By: Chris Shaffer
The general Pennsylvania trout season opens Saturday when thousands of anglers flood the state’s rivers, streams, creeks, ponds and lakes where millions of trout have been stocked. We’ve tabbed Andy Shiels, Director of the Bureau of Fisheries for PA to give us the scoop on what to expect for this year’s opener.
Team Pautzke:How are water conditions for this year’s opener? Are streams and lakes providing favorable flows?
AS: The winter of 2017/2018 has been a curious one. There were periods of extreme cold throughout much of PA and then in February warm, spring-like weather appeared for a week or so. More recently, winter conditions have prevailed. Overall, in the western two-thirds of PA snowfall has been below average with the notable exception of the Erie area, which received crippling snowfall amounts early in the winter. Likewise, the far Northeast corner of PA also has had multiple, significant snow events throughout the winter. Flows in general are normal if not a little lower than normal outside of those areas. Water clarity is also very good in most areas. Air temperatures for the statewide opener are forecast to be about 10-15 degrees below average.
Team Pautzke: Will the recent cold weather affect conditions?
AS: Flows should be good, with air and water temperatures colder than normal for mid-April. This means that after the initial surge of catches on opening morning, fishing will improve later in the day as the sun warms the water and boosts fish metabolism. For anglers, that means “low and slow” with lure, fly and live bait presentations near the bottom in slower currents. In lakes, spoons, spinners and minnow plugs may work initially and then a shift to live or prepared baits fished near the bottom should be productive throughout the day. As the season progresses, the days get longer and as air and water temperatures rise, a wider variety of presentations will be effective.
Team Pautzke: If I want to catch a golden rainbow – where’s the best place to catch one.
This is a tough one to answer. We list on the FishBoatPA app (and the stocking schedules on the website) the species breakdown by water and section. We do not however, list golden rainbows.
I can say this though. all goldens are stocked in the preseason and they are only stocked in waters that are already receiving rainbows. So, if the app. shows only brook trout or brown trout are stocked in a given water there would be no chance that goldens would be stocked there. Also, these are typically used in the larger streams and in places like state park lakes.
Team Pautzke: Where are five places that will be well stocked for the opener?
AS: Perennial favorites are:
*Yellow Breeches Creek (Cumberland County) Southcentral PA
*Pine Creek (Tioga and Lycoming Counties) Northcentral PA
*Little Lehigh Creek and Lehigh River (Lehigh County) Eastern PA
*Loyalhanna Creek (Westmoreland County) Southwestern PA
*Canoe Creek & Canoe Creek Lake (Blair County) Southcentral PA
*Oil Creek (Venango County) Northwestern PA
Team Pautzke: I’m taking kids with me and want to take them to a family friendly lake. Can you recommend a few places?
I would recommend a state park lake as there are almost always family friendly facilities including restrooms and picnic tables nearby. Using the FishBoatPA app one can search for waters using the “Near Me” feature or by count. The “Best Waters” feature for stocked trout lists the best lakes and groups them by acres. I would choose a less than 50-acre lake and focus on being there soon after a planned stocking. The PFBC stocks nearly 4,800 miles of streams and 155 lakes with trout so there is a water type, size and location to fit everyone’s needs.
Team Pautzke: Is the department stocking anything new this year?
AS: We have increased the number of waters in the Keystone Select Stocked Trout Waters program. These are existing Delayed Harvest Artificial Lures Only streams that receive higher than normal allotments of 14-22 inch trout. There are now 22 of these sections relatively equally distributed around PA. While bait may not be used these areas offer anglers an opportunity to fish over a good density of big fish and perhaps catch their biggest trout ever. Often these areas are bordered by areas upstream or downstream that are open under statewide regulations including the use of bait. As fish move around after stocking anglers who wish to use bait may find some of these fish a considerable distance upstream or downstream from the special regulation area.