations area found below is the focus of most of the attention. However, Johns reported that the section upstream from Volant -- an area that falls under standard trout regulations -- has shown an unexpected ability to hold trout late in the season.
"About three years ago, we electro-shocked the section of Neshannock above Volant," he said. "I was surprised by the number of trout we found there."
In Warren County, North Branch Sixmile Run was removed from the Approved Trout list. Fish Manger Al Woomer reported that there was a problem regarding posting. Access -- and thus the stream, unfortunately -- had to be dropped. This water had received about 300 trout annually.
In Woomer's district, which includes many waters in the Allegheny National Forest, there are several streams including the Clarion River's East and West branches that have little fishing pressure outside of the peak periods.
"Both of these tributaries are stocked with trout," noted Woomer. "I think they are both really nice streams. They have a great deal of variety. The West Branch has a catch-and-release, fly-fishing only section. It also has some wild trout in the upper end. The East Branch has a Delayed Harvest Area below the East Branch Dam. And then, there is a long stretch of stocked water that flows through Bendigo State Park.
"Both streams are scenic and have lots of trout," Woomer added. "Recently, we conducted a creel survey on the East Branch. When a lot of other waters are winding down in terms of angling activity and availability of trout, fishermen were catching more trout than they were earlier in the season. The stream benefits from the cold water being discharged from East Branch Dam, so it has suitable water temperatures throughout the summer."
In south-central Pennsylvania, anglers should be aware of a couple of changes in regards to stocked trout lakes.
In Cumberland County, Opossum Lake had been removed from the stocking list due to a drawdown. The lake has been refilled, but with less water. This season, Opossum Lake will again be added to the stocking list, but will receive fewer fish, in part because of the lower surface acreage.
Also in Cumberland County is Laurel Lake, which did not receive its normal allocation of trout last fall or its pre-season stocking this year, due to dredging work by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. The lake will be stocked in-season, however, provided that lake levels are brought up in time.
In Schuylkill County, Sweet Arrow Lake has been added to the list to receive adult trout. Sweet Arrow will be stocked in-season only. The lake already has a good panfish following, and a pre-season stocking of trout would prohibit anglers from taking advantage of the panfishing for a period prior to the opening day of trout season.
Fish Manager Dave Miko said that no major stream management work is expected. The projects underway are in response to the fewer-but-bigger trout policy.
"It's been an adjustment of a hundred fish here and there," said Miko. "Some stream sections will actually receive an increase in fish due to minor adjustments in how streams are sectioned."
Clark Creek, which is near Harrisburg, is a stream that Miko felt could stand additional angler attention. Clark Creek is managed in three separate sections.
"Despite being close to Harrisburg, it offers some nice scenery and fishing opportunities," said Miko. "It's a lengthy stream. Anglers can walk in to the upper end and get away from civilization."
He also suggested that anglers check out opportunities afforded in the portion of the Raystown Branch Juniata River directly below Raystown Lake. Several tailrace areas around the state, Raystown included, are being stocked in-season to provide added trout-fishing opportunities.
The program is about three years old. Selected areas are stocked the first week of the season, conditions permitting. The Raystown area is about a mile long, and extends from the tailrace pool down to Corbett Island.
"It hasn't received a lot of attention yet," said Miko. "It could support more angler use. There's good access, good parking below the dam."
Fish Manager Bruce Hollender noted three significant changes in his district, all of them of a positive note.
In Centre County, a one-mile portion of Cold Stream has been added to the list of Approved Trout Waters. The portion of Cold Stream in question is near the town of Phillipsburg. Cold Stream Dam, also near Phillipsburg, is another addition to the list of waters receiving adult-stage trout.
In Lycoming County, a portion of Pine Creek downstream from the mouth of Slate Run has been added to the Delayed Harvest Special Regulations waters. This new area is about a mile long.
In the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission's Area 4, Rob Wnuk, PFBC fish manager, has been conducting research on the movement patterns of stocked trout.
The study areas included Tunkhannock Creek in Susquehanna County and Wysox Creek in Bradford County. Radio telemetry equipment was used to monitor movements of brook, brown and rainbow trout during the pre-season period.
Interestingly, little movement of trout was seen during the first three days of stocking. Between the fourth and sixth day, however, the rainbows in each of the two stocked streams began to move. Three of four rainbows stocked in Wysox Creek were never located. On Day 16 of the study, a fourth marked trout was found in the West Branch Susquehanna River, 123 miles from its stocking point!
Rainbows in Tunkhannock Creek moved, but not to such an extent. Most of their movement was downstream, as much as 12.6 miles. Brown trout movement was more variable than rainbow movement, in that the fish began moving more quickly after being stocked. Brook trout showed the highest tendency to stay in the area where they were stocked.
Researchers felt that such factors as high water and water chemistry were not significant factors in stocked trout movement.
In the northeastern portion of the state, anglers from Carbon County can look put an additional stocked trout stream on their list. Nesquehoning Creek, near the town of the same name, has had a portion added to the state's Approved Trout Waters. About 2.5 miles will be on the list.
Nesquehoning has been heavily impacted by acid-mine drainage. A few years ago, a Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission survey found no fish life of any kind. During the years that followed, mitigation work has been done to relieve some of the damage to water quality. As improvements occurred, private interests began the reintroduction of trout.
Upon word that fish life had returned to Nesquehoning, commission fisheries personnel surveyed the stream again. They concluded that stocked trout were indeed surviving and even carrying over from one year to the next.
To fish for trout, places that tend to be underutilized include the Lehigh River. Adjustments in water releases out of Francis Slocum Dam are improving the habitat in the Lehigh, noted Arnold, who said that fishing pressure significantly tails off following the first week or two of the season. The Lehigh provides good trout fishing down to the town of Jim Thorpe.
In Lancaster County, Shears Creek has been removed from the list of Approved Trout Waters. A portion of Donegal Creek was also removed, but will remain stocked by a local cooperative trout nursery. The fly-fishing-only portion of Donegal Creek will continue to be stocked by the state.
Fish Manager Mike Kaufmann noted that the Schuylkill River is a developing trout fishery fueled by stockings of fingerling browns, rainbows and brookies. He said that biologists are seeing a good return from their brown and rainbow stockings, but only a marginal return from stocked brookies.
The Schuylkill River has had a history of water-quality problems highlighted by acid-mine drainage and raw sewage. But a new sewage treatment plant is being constructed in one of the major municipalities along the stream and is expected to be online this year.
When PFBC personnel surveyed the river during late summer 2004, they found not only fingerlings, but some wild brown trout as well. The Schuylkill has been stocked with brook trout fingerlings above Pottsville and with browns and rainbows below Pottsville. Three survey sites studied lay between Port Carbon and Schuylkill Haven.
For more information about Pennsylvania's trout fishery management program, contact the PFBC at (717) 705-7800.
Find more about Pennsylvania fishing and hunting at: PAgameandfish.com.