Feb. 21—Members of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, along with a few volunteers, braved the snowy weather this month as they began placing trout in streams and lakes across the state in preparation for the beginning of trout season on April 3.
Overall, 3.2 million trout will be stocked across 700 streams and 120 lakes where wild trout do not normally live, according to spokesman Mike Parker. Last week, trout were stocked at Loyalhanna Creek, which flows through Westmoreland County, and Keystone Lake in Derry. Stocking events will continue across the state over the next few months.
"This provides an excellent opportunity in a lot of streams that wouldn't normally be able to sustain a wild trout population," Parker said. "The waters are cold enough in the spring and in the fall that the trout do quite well and we can put them in there and then people can go out and we provide these great trout fishing opportunities."
The goal, Parker said, is for people to catch the majority of trout, which come from two hatcheries — Bellefonte and Pleasant Gap, both in Centre County. Trout from the hatcheries typically weigh around 5.8 pounds, are about 11.5 inches long and are about a year and a half old.
In addition, some fish between two and three years old are also placed in waterways, which were used for breeding the next generation of trout at the hatcheries. Those fish are up to 12 inches in length.
"Every time we take a truck out with fish in it, we put some of the trophy size ones in, too," Parker said.
While the stocking event runs through May in some parts of the state, the start date began two weeks earlier than normal to match the earlier start to trout season. Normally, there are two starts to trout season — a regional beginning for areas that tend to warm up quicker, which typically attracts people from other counties, and the statewide start.
According to Parker, the two dates were consolidated this year to eliminate any travel that may occur during the regional start due to the covid-19 pandemic.
Other changes due to the pandemic include volunteers not being able to walk up to a stocking event; rather local sportsman groups are solicited beforehand. Parker noted last year volunteers were not permitted due to the pandemic, leaving stocking efforts to members of the state Fish and Boat Commission.
"For now, we are trying to incorporate some volunteers back into it because it does help us spread the fish out and it definitely helps," Parker said.
Those hoping to take advantage of trout season when it opens in April must obtain a fishing and trout permit. The cost of the trout permit is used to fund the hatchery program, Parker said. Licenses and permits can be purchased at huntfish.pa.gov or at county treasurer or Fish and Boat Commission officers.
"It's our biggest program by far," Parker said of trout season. "People say it's an unofficial holiday, I say it's an official holiday. I think opening day of trout seasons ranks up there with a lot of other holidays that people enjoy. It's great family fun, it's affordable and people make big plans around the opening day of trout season."
Megan Tomasic is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 724-850-1203, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .