Mark Nale | Bald Eagle trout tournament slated for next weekend

The soaking rains of April 10 and 12 made most local streams high and somewhat cloudy for Saturday’s opening of trout season.

Water temperatures on local freestone streams were also in the low 40s.

Successful anglers adapted by using weight to get their bait deeper in the water, fishing more slowly, or fishing the stream edges – where stocked trout move to avoid the swifter currents.

Another successful strategy is selecting a forested headwater stream that is less affected by the heavy rain. Poe Lake, Cold Stream Dam and other impoundments are also good choices because they are not affected by higher flows.

High water conditions usually mean that that there are ample numbers of stocked trout still in the streams after the opening weekend. Beginning Monday, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission stocking trucks will again be rolling – adding more stocked trout to many area streams.

Trout Tournament

Another trout fishing opportunity that always draws a big crowd of anglers is the Bald Eagle Creek Trout Tournament – to be held April 20-21. The contest, centered in Port Matilda, annually attracts between 700-1000 participants.

Over eight miles of Bald Eagle Creek in Worth Township, Taylor Township and Port Matilda Borough will be the setting for the 15th annual Bald Eagle Creek Trout Tournament next weekend. The two-day contest will run from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., on Saturday, April 20, and will resume at 6 a.m., on Sunday, April 21. The tournament ends at 4 p.m., on April 21.

The stream sections for this year’s contest include many easily accessed areas, such as the Port Matilda Community Park, as well as great walk-in-only fishing opportunities for those who like to get away from the crowds.

The tournament area on Bald Eagle Creek extends from just north of the Hannah United Methodist Church, to Steele Hollow Road - 1.3 miles north of the old Route 322 bridge at the base of Skytop Mountain. Tagged trout are spread out as evenly as possible throughout this length of stream.

More than 500 trout will be tagged and released into Bald Eagle Creek before the event. The club stocks an additional 200 bonus-tagged trout worth $10 each for the second day of the tournament.

“We are proud of the fact that we stock 200 more tagged trout for contestants fishing on Sunday,” said tournament organizer Mark Jackson. “No other tournament stocks extra trout for second-day anglers. We do this to show our appreciation for the many fishermen and women who come out and help with our fundraiser each year.”

According to tournament organizers, tagged fish will be valued from $10 to $1,000 – coded to the numbers printed on the plastic tags. Although the final figures were not yet in, they expect that $15,000 to $17,000 worth of tagged fish will be stocked. This will include one $1,000, two $500 trout, as well as a few $250 and $100 fish, and many $50, $20 and $10 trout. Last year’s total tagged trout prize package was valued at just shy of $17,000 cash.

M&T Bank, the Family Clothesline and American Legion Wilson Patton Post 536 are the main sponsors for this year’s charity event.

All registered anglers may also elect to participate in the “Big Trout Contest.” To be eligible, each participant must contribute an additional $10 prior to the start of the tournament. The qualified participant catching the largest tagged trout will receive a trophy and a large percentage of the funds collected for the big trout contest. Additional Big Trout place winners will receive cash awards, as well. According to tournament organizers, the total Big Trout payout will equal 50 percent of the money collected for the Big Trout Contest.

Last year, Nathan Poust of Muncy landed a 20.75-inch trout to take the top prize of $850 and a trophy. Chris Luse’s 19-inch trout earned $510 and an 18.5-inch trout won Nathan Sephens $340.

Jackson stressed that this was a catch-and-release tournament. “All tagged trout must be alive when brought in to claim prizes and this includes the Big Trout Contest.”

Prize money for several tagged trout was not paid last year because the fish had died before they were brought to a check station. “To avoid a dead trout, anglers should bring tagged trout to a check station immediately,” Jackson said.

Although large plastic bags will be handed out at the registration booth, Jackson emphasized that the best bet for keeping trout alive and healthy is to bring your own five-gallon bucket or a large cooler. Keep the trout in fresh, clean stream water with no ice. He also suggested that, if a trout is hooked deeply, anglers should not try to remove the hook, but instead they should just clip the line.

Only registered anglers can win prizes. Tournament badges must be displayed while fishing. Anglers 16 years of age and older must have a 2013 Pennsylvania fishing license and trout stamp. Anglers under the age of 16 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian or have written permission to participate. Anglers can register or participant badges may be picked up at the Port Matilda Fire Hall between 3 p.m. and 9 p.m., on Friday, and starting at 4 a.m., on Saturday, April 20. The entry fee is $20 for adults and $15 for youths under 16.

According to Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission rules, a maximum of five tagged trout per angler may be turned in each day.

The Port Matilda Sportsmen’s Club will provide food during the tournament, beginning with a breakfast at 4 a.m., on Saturday. There will also be an early-morning Sunday breakfast. Yingling’s Bait Hut will offer bait and tackle for last-minute fishing needs. The food and tackle will be offered at the Port Matilda Sportsmen’s Club, which also serves as headquarters for the event.

Last year’s winners used everything from Powerbait to flies to land prize trout. Waxworms were a favorite of many anglers, but according to Jackson, there is no single preferred bait or lure.

“I always suggest that anglers stick with the bait and methods that have been successful for them on other streams. It is important to have faith in what you are using,” Jackson offered. “For me, fly fishing would be an unlikely choice for a fishing contest like this, but we have several fishermen who are successful using flies every year.”

All proceeds from the contest benefit the Bald Eagle Sportsmen’s Club. Each year, the club raises thousands of trout that are stocked in over 25 streams in a five-county area. They also provide the trout for 10 children’s fishing derbies, which are all free and open to the public. The first children’s derby scheduled for this year will be held at the Port Matilda Community Park on April 27.

“Last year, we started a $50,000 project to construct concrete raceways at our trout nursery,” Jackson said. “This would not have been possible without the proceeds from the tournament.”