Trout season brings sure cure for cabin fever
It’s been a brutal few weeks. March came in like a lion and just kept on coming, throwing four nor’easter storms our way with plenty of snow, frigid winds, and teeth chattering temperatures, resulting in some major cases of cabin fever for all of us. Fortunately, the ultimate cure for that lingering case of cabin fever is just a few days away: the long awaited opening day of trout season for the 18 counties in our southeastern region. The starting gun is set to sound at 8:00 a.m. on Saturday, March 31, here in our corner of the Commonwealth.
So, as has become our tradition this time of year, we sought out the fishing wisdom of Bob Bonney, Waterways Conservation Officer for Northern Chester County, for his expert advice. Here’s his sage advice:
The 2018 trout season should be a banner year for us here in Chester, Bucks, and Montgomery Counties. The preseason stockings are completed and all that’s left is for anglers to get out and enjoy nature’s incredible gifts. In my 25 years of service here I don’t believe I’ve seen better water conditions this early in the season and, if it holds for the opener on March 31, there should be a lot of satisfied fishermen. The rainbow trout I observed being stocked here in the Northern Chester County streams this year, by our illustrious stocking team, are exceptional looking fish. Congratulations to the PFBC Huntsdale Hatchery for an outstanding job on sending some really nice fish to our area this year.
However, when you head out the door on Saturday with rod in hand keep a few things in mind. As always you must possess and display a valid 2018-Fishing License along with a 2018 Trout Stamp. After purchasing and before leaving the sporting goods store be sure to ask for your copy of the 2018 Summary Book, which has the Rules & Regulations you’ll need to know about prior to hitting the streams. If you purchased your fishing license on line just stop in to any establishment that sells fishing licenses and they will be happy to give one to you, there is no charge for the Summary Book. After that I would strongly urge you to take the time and read up on the rules and regulations for the species you’re fishing for.
Now that you’ve read the Summary Book you’ll need to know where you’re fishing. We have two types of trout waters here, Approved Trout Waters or Special Regulation Area. Special Regulation Areas can be fished 365 days of the year, and are typically catch & release, which means you may not have trout in your possession but for the following exception: June 15th to Labor Day you may keep (3) trout at least 9” per day. And at no time may you have bait in your possession. These areas are well posted so you need to be aware of your surroundings. So if you find yourself itching to get out and wet a line before the opener on the March 31st these are great places to go as they have also been stocked. You don’t want to find yourself in one of these areas with bait and or fish in your possession because if you do it’s a safe bet you’re likely to run into one of us. We have several additional officers on the job here this year so there’s a higher probability of that chance meeting occurring.
Once you have all of the rules and regs down pat and you know where the approved trout waters and the special regulation areas are you’ll want to get out and scout for a good place to start on opening day.
When you’ve found that special place then look for a plan “B”, because you can bet that there will most likely be some stiff competition for that very same spot. Since most folks don’t like walking, I recommend taking a walk (Beware of the “No Trespass signs), and find your plan “B” spot. Or you could just go straight to that spot to begin with! I recommend plan “B” because streams like French Creek and the East Brandywine are float stocked in between the stops that the state stocks. That really helps to spread the fish out and with all of the spring rains they get spread out even more, so don’t be afraid to explore! There’s nothing like fishing, hooking and playing fish with nobody else around to crowd you!
As for tackle, if you’re fishing with garden tackle (worms and such), then a spinning rod and reel that will handle 2-4 pound line will work nicely, but don’t forget to loosen that drag. The light line and small hooks will not spook the fish like the heavier line and larger hooks do. Use very small bait and small garden worms because that’s what trout eat - small things. The spinner fishermen don’t have that problem because the fish are chasing after the lure and therefore ignore the heavier line. However, if you’re someone who enjoys throwing lures, then you’ll require a rod and reel that will handle 4 and 6-pound test. You’ll want that extra strength because after you break off and lose several of those lures it gets quite expensive at $4 & $5 apiece. One more thing, fishing with lures in a crowded hole is not going to be a lot of fun for you or for the others fishing there if you catch my drift (pun intended), always be a courteous and considerate sportsman.
