Anticipation for trout season was brimming Thursday as nearly 40 fishermen from as far as Allentown and Indiana, Pa., followed a state Fish and Boat Commission truck along Bald Eagle Creek, volunteering to help stock rainbow trout, trading “fish stories” and making plans for the weekend.
“I’ve been waiting 62 years to follow the stock truck,” Tim Reigard, of Cambria County, said.
Having recently retired, Reigard drove about 55 miles to meet up with some fishing buddies, like Bob Fishburn, of Walker Township, and follow the truck full of more than 2,000 fish from its first stop on Old Curtin Road, near the Hilex Poly plant, down Old Route 220 and into Curtin Village, making eight stops along the way.
Reigard and Fishburn will be back in the same location to fish on Saturday — opening day of trout season in Pennsylvania.
This year, the commission is stocking 3.2 million trout in 707 streams and 127 lakes across the state, the agency said in a release. That includes 2.1 million rainbow trout, 640,000 brown trout and 440,000 brook trout.
After putting fish in Bald Eagle Creek and Wallace Run on Thursday, the commission has stocked 16 Centre County streams, lakes and ponds, according to the commission’s website. Six Mile Run will be stocked Friday.
Thursday’s stocking was mostly rainbow trout, with a few golden rainbows, waterways conservation Officer Chriss Brower, said. They’ve also stocked some brown trout but no brookies, he said.
“We’re not stocking brook trout at this time because we have an infestation of gill lice in some of the streams,” Brower said. “Gill lice attacks brook trout, so we’re not stocking brook trout in hopes that the gill lice will die out.”
A naturally occurring parasite, gill lice can clog up a fish’s gill, causing it to choke, Brower said.
“We have invasive species of all different kinds all over the state,” he said. “We try to tell the anglers to clean their boots, boat and gear when they leave a stream, because invasive species attach to their gear, and when they go to another stream, they pass it on.”
All the trout stocked Thursday came from the Pleasant Gap State Fish Hatchery, Brower said, as do most of the fish stocked in the county.
Landis Wright, fish culturist at the hatchery, was busy Thursday scooping trout from the commission truck into buckets and handing them to volunteers for release.
At some locations, volunteers waded into the water with buckets; at others, they tossed them from a bank or used a boat or an ATV to access hard-to-reach spots.
“An ATV allows to more of the stream to spread the fish out instead of just having one or two spots where the fish get dumped in,” Wright said.
Once the fish are in the buckets, he said the policy is to get them into the stream or lake in no more than two minutes.
For Wright, a large volunteer turnout this season has been “extremely helpful.” At one stocking, he said, there was a line of about 27 vehicles following his truck.
John Cikowski drove from Indiana, Pa., to help stock Bald Eagle Creek, where he’s been coming to fish for the past 20 years.
“It’s a really nice place, nice country, beautiful creek. Just the all-around atmosphere is really nice around here,” he said. “Sometimes it’s hard to get volunteers, but this year it’s been really crowded. I’ve never seen this many people before.”