Phil’s faulty forecast fuels fishing fever
With apologies to those stovepipe-hatted folks at Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney: By all accounts it would appear your celebrity groundhog failed miserably in prognosticating another six weeks of winter.
Exhibit A: Record high February temperatures here in southeastern Pennsylvania and across most of the country have flouted Phil’s forecast. Our spring-like weather with the mercury spiking to 70 degrees and higher has done more than impeach that woodchuck’s weary wisdom; it’s also stoked the flames of fishing fever for anglers eager to enjoy that cherished rite of spring, trout season.
And although our regional trout season here in the southeast doesn’t open until April 1 with the rest of the state following suit on April 15, catch and release trout anglers can find plenty of action right now on freshly stocked trout in our local Delayed Harvest and Fly Fishing Only stream stretches. Our hardworking Waterways Conservation Officer, Bob Bonney, reported that stocking on those streams took place on Wednesday, Feb. 22.
“Fish are already stocked in the Delayed Harvest Artificial Lures and Fly Fishing Only areas,” Bonney said. “The weather has been super warm, with little rain, affording anglers the opportunity to get out and wet a line.”
Unfortunately there were some significant setbacks along some stream sections this year. “West Valley Creek sinkholes have been repaired and the stream is flowing with water, although parts of the Delayed Harvest stretch will no longer be stocked since, due to the sinkhole remediation, they will no longer hold fish,” said Bonney. “But I have a much bigger problem and major issue to deal with on the French Creek, the stretch which begins at the Hollow Road Covered Bridge all the
way down to the Steel Bridge at Hoffecker Road is closed and will not be stocked this year because the Covered Bridge is being closed due to an automobile accident. French Creek Road is now being used as a detour route so there will be no parking along that road for fishermen at all. The stretch below Pughtown Road is closed and won’t be open again this year because there’s a small bridge that is closed and also in need of repair. Both bridges are slated to be repaired sometime this summer. These stretches of French Creek will be open and stocked again next year.”
Another one of Bonney’s major concerns is the closing of streams to fishing due to riparian property owners posting their lands. “Every year I speak to clubs and I write about the importance keeping property owners happy and this year is no different,” Bonney explained. “Property postings along the Commonwealth’s streams here in southeast Pa. have become the norm. In fact I can describe it in one word: Epidemic. In the past five years fishermen have lost long stretches of good fishing water along the French and East Brandywine Creeks and in the past two weeks on the Pickering Creek.”
For local fishermen eager to wet a line for some catch and release trout right now, check out the following Delayed Harvest Artificial Lures Only stream stretches:
Tulpehocken Creek: 1.95 miles; from the first deflector below Blue Marsh Dam downstream to the SR 3008 Bridge (Reber’s Road Bridge).
Tulpehocken Creek: 1.84 miles; from the SR 3008 Bridge (Reber’s Road Bridge) downstream to the T921(covered bridge).
Remember that stocked trout waters (with the exception of those delayed harvest stretches) here in the Southeast are closed to fishing from March 1 to the opening day of the Regional Opening Day of Trout Season, this year at 8 a.m. on April 1. You are by definition deemed to be fishing in Stocked Trout Waters if you have any fishing equipment within 25 feet of a stream, lake or pond that is closed to fishing. Stocked Trout Waters are defined as those waters that have significant portions that are open to public fishing and are stocked with trout by the Commission. No trout may be taken or possessed on these waters from March 1 to the opening of the Regional Opening Day of Trout Season, once again this year, at 8 a.m. on April 1.
The Bear Facts 2016
The Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) will tell you that this is the golden age of bear hunting. Since the PGC began keeping records of statewide bear harvests in 1915, there has never been a more prolific period for Commonwealth black bear hunters. Pennsylvania hunters harvested 3,529 bears in 2016, the fifth-highest tally in state history. To top it off, 60 of those bears weighed 500 pounds or more and 17 exceeded 600 pounds. The 2016 overall bear harvest was similar to 2015, when 3,748 bears, including 68 weighing 500 pounds or more, were taken. The alltime bear harvest high was recorded in 2011, when 4,350 bears were harvested. Hunters harvested 4,164 in 2005.
Hunters in 2016 harvested bears in 58 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties, an increase of one county compared to 2015. Bears again were taken in 20 of the state’s 23 Wildlife Management Units (WMUs). The Northwest Region was the only one of the PGC’s six regions that had a harvest increase in 2016, compared to the previous year.
The largest bear taken in the harvest weighed an estimated 740 pounds. It was taken in Rayne Township, Indiana County, on Nov. 18 during the archery bear season by Dustin R. Learn, of Home. It was one of three bears taken by a hunters that exceeded 700 pounds in the 2016 seasons. The three bears were the first to exceed 700 pounds since 2013. In 2011, Pennsylvania’s record harvest year, an amazing eight bears exceeding 700 pounds were taken by hunters.
The top county for firearms bear harvest was Lycoming with 243 bears. Tops for the archery harvest was Carbon County with 20 bears downed by bowbenders.
Here in the southeast, Berks County accounted for two bears and hunters in Bucks County scored on four bruins. As per usual, no bears were downed in Montgomery or Chester counties.
Volunteers from the Dame Juliana League Flyfishing Club endured the elements as they stocked the frigid French Creek FFO&CR a few years ago. This year was a much different story.