Once you have your rod and reel squared away then you’ll need a pair of hip boots or possibly chest waders. These are only needed to keep your feet dry, as there is really very little need for wading in these parts. Each time you step into the creek when you don’t have to you’ll spook the trout and push them from their resting place in front of you to someone else. So don’t wade if you don’t have to, after all, you have spinning gear that will easily cast across any stream we have here and, for that matter, most of the rest of the state.
Also, don’t forget polarized sunglasses so you can easily see into the water to find your quarry. Remember, fish see you easier and better than you can see them. Also, keep a small plastic bag in your vest or fanny pack. Why? Because you’ll need this to pick up any trash that others leave behind. If you don’t, there’s a very good chance you’ll need to find another favorite fishing spot next year due to the property being posted by landowners who are tired of people leaving their trash behind. Remember YOU are a guest there, so I strongly suggest that you treat it like the privilege that it is. And should you happen to bump into the property owner be sure to thank him/her for the privilege; it will pay huge dividends.
One last thing, whether it’s opening day or the end of the season, if you observe unethical behavior on the stream, such as an individual taking more than their (5) fish limit or someone littering please calls us but don’t tell them you’re calling as they typically leave prior to our arrival. If you don’t have my number (Most fish club members do) then you can always call 911, and yes it’s ok to call 911 for these offenses. Ask for a Conservation Officer and be sure you leave a number with the call taker for us to return your call because County Police Radio will contact us by radio so we can respond much quicker. Good Luck, stay safe and have a fun, safe opening day on the water!
Many thanks to Officer Bonney for that report. Regulated Trout Waters where anglers can expect to find fresh trout stocked by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission here in our neck of Penn’s Woods include the following:
Berks County: Allegheny Creek , Antietam Creek, Antietam Reservoir, Furnace Creek (Robesonia), Hay Creek, Kistler Creek, Little Lehigh Creek, Little Swatara Creek, Maiden Creek (confluence with Kistler Creek in Kempton downstream to dam in Lenhartsville), Manatawny Creek, Mill Creek (trib. to Sacony Creek), Mill Creek (trib. to Schuylkill River), Mill Creek (trib. to Tulpehocken Creek), Northkill Creek, Ontelaunee Creek (Spring House Road Bridge (SR 4024) downstream to mouth), Perkiomen Creek, Pine Creek (trib to Maiden Creek), Sacony Creek (Bowers Road (T-616) downstream to SR 222 Kutztown By-pass), Scotts Run Lake, Spring Creek, Swamp Creek (aproximately 350 yards above powerline, downstream to mouth in Morgantown), Tulpehocken Creek (Marion Twp R&G Club downstream to vicinity of Charming Forge Rd.), Willow Creek, Wyomissing Creek (headwaters downstream to SR 0222).
Chester County: Beaver Creek (at Downingtown), Big Elk Creek, Buck Run (Compass Rd. downstream to SR 372), East Branch Brandywine Creek (SR 4031 in Glenmoore downstream to U S Business Route 30 in Downingtown), East Branch Elk Creek, East Branch White Clay Creek, French Creek, Middle Branch White Clay Creek, Pickering Creek, Pocopson Creek, West Branch Brandywine Creek (SR 4005 Cedar Knoll downstream to SR 0340), West Valley Creek, White Clay Creek.
Montgomery County: Deep Creek Dam, East Branch Perkiomen Creek (from near Salfordville Rd. downstream to Bergey’s Mill Rd.), Kepner Creek, Loch Alsh Reservoir, Manatawny Creek, Pennypack Creek (Lorimer Park), Perkiomen Creek (county line downstream to first unnamed trib downstream of Fruitville Road (T-414)), Skippack Creek, Stony Creek, Unami Creek, Wissahickon Creek (from Lafayette Ave. downstream to Stenton Ave.).
Wherever Saturday’s sunrise finds you, good luck and tight lines.
Saturday marks the opening day of trout season in southeast Pa.