Things are looking great for Keystone State trout fishermen in 2010. Here's how things are shaping up near you this spring. (March 2010)
Another spring, another year to look forward to great trout fishing. Pennsylvania's trout fishery has had some ups and downs over the past few decades, but in the long run, our trout fishing has basically continually improved.
Probably the first thing anglers wonder about when they look forward to the next trout season is the number of trout that will be stocked.
Pennsylvania's 2010 stocking schedule will be similar to last year, with some 3.2 million trout slated for release into public waters. The only change of note is that the contract for rainbow trout from a private nursery at Tellico, North Carolina, has not been renewed.
"At the end of our winter stocking in early 2009, we didn't get the North Carolina fish, so our numbers are going to be very similar to what they were last year, unless something unforeseen happens," said Tom Greene, Coldwater Unit leader for the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.
Trout that will be stocked this year include brook trout, brown trout and rainbow trout.
"In 2009, we stocked about 520,000 brook, 850,000 browns and some 1.8 million rainbows. That's give or take a few thousand fish, but about the same as last year," Green indicated.
Rainbow trout dominate the state's stocking program simply because raising rainbow trout in hatcheries is easier than working with brook trout or brown trout.
However, the number of adult trout that are stocked into our streams and lakes is becoming less of a factor in determining the fortunes of trout fishing because of the changes in seasons, stocking dates and special regulations. This has been a conservative evolutionary process that took place over several years, an effort to meet the demands and preferences of anglers and what is practical based on available resources.
Anglers who think trout disappear after the stocking trucks quit coming to their favorite creeks could not be more wrong.
"We had exceptional water quality this summer," Greene said, "so, unless we get an extremely harsh winter, I would think we're going to see better fishing in 2010 than we did this past year. I would expect that we're going to see some fish carry through.
"I don't want to give folks the impression that we're going to have tons of fish because even under the best of conditions that number tends to be modest. Conditions could be very good.
"Anglers could encounter more fish than they normally do in their average trout-stocked water, with some fish carrying over. I'm hoping that's the case. But if we start getting low water conditions and we have a severe winter, that logic goes out the window. But that could be something good to look forward to next year."
Various elements add up to great prospects for catching large trout this year.
"We're continuing to raise good-sized fish," Greene said. "Anglers seem to like larger fish, even if we have to provide them in reduced numbers. That's been going on for a few years now. Size-wise, we've heard nothing but good comments about that."
WHAT ANGLERS WANT
How does the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission know what anglers want?
"Yes, we asked folks initially what they wanted, and the majority of them said they'd rather have fewer but larger fish, so we've worked to put more, bigger trout out there," Greene said.
Then there is a third factor that contributes to larger trout in Approved Trout waters. Each year a few over-sized trout are placed in the stocking trucks.
"There always are some nice fish. We add the broodstock that we're through with in the hatchery and we start planting them. That's about 20,000 additional fish each year, and then we throw in another 9,000 trout that are raised to larger sizes," Greene said.
"So there's about 29,000 or so larger fish that we stock with the average-sized fish," Greene said. "Our broodstock includes brookies, browns and rainbows, so there's a mix there. We're heavier on rainbows because they're our biggest number by production."
Brood trout go into the streams at trophy sizes. Recent brook trout "state records" have all been recently stocked brood fish. Rainbow trout or brown trout broodstock may weigh over 7 pounds, but they will not make record status.
Larger palomino trout that are stocked into streams are real attention grabbers because they are highly visible. They tend to be caught fairly soon after being stocked because they are surrounded by anglers almost from the moment trout season opens until they are caught. Although this might not be to the taste of some serious trout anglers, such fish do create a lot of excitement!
Yet another situation that gives anglers good opportunities for catching larger trout are the Trophy Trout, All-Tackle Trophy Trout special regulations areas and some waters listed under "Miscellaneous Waters Special Regulations." These are generally among the best quality trout-fishing environments in Pennsylvania. In addition to providing opportunities for larger trout, these waters provide places for year-round trout fishing where trout hold over year 'round.
Trophy Trout special regulations allow trout fishing year 'round. The minimum size for trout is 14 inches from 8 a.m. on the opening day of the regular trout season through Labor Day. The daily creel limit is two trout, combined species, from 8 a.m. on the opening day of the regular trout season through Labor Day, except during the period from the day after Labor Day to 8 a.m. on the opening day of the regular trout season of the following year, when no trout may be killed or kept.
Fishing may be done with artificial lures only constructed of metal, plastic, rubber or wood; or with flies and streamers constructed of natural or synthetic materials. All lures and flies may be used with spinning or fly-fishing gear.
Also, the use or possession of any natural bait, baitfish, fish bait, bait paste and similar substances, fish eggs (natural or molded), or any other edible substance is prohibited. Taking baitfish or fish bait is prohibited.
A current trout-salmon permit (or Combination Trout-Salmon/Lake Erie permit) is required.
All-Tackle Trophy Trout special regulations are the same except that fishing may be done wi
th artificial lures, flies or streamers, natural bait, baitfish and fish bait.
Streams in these two categories are within a convenient distance from most anglers in the Commonwealth, close enough for a day of fishing. Any of these is a great place to start your trout season.
TROPHY TROUT STREAMS
Two streams in the Southeast Region, both in Northampton County, are designated Trophy Trout special regulations waters. One is a 1.9-mile section of Monocacy Creek from Illick's Mill Dam upstream to and including the Gertrude Fox Conservation Area, and a 2.1-mile section of Saucon Creek from the upstream boundary of the city of Bethlehem downstream to the state Route 0412 bridge.
One Trophy Trout stream, Codorus Creek in York County, is in the South-Central Region. This two-mile section is from the confluence of the West Branch downstream to a point that is 0.4 mile downstream from state Route 3082 (Porters Road).
