Protecting wild trout on Pennsylvania waters turned out to be a pretty popular idea.
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission is well known for its prolific stocked trout program. However, naturally-reproduced trout were in the spotlight at a recent summit held in Centre County. Wild trout swim, feed, grow and reproduce in the streams where they live, as opposed to being raised in a fish hatchery.
Over 240 wild trout enthusiasts, biologists and fisheries managers gathered for the first-ever Pennsylvania Wild Trout Summit, a day-long event at the Central Pennsylvania Institute of Science and Technology on Aug. 23. It was jointly sponsored by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, the Pennsylvania Council of Trout Unlimited and the TCO Fly Shop.
Most of those attending were trout anglers — men and women — and a large number were Trout Unlimited members.
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“You all took personal time to come to Centre County to listen to the story of Pennsylvania’s wild trout,” PFBC Executive Director John Arway said in his introduction. “That shows a commitment and your dedication. Even though we may not have the same opinions, we all have the opinion that we want better wild trout fishing in Pennsylvania.”
With a dozen featured speakers and a 40-minute panel discussion, the summit had a tight schedule, with little time for questions from the audience. Most of the presenters held trout-related positions within the PFBC. In addition, representatives from Trout Unlimited, Penn State, the Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service made well-received presentations.
Southeast Area Fisheries Manager Mike Kaufmann addressed the history of wild trout management in Pennsylvania, starting in the 1800s with no environmental regulations, no harvest limits and fishing as a way to put food on the table. Now we have better environmental controls, a statewide five-trout-per-day, seven-inch-minimum harvest limit, special regulations lowering that limit on some streams and the changing attitudes of wild trout anglers.
Many in the audience were interested in the special regulations for wild trout, though for varying reasons. Some wanted stricter regulations to protect wild trout, others preferred tackle restrictions and still others wanted no tackle restrictions, thinking enough already exist or they are misguided.
“Special regulations regulate anglers and allow us to regulate fishing mortality, which can be defined as harvest and hooking mortality,” said Jason Detar, the commission’s chief of fisheries management. “Special regulations are most effective when we have good habitat and angling mortality is a major limiting factor, and they are a very important tool for recovering fish populations.”
According to Detar, Pennsylvania has 92 stream sections totaling 347 miles of specially-regulated trout streams. From the slot limit on a section of Penns Creek, to nine miles of the Youghiogheny River regulated as trophy trout all-tackle and the 1.7 miles of catch-and-release, fly-fishing-only on Letort Spring Run, Pennsylvania has six different special regulation programs. The others include catch-and-release artificial lures only, trophy trout artificial lures only, and catch-and-release all-tackle.
“One of the challenges of fly-fishing-only is that it limits opportunities to just fly anglers,” Detar said. “One of the best components of all-tackle regulations is that they maximize angler participation, especially for youths and families.”
The special regulation waters are spread throughout the state, but north-central and south-central counties have the highest concentration. Much of this has to do with where the best wild trout streams are located.
While much is being done, some presenters demonstrated more needs to be accomplished. For Arway, the summit was the beginning of a long-held wish to make wild trout a priority for his agency.
“When I became executive director seven years ago, I wanted to make wild trout a priority, but other stuff got in the way,” he said. “I watch the discussion on social media, the Facebook posts, the message boards, blogs and tweets. I know that lots of people don’t understand what the commission does when it comes to wild trout.”
The summit showcased the many ways groups study, protect, enhance and manage the wild trout resource. For those who missed the event, the entire program is available at www.fishandboat.com.
I will likely address other subjects presented at the summit in future columns.
Free Youth Pheasant Hunt
A free pheasant hunt for non-hunting parents and their non-hunting students ages 12-16 will be held Oct. 7 at the Fox Gap Rod and Gun Club near Rebersburg. It is a unique opportunity to see if mothers and fathers, and their sons or daughters, would like to get more involved with shooting or hunting. The club, along with the Central PA Chapter of Pheasants Forever and the Penn State Wildlife Society, is sponsoring the hunt. No hunting license or prior hunting experience is required.
Qualified instructors will teach safe firearms handling and provide supervised trap shooting at clay targets before the hunt. Experienced bird dogs and their handlers will guide the hunters to stocked pheasants. An experienced mentor will accompany each hunter to insure safety. A member of Pheasants Forever will discuss conserving and creating habitat for wildlife and hunting. Firearms, ammo and lunch will be provided.
Each potential participant will be asked to write a short essay about their interest in hunting or shooting and conserving land for wildlife. The essay should be 100-200 words, or more if you like. Send your essay by Sept. 11, to Gary San Julian, 562 Melissa Lane, State College, PA 16801; or firstname.lastname@example.org. Send your contact information and include your telephone number with your essay.
Six parent-child teams will be selected and contacted on Sept. 25, 2017. Don’t miss this exciting opportunity to investigate and participate in a mentored shooting and hunting program with experienced individuals.
Walk in Penn’s Woods
In an effort to get more people outdoors, you are encouraged to bring your friends and family to Walk in Penn’s Woods by taking part in a statewide organized event Oct. 1. There are 54 hikes planned in 40 counties, including three in Centre County, and more are organized every week. Each walk will highlight different forest values and provide opportunities for visitors to interact with knowledgeable landowners and natural resource professionals.
Details on each hike can be found at www.walkinpennswoods.org.
Mark Nale, who lives in the Bald Eagle Valley, is a member of the Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association and can be reached at MarkAngler@aol.com