Spring will be officially here in a few days, and we finally had a taste of spring-like weather last week. The birds are singing, the first flowers will be popping up, and trout season is just a month away.
Trout and birds are a good way to celebrate spring. The opening day of trout season in our area is April 13, and several local birding events will follow on its heels.
Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission’s stocking trucks have been busy transporting trout to waters across the state. In Centre County, there have only been two stockings — Sinking Creek and section 2 of Penns Creek.
The Fish and Boat Commission will stock about 3.2 million trout this year — brooks, browns, rainbows and golden rainbows. The cooperative trout nurseries will add about another 1.2 million to the total. More than 700 streams and 127 lakes, dams and ponds are on the stocking list for 2019.
A total of 15 streams in Centre County, plus Cold Stream Dam, Poe Lake and the Seven Mountains Boy Scout Pond will be stocked by the Commission. Cooperative nurseries, such as The Three Point Sportsmen and the Bald Eagle Sportsmen, add trout to Commission-stocked streams and stock a few additional waters.
Most trout anglers think that watching or, better yet, helping to stock trout is a lot of fun. It is also an excellent way to help get youngsters excited about fishing. If you go, be sure to dress for the weather and wear waterproof boots. Trout are netted from the white hatchery truck and placed in buckets. People then take turns carrying the buckets to the stream to release the fish.
All streams, dates, meeting locations and times are listed on the Commission’s website, www.fishandboat.com. Stockings scheduled for this week include:
- March 20: Black Moshannon Creek (sections 2, 3 and 4)
- March 21: Big Poe Creek, Poe Lake and the Seven Mountains Boy Scout Pond
- March 22: Black Moshannon Creek (section 5 — the lower end of the stream)
Unfortunately, only one Saturday stocking is planned for Centre County. The South Fork of Beech Creek will be stocked with rainbow trout on April 6. However, if you are willing to travel just outside of the western edge of the county, the Bald Eagle Sportsmen Club is always looking for people to help stock on April 6. Their cooperative nursery stocks trout in Centre, Blair and Huntingdon County streams. The Bald Eagle Sportsmen’s cooperative nursery is located just off of Route 350, about one mile north of the village of Bald Eagle.
Locally, trout season kicks off with a Mentored Youth Trout Fishing Day on April 6, the Saturday before the April 13 regular opening day. To participate in the mentored youth program, adult anglers (16 and older) must have a valid fishing license and trout permit and be accompanied by a youth. Youth anglers must obtain a free Commission-issued permit, or a voluntary youth fishing license, which costs only $2.90 each. Both the permit or the licenses are available at any of more than 700 licensing agents or online at www.GoneFishingPA.com.
Two friendly birding contests are held locally each spring — the long-running Shaver’s Creek Birding Cup and the newer Earth Week Birding Classic. Both are fundraising events for their nonprofit organizers — the Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center and the latter’s co-sponsors, the Juniata Valley Audubon Society and the Environmental Studies program at Penn State Altoona. Although teams are encouraged to make donations or solicit sponsors, there is no entry fee.
While the birding challenges are different, each contest has many varied categories from beginner to experienced, young to old and from covering a geographically small space to multi-county areas. The goal is for teams to identify and record as many different species of birds as they can during a 24-hour period. The organizers of both events hope that more people will join in on the fun and camaraderie this spring.
First up is the fourth annual Earth Week Birding Classic, centered in Altoona — teams can select any 24-hour period between noon on April 21 and noon, April 28. Open areas for birding include Blair County and the five counties that touch Blair — Centre, Huntingdon, Bedford, Cambria and Clearfield. Prizes and trophies will be awarded at a free dinner at the Slep Center of the PSU Altoona Campus at 1 p.m. April 28.
Last year 11 teams counted 133 species of birds and raised more than $1,000.
Pledges raised during the Classic will go toward the Bald Eagle Mountain Fall Hawkwatch project. For more information, visit www.jvas.org and to register contact Catie Farr at firstname.lastname@example.org. The deadline to register is April 14.
The Shaver’s Creek Birding Cup, a much larger event, will be held beginning at 7 p.m. on May 3 until 7p.m. on May 4. Winning teams are awarded prizes at a free meal immediately following the count period at 7:30 p.m. May 4, at Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center in Petersburg.
Areas open to the contest include Centre and Huntingdon counties, as well as five adjoining counties. Teams, except for the Micro Cup, must consist of at least three members. Teams must follow the rules of the category entered.
Last year a total of 189 species were identified, with the winning team tallying 152 species. The event raised more than $20,000 last year with the funds going to help build new enclosures for the center’s raptors.
Team categories, rules and registration can be found on the Shaver’s Creek website (www.shaverscreek.org). A personalized donation page can be created for each team. Registration closes on April 28.
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