Woods and waters: Anglers prepare for upcoming trout season after long winter

Volunteer helper John Jackson helps the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission stock trout recently in Bald Eagle Creek.
Volunteer helper John Jackson helps the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission stock trout recently in Bald Eagle Creek. Photos for the CDT

It has been a l-o-n-g winter. Trout season is — finally — less than two weeks away, and many local anglers are anxiously awaiting the opener on April 12. If you have not taken care of these details already, it is time to purchase your fishing license and trout stamp, and also get your tackle in order.

I had initially planned my column topic today to be the new Mentored Youth Fishing Day — originally scheduled for April 5. As a reflection of our extended winter — some lakes are still iced over — the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission recently announced a postponement of that day until May 10. With the resulting delay, I decided to cover the upcoming preparation for opening day, along with some relevant news coming out of Harrisburg.

Trout stocking

Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission pre-season trout stocking began on March 3, and will continue through April 11. Penns, Black Moshannon and Pine creeks have already been stocked. Sixmile Run was stocked yesterday.

On April 4, Cold Stream will be stocked with brook and rainbow trout, Cold Stream Dam will receive its allotment of rainbows, and Mountain Branch will be stocked with brook trout. These are all Philipsburg area waters.

On April 5, Eddy Lick Run and the South Fork of Beech Creek will be stocked — helpers are always welcome. Parts of Wallace Run will be stocked with brook and rainbow trout on April 10, while sections of Marsh Creek are scheduled for April 11. For more details and PFBC truck meeting times, consult www.fish.state.pa.us and click on “trout stocking.”

“The PFBC annually stocks approximately 3.2 million adult trout in 731 streams and 124 lakes open to public angling,” said Dave Miko, Chief of the PFBC Division of Fisheries Management. “These figures include approximately 2.01 million rainbow trout; 647,000 brown trout; and 527,000 brook trout. As with past practice, the average size of the trout produced for stocking is 11 inches in length.”

In addition to these fish, the PFBC plans to stock about 8,500 trophy golden rainbow trout that weigh an average of 1.5 pounds and measure at least 14 inches long. Also, cooperative nurseries run by sportsmen’s clubs across the state will add another 1 million trout to waters close to them. The Bald Eagle Sportsmen's Club, one of these cooperative nurseries, will hold its annual stocking day on Saturday, April 5. The club depends on volunteer work and appreciates help from non-members, as well.

About 53 percent of the PFBC trout are stocked prior to opening day, and 43 percent are stocked between opening day and the end of May. The remaining fish are stocked from October of this year through February 2015.

Good news — due to an increase in the number of residents living near Canoe Lake in Blair County and Poe Lake in Centre County, these lakes will receive an increase in their allocation of stocked trout this spring.

Voluntary youth fishing licenses

On Jan. 23, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission voted to create a voluntary $1 youth fishing license and dedicate the revenue generated from it to programs to increase youth fishing participation. If you are now thinking, ‘Why would I buy a youth fishing license when I don't have to?,’ please read on, because this is the most important information in this column.

The PFBC is short on cash. A youth license is much, much more than the $1 that it costs. It offers an added benefit when it comes to federal funding, which accounts for approximately 25 percent of the PFBC’s budget. For every youth license sold, the PFBC will receive approximately $5 in federal revenue from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Sport Fish Restoration Act program. This act provides funds to states based on a formula that includes the number of licenses sold by a state.

“If just 25 percent of the approximate 367,000 children who fish were to purchase a voluntary $1 license, it would result in more than $550,000 in revenue for the Commission to invest in youth programs,” commented PFBC Executive Director John Arway. "We want to continue to refine and develop programs to engage kids.”

The voluntary youth license is available now from all licensing agents and online through the PFBC’s Outdoor Shop. With a $1 agent fee and a $0.70 transaction fee, the total cost to purchase the license is $2.70.

Youth who plan to participate in the upcoming Mentored Youth Fishing Day on May 10 must obtain either a voluntary youth fishing license or a free mentored youth fishing permit. It is not necessary to obtain both.

Other news, good and bad

It is almost trout season, but during the past two weeks, several things happened that beg mention.

Good news: The endangered species bills — SB 1047 and HB 1576 — seem to be stalled in the legislature. Senator Richard Alloway, who chairs the Senate Game and Fisheries Committee, has not moved SB 1047 out of committee. HB 1576 was supposed to come up for a vote on March 11, but lacked the needed votes, according to the PA Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs. As a result, the bill is still sitting in committee. Pat yourself on the back if you contacted your legislator - it appears that hunters, anglers and conservationists have turned the tide against these extremely industry-friendly bills.

Bad news: Almost two weeks ago, Gov. Tom Corbett and several ranking legislators ordered the independent Pennsylvania Game Commission to rescind the $220,000 that they agreed to pay recently-retired executive director Carl Roe. The letter also ordered the commissioners not to select William Capouillez as his replacement.

I am sure that some haters of the Game Commission will applaud this decision, but personally I do not like to see the governor or the legislature ordering either of our game or fish commissions to do anything. This might be a misguided attempt- one of several - by the very unpopular Corbett to avoid being the first Pennsylvania governor in recent history to fail to be re-elected for a second term.

Time will tell.

Use the next two weeks to prepare your family and yourself for the April 12 trout opener. You might plan to travel to one of the listed waters to take advantage of the Mentored Youth Fishing Day on May 10. The local waters participating in the program will be Cold Stream Dam in Philipsburg and Whipple Lake at Whipple Dam State Park.

Please also consider spending a few bucks to purchase youth fishing licenses. The cost is minimal and will go a long way to help support the financial security of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.