In the Southwest Region, the only Trophy Trout water is the Youghiogheny River in Somerset County and Fayette County, a 9.0-mile section from the confluence with Ramcat Run downstream to the state Route 381 bridge at Ohiopyle.
The North-Central Region has an All-Tackle Trophy Trout stream, a seven-mile stretch of Penns Creek from the confluence with Elk Creek downstream to the Catch-and-Release area.
The North-Central Region also has four Trophy Trout streams, a 2.5-mile section of Lick Run in Centre County from the headwaters to the mouth, two sections of Fishing Creek in Clinton County, a 0.9-mile section at the Tylersville State Fish Hatchery downstream to the State Game Lands No. 295 boundary (300 yards downstream of the upstream of the state Route 2002 bridge) and a 2.1-mile section from a point 1.3 miles upstream of the lower state Route 2002 bridge downstream to Fleming's Bridge (state Route 2004) at the Lamar Fish Hatchery.
Also included is a 7.2-mile section of Cedar Run in Lycoming and Tioga counties from the confluence with Buck Run downstream to the mouth, and a three-mile section of East Branch Tunungwant Creek in McKean County from the confluence with Pigeon Run downstream to the Main Street bridge in Lewis Run.
One stream in the Northeast Region, the Lackawanna River in Lackawanna County, has a 5.2-mile Trophy Trout section from the Gilmartin Street bridge in Archbald downstream to the Lackawanna Avenue bridge (state Route 0347) in Olyphant. Excepted is a midsection area extending 0.7 mile from the Depot Street bridge in Jessup downstream to the footbridge in Robert Mellow Park.
Filling the gap in the Northwest Region is the 8.75-mile section of the Allegheny River from the Kinzua Dam to the mouth of Conewango Creek in Warren that is listed under Miscellaneous Special Regulations, which are similar to the Trophy Trout regulations.
Rules stipulate that from 8 a.m. on the opening day of the regular trout season through Labor Day the minimum size for trout is 14 inches and the daily limit is two (combined species). From Sept. 2 until 8 a.m. of the opening day of the trout season of the following year, no trout may be killed or had in possession.
WEST BRANCH DELAWARE
In the extreme northeast corner of Pennsylvania, the West Branch Delaware River is one of the most renowned trout fisheries in the country, although it tends to be ignored by many anglers in this state. From the Pennsylvania-New York border downstream to the confluence with the East Branch Delaware River, special regulations provide for an Artificial-Lures-Only season that runs from Oct. 16 until 8 a.m. on the opening day of the regular trout season.
During this season, fishing may be done only with artificial lures or flies. No trout may be kept during the artificial-lures-only season.
Harveys Lake in Luzerne County is probably the best small trout fishery in the Commonwealth. Special regulations specify that the daily limit is three trout (combined species) during the period from 8 a.m. on the opening day of trout season through March 31. Only one of the three trout may exceed 18 inches in length. The lake is closed to fishing from April 1 until 8 a.m. on the opening day of trout season. General regulations apply to warmwater-coolwater species.
Harveys Lake is well known for its large brown trout. For a time, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission tried to maintain this trout fishery by stocking fingerlings, but that was not successful.
"We don't use fingerlings there anymore," Greene said. "We tried it for a while, but it didn't seem to be panning out because the walleyes and some of the large trout ate them up, so we strictly go with the catchable-size fish."
Beginning last year, the commission renewed its efforts to establish a more extensive trout fishery in Lake Erie. Specific goals are to establish a summer fishery for trolling in deep water offshore, and a spring and fall fishery when the browns are in shallow water. Already last fall it produced dividends. Good numbers of brown trout could be seen attacking schools of baitfish at creek mouths close to shore. Several trout in the 16- to 18-inch class were caught.
These brown trout had been stocked during spring 2009 by two sportsmen organizations after being raised in their respective co-operative nurseries. They were donated from the New York Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. The goal is to stock 100,000 each year.
"We're continuing to look at fingerling stocking," Greene said. "We'll continue to look at our streams and see how our trout are moving. We plan on carrying on those two projects over the next few years. They're just two of the major programs we have going on."
A new five-year Trout Plan will be presented to the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission for 2010. This plan includes annual surveys of streams that, to date, have not been assessed.
"The objective is to determine if we have wild trout present in those waters, and making sure that we get adequate water quality protection for those waters," Greene said.
"The un-assessed waters are those that are typically exposed to new development, and that can be a wide range of things, from Marcellus Shale drilling to potential development or something along those lines. What we try to do is determine where we feel these most critical areas are and then try to concentrate on waters we haven't surveyed in those areas."
One of the greatest threats facing trout fishing today is magnified during the trout season opener when great numbers of anglers converge on their favorite streams.
Anglers can be their own worst enemies, or best friends depending on their behavior.
"Please be courteous of the landowner because we often take these fishing areas for granted. We want to make sure that we're not upsetting any landowners. I think far too often folks think tha
t just because we stock it that it's public ground and it's going to be open forever. That can change in a heartbeat," Greene stated. "Most of the folks who are out there fishing are good about it. But there's always a few that take some liberties, and next year they wonder why their favorite stretch of stream is no longer stocked. In most cases, it's because somebody misbehaved there last year.
"We can always improve our act with respect to littering and with respect to landowner relations," Greene concluded. "That's one of the things we will be watching."
For travel information, contact the Pennsylvania Office of Tourism, Room 404, Forum Building, Harrisburg, PA 17120; or call (717) 232-8880 or (800) VISIT-PA.
For more information about Pennsylvania trout-fishing opportunities, contact the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, P.O. Box 67000, 1601 Elmerton Avenue, Harrisburg, PA 17106-7000; call (717) 705-7800; or visit the agency's Web site at www.fish.state.pa.us.