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 Barring any unexpected thunderstorms, stream flows should be just about perfect for the statewide opener on April 15th. Heavy rains a week ago brought flows up, but they have settled down nicely.
Team Pautzke If I want to catch a golden rainbow where’s the best place to catch one?
AS In general, golden rainbow trout are not stocked in small streams or any special regulation waters. They are stocked in the lower and larger stretches of the most popular streams and in many of the state park lakes where public access and use are highest. The Fish and Boat App lists whether brook, brown or rainbow trout are stocked. Although GRT are not listed in the app they would not be stocked in any water that is not also stocked with rainbow trout.
Team Pautzke Where are five places that will be well stocked for the opener?
AS Well known waters include Pine Creek in Lycoming County, Oil Creek in Venango County, Loyalhanna Creek in Westmoreland County, Standing Stone Creek in Huntingdon County, Sinnemahoning Creek in Cameron County, and Bald Eagle Creek in Centre County are five of the most heavily stocked in the state.
Team Pautzke I’m taking kids with me and want to take them to a family friendly lake. Can you recommend a few places?
AS Any state park lake that is stocked with trout is an ideal location as they all have a amenities that families appreciate such as easy access to the water, ample parking, restrooms and picnic tables.
Team Pautzke Is the department stocking anything new this year?
AS The new program this year is a six water expansion to the Keystone Select program bringing the total to 14 waters. These are spread around the state and are delayed harvest artificial lures only with no bait allowed. Higher than normal stocking rates of trophy sized trout are the main attraction. Check the PFBC webpage and app for locations.
Team Pautzke What is the largest fish the department is stocking this year?
AS Trophy stocked trout typically range in length form 16 to 22 inches with a few in the 24 inch class. Some cooperative nurseries also hold trout over to achieve even larger sizes. Wild and holdover trout in some of the southcentral limestoners and larger rivers such as the Lehigh, Allegheny, Youghiogheny, Upper Delaware River and Clarion may exceed the two-foot mark. These are typically brown trout.
Team Pautzke What is the best way to improve my catch rates when there is heavy fishing pressure?
AS Get away rom the crowds by walking upstream or downstream for know stocking points. Also, downsize line, baits and line diameter. Lighter lines and smaller baits work even better after the fish have been fished over on opening day. Also, early in the season fish later in the day after water temperatures rise and fish become more active.
Team Pautzke How many fish have been planted and will be planted this spring? What species?
AS The PFBC will stock 3.15 million catchable sized trout this year for the spring season. Cooperative nurseries and sportsmen’s clubs raise and stock an additional million trout.
Team Pautzke What if you have tried smaller baits, lighter line and still are not getting bites?
AS If things are slow where you are, it’s time to pick up and relocate. A different stretch on the same stream or a different type of stream may produce more fish. If you are on aster gradient, cold mountain stream and there is a valley stream nearby that may have more cover, deeper holes or more suitable water temperatures early in the season change your location. If you are lake fishing from shore head to an area where the water is deeper, clearer or closer to an obvious spring or inflowing stream. Move around and make things happen!
Team Pautzke Where are the best areas to target the different trout species?
AS: Even though stocked trout are reared in the same conditions in a hatchery once released into the wild they tend to show preference for different habitats. Brook trout like the coldest water and can handle more acidic waters. Rainbow trout like faster flows, pockets and riffle water. Brown trout can be found almost anywhere, but especially early in the season when the water is coldest they may be laying in the bottom of the deepest pools and holes and can be tough to coax into biting. Creel surveys often show that the rainbow and brook trout are caught in higher proportions in the first few days and the brown trout become more active as the season progresses. Understand which species are in the stream you are fishing and plan accordingly.
Editor’s Note: For more information on Saturday’s opener please visit http://www.fishandboat.com/Fish/PennsylvaniaFishes/Trout.