Phil’s faulty fore­cast fu­els fish­ing fever

The Kutztown Area Patriot - - SPORTS - Tom Ta­tum Colum­nist

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:

Berks County

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.

TOM TA­TUM - FOR DFM

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.

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