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Our Finest May Trout Streams

Our Finest May Trout Streams

May is the perfect time to fish for Pennsylvania's stream trout. These proven hotspots will keep you busy all month as you search for stocked and holdover browns, brookies and rainbows.

By Vic Attardo

May is certainly a merry month for Pennsylvania trout anglers. The state's streams and rivers begin to warm, aquatic insect hatches become more frequent and hungry trout are plentiful.

After the hoopla of April's opening day, the crowds quickly begin to thin. There is more elbowroom in May, and time to smell the flowers. It all adds up to arguably the Keystone State's best trout fishing month of the year.

Unfortunately, not everything is rosy in Pennsylvania this spring, at least for trout fishermen. Due to funding problems, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission has been unable to maintain its hatcheries. Repair projects requiring millions of dollars have not been undertaken, and as a result, fewer trout are being raised for stocking by the state. In fact, the PFBC is planting about 25 percent fewer trout than it did just two years ago.

Each year, the commission stocks more than 4,700 miles of streams, as well as some 121 lakes. In 2003, the state will stock an estimated 4.1 million adult trout, down from its high of 5.2 million in 2001.

State anglers went through this sort of thing last year and depending on who you talked to, it did or it didn't matter that fewer fish were stocked.

There are fish out there to catch, and May is still a great time for Keystone State trout. Here's a look at some of the best places to go for rainbows, browns and brookies this month.


Plenty of good trout fishing awaits Keystone State anglers this month. Easy access and generous stocking quotas are keys to the best action. Photo by Vic Attardo

Kinzua Tailrace
While the state's stocking program is having problems, there is some good news for the northwest corner. The PFBC and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have signed an agreement to raise 100,000 adult trout over the next five years. Brook trout, to be reared at the Allegheny National Fish Hatchery in Warren, will be stocked in waters designated by the state, including some in Allegheny National Forest. The PFBC intends to use the Warren-raised fish primarily in waters that flow through federal lands in Pennsylvania. The first stocking of these trout will take place in spring 2004.

In the meantime, one of the best trophy trout fisheries in the region is still the Kinzua tailrace below Allegheny Reservoir in Warren County.

Fingerling trout are stocked in the cold tailrace, so adult fish caught here have spent their lives becoming accustomed to the swift release from the Kinzua Dam.

There are limited locations for wade-fishing on the sandbars below the dam. The water is best fished by boat, and from the Big Bend Access downstream through the city of Warren, boat anglers are in the majority.

To wade along the north side of the tailrace, follow Route 6 toward Warren to Hemlock Road. Trails along Hemlock Road will take you to some wadeable spots. Expect steep, difficult banks at least along one side of most of the upper tailrace.

The Big Bend Access is on the south side of the tailrace off Route 59. You can drift between Big Bend and the Warren access, or put in at Warren and drift to the Buckaloons Access below Route 62.

During the regular season, special regulations restrict the minimum size for trout at 14 inches with a daily limit of two fish. These regulations apply to the first 8.75 miles of the river, downstream to Conewango Creek.

Brokenstraw Creek
Brokenstraw Creek is a medium-width stream that offers anglers more than 10 miles of rural fishing. In its better stretches Brokenstraw Creek has numerous riffles and short pools. The stream is stocked from the village of Spring Creek down to Youngsville, east of Warren. An in-season stocking in late April generally results in enough fish for the May angler.

Access on Brokenstraw Creek is good, with a number of highway crossings and roads bordering the stream. From Spring Creek to Garland, Route 426 parallels the stream. State Game Lands 143 borders the creek through this area. From Garland to Pittsfield, Route 27 and Route 6 from Pittsfield to Youngsville provide access to Brokenstraw Creek.

An important tributary, Little Brokenstraw Creek, is stocked from Lottsville down to the mouth at Pittsfield. Little Brokenstraw Creek receives a stocking in early May, which makes it a perfect midspring target for anglers.

Little Brokenstraw Creek is generally stocked with brook, brown and rainbow trout, while the main stream is stocked with rainbows and browns.

For accommodations in the region, contact the Northern Alleghenies Tourist Promotion Agency at (800) 624-7802.

Oil Creek
Oil Creek is an important and popular stream in Venango County. In addition to a pre-season stocking, a 25-mile stretch of Oil Creek receives two additional spring stockings in late April and early May from Lincolnville downstream to Rouseville.

A hot area of Oil Creek is in the Oil Creek State Park. This is big water between 100 to 135 feet wide, but it holds some trophies. Road access is not plentiful along the creek, but a bike trail from the parking lot of the Drake Well Museum to Petroleum Center provides excellent access for anglers willing to hike. There is camping at the park.

Don't be fooled by names like Oil Creek and Petroleum Center; this is good trout water. The area's tributaries provide a cold flow throughout the month.

For more information on Oil Creek State Park, call (814) 676-5915. For other accommodations in the region, contact the Oil Heritage TPA at (800) 483-6224.

For more fishing information, call the PFBC's Area 2 office at (814) 755-3890.

Laurel Hill Creek
In the shallows along Laurel Hill Creek grows one of the most unusual water plants in Pennsylvania: the golden club. With its tall, clublike spadix, the golden club spreads out across the mud-bottom flats of Laurel Hill Creek, occupying a considerable amount of real estate on this Somerset County stream.

The riffles and pools beside these golden club flats are important to anglers because they hol

d plenty of trout throughout this 29-mile stream.

Besides a pre-season planting of roughly 15,000 trout, Laurel Hill Creek also receives five spring in-season stockings from mid-April through mid-May.

Laurel Hill Creek is so long and gets so many fish that state hatchery trucks must rendezvous with volunteers at three different locations to fill the stream! These locations should help you determine where to fish. They include: Little Luther's Store at Bakersville, New Centerville and the BP gas station on state Route 0219 in New Lexington.

Laurel Hill Creek flows into the Casselman River in Confluence, which then goes almost immediately into the Youghiogheny River. As you might expect for such a long stream, Laurel Hill Creek goes through a number of character changes. Mostly however, it's a low-gradient stream, full of small rocks, short riffles and shallow pools and those golden club flats. Laurel Hill Creek is often surrounded by steep hills.

Outside the town of Confluence, Route 281 provides easy access to a long stretch of the stream.

For accommodations in the region, call the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau at (800) 333-5661. Camping is available at Ohiopyle State Park at (724) 329-8591.

For more information, call the PFBC's Area 8 office at (814) 445-3454.

Little Mahoning Creek
Trout streams in the southwest region of the state are worth their weight in gold and Little Mahoning Creek in Indiana County is a miner's favorite. For starters, it's only one of three streams in the county that receives an in-season stocking in May. The other two are Blacklegs Creek and Brush Creek.

About four miles of the Little Mahoning Creek, from the Cesna Run tributary downstream to state Route 1034 at Rochester Mills, is registered as Delayed-Harvest, Fly-Fishing Only. The Little Mahoning below Rochester Mills gets fat and slow and is good bait and lure water.

Little Mahoning Creek contains large rocks, many the size of school buses. This structure makes it tough on the wader, but they are good for trout.

Upstream of Rochester Mills, follow state Route 1038 for access to the special regulation zone. The Little Mahoning makes a hard turn and becomes even more challenging near T539. Follow the footpaths to reach this part of the regulated area. Above Cesna Run, toward the Nashville bridge at T1034, anglers should also find good numbers of May trout.

Little Mahoning Creek is within reach of Pittsburgh-area anglers. Take Route 22 east from Pittsburgh to Route 119 above the town of Indiana. Above Hamil, turn right onto state Route 1038 to follow the stream.

For more information, contact the PFBC's Area 2 regional office at (814) 755-3890.

Lycoming Creek
The upper reaches of Lycoming Creek in Lycoming County is one of most heavily stocked streams in the region. In addition to a pre-season planting, Lycoming Creek is stocked again in mid-April and mid-May. This usually provides plenty of fish through late spring. The freestone stream is stocked from Cogans Station to the confluence of Roaring Branch.

Flowing for some 25 miles from the Tioga County line to the West Branch Susquehanna River at Williamsport, Lycoming Creek has many personalities. Lycoming Creek is bordered by thick overhangs of oak, buttonwood, cherry and beech. These overhangs help keep the water cool through the latter part of a warm May. The upper portion from Powys to Ralston has some of the best access and is best suited to all types of trout fishing.

The center of Lycoming Creek around Grays Run is a heavily wooded and scenic part of the Tiadaghton State Forest. A 1.4-mile delayed-harvest area is from the county line downstream to Sandy Bottom.

