Woods and Waters: Trout season around corner

Although it still looked and felt quite a bit like winter on most of our recent days, trout fishing is right around the corner. In fact, the opening day for 18 southeastern Pennsylvania counties was yesterday. However, in most local waters, you will need to wait until 8 a.m., on April 13, to fish for stocked trout.

Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission personnel have been busy delivering trout to local waters. Sixteen streams and 3 impoundments have been stocked or will be stocked by the Commission in Centre County. In addition, several other county streams are scheduled to be stocked by the Bald Eagle Sportsmen’s Club on April 6.

The PFBC annually stocks approximately 3.2 million adult trout in 735 streams and 123 lakes open to public angling. Over half are rainbow trout, approximately 25 percent are brown trout and 15 percent are brook trout. According to the Commission, the average length of the trout produced for stocking runs about 11 inches.

Cooperative nurseries run by clubs, such as the Bald Eagle Sportsmen, will add another 1 million trout to state waters.

In addition to these fish, the PFBC plans to stock about 8,500 trophy golden rainbow trout. They weigh an average of 1 1/2 pounds and measure at least 14 inches long.

According to the PFBC, about 52 percent of the trout are stocked prior to opening day and most of the remainder are stocked between opening day and the end of May.

Although the opening day of trout season is foremost on most anglers’ minds, there are a number of other important PFBC happenings that have local implications — both bad and good. These include the draining of Colyer Lake and a suspension of fishing regulations on that water, a reversal or postponement of the decision to close the Bellefonte Trout Hatchery, and a request for final comments regarding a change to the regulations on Pine Creek — a favorite stream of many county anglers.

Safety issues prompt

draining of Colyer Lake

The PFBC recently announced the discovery of deficiencies in the dam holding back the water to form Colyer Lake. As a result, the agency has initiated plans to completely drain the reservoir until the dam can be rehabilitated to meet current engineering and safety standards. Unfortunately, this dam will join a long list of such structures badly needing repairs.

Colyer Lake is a 77-acre reservoir located in Potter Township. It is owned by the Commonwealth and managed by the PFBC. The water level had been previously lowered by ten feet in 2003 due to safety concerns.

“ “Commission engineers and the state Department of Environmental Protection routinely inspect the dam, and during the December inspection, we found that the undermining beneath the dam’s spillway had become more severe,”said Andy Shiels, PFBC Deputy Director for Field Operations. “ “The condition of the spillway’s structural integrity necessitates that a complete drawdown of the lake be performed so that further testing and analyses can be conducted. We recognize that Colyer Lake is a popular fishing and boating location,” he added. “However, concerns for the safety of the downstream residents and businesses necessitate this drawdown.””

The drawdown began last week and, according to the Commission, might take up to three months to complete. The lake will be drained at a rate of about two feet per week, depending on weather.

PFBC biologists are currently developing a fish salvage plan to remove and relocate as many fish as possible. As of March 28, the agency lifted all seasons, sizes and creel-limit fishing regulations from this lake.

“We have chosen to temporarily lift the regulations in order to reduce the number of fish in the lake in anticipation of a fish salvage prior to a complete drawdown of the lake,” said Dave Miko, chief of the PFBC Division of Fisheries Management. “We want anglers to fish the water and make good use of as many fish as they can.”

The lake will remain open to public use until the water level reaches a point where it may be unsafe for anglers. At that point, the lake will be closed and signs will be posted alerting anglers of the closing.

Bellefonte Hatchery to stay open

Good news — In a surprise move on March 22, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission unanimously voted at a special meeting to keep its Oswayo and Bellefonte hatcheries open through July, 2015, while the agency pursues a long-term funding source through the General Assembly.

“Since the board of commissioners voted in January to close the two hatcheries, staff and Commissioners have met with members of the General Assembly to try to identify opportunities to secure long-term funding sources,” said Board President Steve Ketterer. “As a result, we have voted to keep the hatcheries open while we pursue these opportunities.

“Senator Corman was particularly encouraging, and that is important because he heads the Appropriations Committee,” Kettlerer noted in a phone interview. “It is important to show the legislature that we are willing to listen, so we put everything on hold.”

PFBC Executive Director John Arway added, “We’re thankful that the General Assembly has recognized the fiscal situation we’re in and have expressed their willingness to help us reach a solution. However, it doesn’t eliminate the fact that we must still find $9 million in annual savings or revenue over the next four years.”

The Commission had estimated that closing the two hatcheries would save the agency $2 million annually.

Pine Creek comments needed

The PFBC is seeking public comment about the possibility of entering two sections of the Pine Creek - a popular northcentral stream - into their year-round angling program.

“The fisheries management plan identifies Sections 10 and 12 as excellent candidates for the year-round program because the stream sections are popular with anglers and tend to warm quickly due to their large size, with temperatures often becoming marginal for trout by early June,” said Dave Miko, chief of the PFBC Division of Fisheries Management.

Pine Creek, Section 10, extends for 11.1 miles from the SR 414 Bridge in Blackwell (350 meters upstream from the confluence with Babb Creek) downstream to the confluence with Slate Run (upper limit of the 1.2-mile-long delayed harvest artificial lures only reach). Section 12 extends for 15.1 miles from 150 meters upstream of the confluence with Naval Run (lower limit of the delayed harvest artificial lures only reach) downstream to the confluence with Little Pine Creek in Waterville.

“This change would increase recreational angling opportunities for stocked trout on this water by an additional 4 to 5 weeks,” added Miko. “This time period often provides excellent fishing, including some of the stream’s best insect hatches for fly fishing, which is the most common type of tackle used on Pine Creek, based on the 2008 Pine Creek Angler Survey.”

The PFBC is providing the public an additional opportunity to comment on this proposal until April 8. The PFBC board of commissioners is expected to vote on the proposal at its April 16 quarterly business meeting in Harrisburg. If approved, the change would take effect on Jan. 1, 2014.

Comments may be submitted electronically by completing the form at www.fishandboat.com/regcomments. Individuals should reference “Pine Creek” on the form under “Number of Rulemaking or Title of Notice.”Comments also can be submitted in writing to: PA Fish and Boat Commission, Fisheries Management Area 3, 450 Robinson Lane, Bellefonte, PA 16823.