Pennsylvania’s state fish, the native brook trout, is often small, but very colorful. MARK NALE For the CDT
Centre County and the surrounding mountains are blessed with excellent trout fishing. The rain that fell during June and July this year has enhanced trout fishing season. You can take advantage of this rare opportunity.
Most of the trout fishing hype is centered around the area’s famous wild brown trout streams -- , and rightfully so -- such as Spring Creek, Penns Creek, the Little Juniata River and Fishing Creek. Earlier in the year, stocked streams such as Bald Eagle, Poe and Black Moshannon creeks grabbed much of the fishing pressure. However, the stocking trucks have not visited a stream in over six weeks.
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Not only has the weather lengthened the usable trout fishing season, but it has also broadened it. Tiny trickles that are usually too low to fish during the summer are still flowing fine. You can broaden your trout fishing horizons by visiting some of our lesser-known streams -- ones that hold good to excellent populations of native brook trout. Often these mountain streams are tributaries of the “name” streams and sometimes even tributaries of tributaries.
I like to get away from crowds and fish some of Pennsylvania’s many mountain streams for our naturally reproduced state fish. What they might lack in size, they make up for in beauty and spunkiness. I have had two such brookie outings so far this year. More are in the works.
The first was a small Clearfield County stream that I have fished several times in the past. I did not do well during my previous visit -- the water was low and the trout were small and few and far between.
So why go back? Native trout populations vary depending on many factors. These include water quality and quantity, the food supply, the availability of spawning gravel and fishing pressure. This little freestone stream has good quality water, spawning gravel, an ample food supply and from the looks of the stream -- little angler use.
For a stream such as this, the biggest limiter of native trout numbers and size is water quantity. Drought hits trout with a double whammy. Low water levels concentrate trout in the deeper pools. This makes them easy pickings for predators such as mink, water snakes, kingfishers and herons.
Flowing water is a natural conveyor belt that brings food to the trout. A reduced flow means less food and the concentrated trout compete for the smaller food supply. Therefore, lower flows lead to smaller trout populations and stunted growth -- a double whammy.
I only had a short time to fish, so I parked near the stream and walked a little over a half mile downstream to my starting point. Wood thrushes and ovenbirds were filling the air with their song and wildflowers decorated the stream in the sunnier areas.
The water level and temperature (58 degrees) were perfect and the trout cooperated. I landed 13 colorful native brookies as I fished my way back upstream to my pickup. Even though the season was young, I did not see another boot track. Unlike my previous visit, there seemed to be ample trout. Even though most of the trout were small, I landed two 8.5-inch natives and two 10-inch beauties.
Although I was targeting brookies, most native brook trout water also contains at least a few wild brown trout. This is particularly true of the larger brookie streams and smaller flows that feed waters containing mainly naturally reproduced brown trout. Good examples would be the brookie-bearing tributaries to Penns Creek. On this Clearfield County outing, I caught only one 5-inch wild brown trout.
My second native brook trout adventure occurred on a Clinton County stream that I had never visited before. My brother Frank and I spent the better part of the day exploring this mountain flow last month. We caught more wild brown trout in this fast-flowing stream, but over 75 percent of the many naturally reproduced trout that we caught were native brookies. Although I caught no ten-inch brook trout, all of the fish were colorful and several brookies were 8 to 9 inches long.
On our walk out, I photographed bear tracks in the mud. A short time later, we encountered a large bear -- what a great way to end an exciting day astream.
Take your own brook trout adventure. Flies, lures or live bait will all successfully tempt native brook trout. Bait can be very effective if you can present your offering to the fish before they see you. This can be done by wearing camouflage or earth tones, using a light leader and casting well ahead of yourself.
I have caught native brook trout from well over a dozen Centre County streams and from dozens more waters in the surrounding counties. There are many more that I have yet to explore.
It is not my intent to suggest streams -- you can check the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission website (www.fishandboat.com) to locate a prospective stream. This can be done by using the interactive map of all trout streams in the state.
In my opinion, this is one of the most useful features on the website and much helpful information can be found there.
On their home page, click on “Locate,” in the upper right corner. Scroll down to “Trout Streams,” from the menu. You can use the filters to find Class A, Wilderness or Natural Reproduction trout streams -- also where state-owned land is located. Zero in on the area that you want to fish. Click on a colored stream on the map and more information will appear. This includes stream length, the percent of public land and for some streams the species present and directions.
That map can be your guide to many pleasurable days astream.
Prowl the Sproul XV
Hikes guided by employees of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and members of the Keystone Trails Association will be held in the Sproul State Forest. Several hikes will take participants to cool places to beat the heat. Call or e-mail email@example.com or 717-766-9690 for more information.