North from Williamsport, Route 15 and old Route 15 parallel Lycoming Creek to Trout Run. From the highway, look east and down along the stream to find where you might want to fish. Above Trout Run, Route 14 runs tight against Lycoming Creek. Anglers will find good riffle and pool water along this section.

There are no dedicated state access points along Lycoming Creek, but there is a good selection of crossing bridges. Also, there are some commercial campgrounds along this stream that offer some access, along with some municipal ball fields.

For accommodations in the area, contact the Lycoming County Visitors Bureau at (800) 358-9900.

Brodhead Creek
Brodhead Creek is legendary water and, thanks to some wise public officials in Stroud Township, a good chunk of the stream is open to fishing. While clubs and other private groups were buying up huge pieces of this important Monroe County water, nailing up posted signs as thick as weeds, Stroud Township officials acquired several miles of the stream bank and kept it open to anglers.

Brodhead Creek is a tremendous stream for bait-, lure- and flyfishermen. I've seen trout in this creek take a night crawler right in the middle of a sizzling mayfly hatch, and I've had evening mayfly and caddis hatches that were so thick you could choke on the rising bugs.

Throughout its length, Brodhead Creek flows down a fairly steep gradient. Most of this stream is unusually straight. In a number of places, you can look up and down the stream for at least a mile. In these straight stretches, the gradient is as clear as steps on a porch, which helps to let you know how other anglers are doing.

Route 191 above Stroudsburg is the main access to Brodhead Creek. There are numerous roads off the highway that cross the stream. The Brodhead Greenway of Stroud Township begins at Route 447 and 191. It's about a 90-minute ride from the Philadelphia suburbs.

For accommodations in the region, contact the Pocono Mountains Vacation Bureau at (800) POCONOS.

For more fishing information, contact the PFBC's Area 5 office at (570) 588-6388.

Little Schuylkill River
For Southeast Region anglers, the Little Schuylkill River near New Ringgold is a top bet in May. Some years ago, the Little Schuylkill was ruined by mine drainage, but thanks to the work of conservation clubs and the state, this medium-width river now has enough life to support stocked trout and some wild fish. In addition to its pre-season planting, the Little Schuylkill River is stocked in mid-April and mid-May.

The most popular place to fish is near New Ringgold in a 1.7-mile Delayed Harvest, Artificial-Lures-Only section that runs from the Route 895 bridge downstream to the bridge on T-848. Though it seems short, this section of the river contains a wide variety of habitat including long, smooth-surfaced pools and rocky runs.

Perhaps the most challenging piece of water in this stretch is where the river narrows to only 30 feet, and a bank of rhododendron and mountain laurel covers one steep ridge. Shade-loving spring trout hold under this canopy as the sun gets high.

Access to the delayed harvest section is off Route 895 at Mill Mountain Road. But the special regulations section is not the only place on the Little Schuylkill you'll find trout. A mix of holdover and wild fish are generally found in a nice stretch of river north of Tamaqua, where the "river" is actually a steep-gradient stream consisting mainly pocket water. In May, you'll find eager brook trout in the short pools. To reach this section, go north on Route 309 above Tamaqua, turn left at the oil tanks and follow the signs to Tuscarora State Park.

For accommodations in the region, call the Schuylkill County Visitors Bureau at (800) 765-7282. For fishing information, call the PFBC's Area 6 office at (610) 847-2442.

Bushkill Creek
With three April stockings, Bushkill Creek in Northampton County receives a lot of angler action. But with its many riffles, runs and pools, the Bushkill Creek "fishes big."

In many places, Bushkill Creek is 25 to 30 feet wide. The flow is also relatively slow. These two factors combined with high angling pressure means this can be a difficult stream to fish. There are no pushover trout in Bushkill Creek.

When casting lures, work the heavier runs, camouflaging yourself by standing close to the banks and making long casts. Flyfishermen can even the odds by working their way upstream. Bait-anglers should sit quietly on the banks and cast into the deep, slow-moving pools.

Access along the stream is excellent. County parks, highway pull-offs and designated parking lots abound. Bushkill Creek is worked hard, but it is worth fishing because its trout are plentiful. Bait-, lure- and fly-anglers share the action at Bushkill Creek, and there's a 1.1-mile section for catch-and-release fishing that's open exclusively to the lure and fly guys.

For more information on Bushkill Creek, call the PFBC's Area 5 office at (570) 588-6388. For local accommodations, call the Lehigh Valley Visitors Bureau at (800) 747-0561.

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