Trout season officially opens on Saturday, April 1, at 8 a.m. Approximately 3.2 million trout have been (or soon will be) stocked across the commonwealth in preparation for the big day. Cooperative trout nurseries add another million trout to that total. At least two local co-ops stock trout in Centre County streams.
There are 14 stocked trout streams in the county, along with two trout-stocked impoundments — Poe Lake and Cold Stream Dam. Stocked trout streams include big waters, such as Bald Eagle Creek below Milesburg and a long section of Penns Creek upstream from Coburn. Small streams, such as White Deer Creek, Wallace Run, Little Fishing Creek and Pine Creek make up the majority.
During my younger years, the opening day of trout season was ranked right up there with Christmas morning. Santa did not bring any presents in April, but the trout opener was packed with the same excitement and anticipation. Us kids thought about it for weeks and we spent a lot of time preparing. Only once in the past 66 years have I missed the trout opener. It was 1973, and I was stationed at Fort Sam Houston in Texas. Trout fishing had to wait until my Army training was finished.
Things are different now. Many anglers, including this writer, have already been trout fishing this year. There are over 40 Class A wild trout streams in Centre County and they have been open on a catch-and-release basis since Jan. 1. The county is also home to special regulation water and all of these stream sections are open to catch-and-release fishing right now.
Fisherman’s Paradise on Spring Creek is fly-fishing-only. The remainder of Spring Creek is All Tackle Catch-and-Release. A 1.3-mile section of Black Moshannon Creek is Delayed Harvest Artificial Lures Only. Seven miles of Penns Creek, beginning below its confluence with Elk Creek, is All-Tackle Trout Slot Limit. Lick Run, a small stream near Howard, is Trophy Trout-Artificial Lures Only.
Last, but not least, an .8-mile-long section of Bald Eagle Creek north of Port Matilda is the area’s only Keystone Select Stocked Trout Stream. Of the 24 Keystone Select streams, it is the single one allowing the use of any type of terminal tackle. The stream section contains fully accessible parking and trail back to a fishing platform. Keystone Select streams are open to year-round angling, although no harvest is permitted Labor Day through June 15.
The trout opener still generates ample excitement. There are many ways to enjoy the day with friends and family, but if your goal is catching a limit of trout, here is some time-tested advice.
If at all possible, visit the spot or spots that you intend to fish before the opening day. If the water is clear, use polarized sunglasses and look for trout. There is no use starting in a spot that has no trout.
Arrive early on the opening morning. Once you have selected a spot, it is demoralizing to get there on opening day and find it already taken.
It is great to have a favorite bait, fly or lure in which you have faith. However, you will catch more trout if you are prepared with a variety of offerings. Two or three different baits are good and the same goes with lures — even more so with flies. Trout might reject a salmon egg, but hit a mealworm or minnow.
Stocked trout are often in schools. After all, they have lived that way their entire lives. You might catch a trout or two out of the group with a silver spinner, then the hits stop. It would be wise to change to a different colored lure and make a few casts before moving on. My experience has been that they often hit the new color on the first retrieve.
In some streams, most trout stay where they are stocked, so it is fine to concentrate on those (often near bridges) spots. When catching tapers off, a smart move is to fish the areas between stocking points. Do not ignore the riffles. I catch many trout in water that is less than a foot deep.
Finally, anglers often fish pools from the same side of the stream, and no doubt, that is likely the best side. However, it is good to experiment by fishing from the opposite bank or side. Current and line drag affect the movement of your bait. If you fish from a different vantage point, your offering will reach trout that others might miss.
Trout will be there waiting for you on April 1. Use the preceding tips and you should up your catch this year.
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 .