A couple of weeks ago, my fishing buddies and I were still talking about ice fishing on several area lakes but with the recent higher temperatures and rainfall, that all came to a rather sudden end. For us diehard fishermen, however, the change in weather simply means a change in tactics and gear because fishing is literally a year around activity for us.
As we move into the month of March, many of us begin to think “trout” since the traditional trout season always rolled around in April. The month of April still ushers in the opening of the regular trout season but bear in mind that some changes have been made, with the most obvious being the opening day for the entire state will now be the first Saturday in April, which is April 2. For years the state had two opening days; the southern part of the state opened earlier, with the rest of the state opening in mid-April. All things considered, such as weather, water temperature, stocking, and enforcement logistics, and social impacts, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission made the move to a single statewide opener.
There is also now only one Mentored Youth Trout Day statewide on March 26. Youth anglers under 16 years of age must obtain a current year Mentored Youth Permit or a Voluntary Youth Fishing License from the Commission and be accompanied by a licensed adult. Check out page six of your Fishing Summary/Boating Handbook for additional regulations.
While many trout anglers will be hitting streams all across the state, many other anglers will be launching boats on lakes that have been stocked with trout — especially lakes in the northern tier like Hunters Lake, Stevenson Dam, and Kettle Creek Dam. For those hitting the lakes in April, keep in mind that you must wear a life jacket from Nov. 1 to April 30 when fishing from any boat under 16 feet in length or when fishing from a canoe, kayak, or paddleboard.
While I am looking forward to the trout opener in a couple of weeks, I must admit that I will most likely be hitting the streams days before that. Now before you think I’m sneaking out prior to the opener, be aware that there are a number of special regulation sections on several Pennsylvania streams. These specially regulated areas are open to year-round trout fishing, but as the name implies, there are special regulations governing these areas. These areas include Delayed Harvest Artificial Lures Only, Catch and Release Artificial Lures Only, Catch and Release Fly-Fishing Only, Catch and Release All Tackle, All Tackle Trophy Trout and Trophy Trout Artificial Lures Only.
Each of the special areas mentioned in the previous paragraph has its own set of unique regulations, including limited harvest, delayed harvest, and various size restrictions. While there are usually signs posted at these special areas, you may want to review the information on page 21 of your handbook.
Since I don’t keep any trout, I’m very comfortable fishing under these special regulations, and another plus is that I seldom ever have to deal with crowded conditions.
If you’re out on the first day, I’m sure I don’t have to tell you what that can be like. To be honest, I haven’t gone trout fishing on the first day for several years now, but instead, my wife and I usually head out to a lake not stocked with trout and fish for crappies and perch.
Now that brings up a whole new subject, “spring panfishing,” but I’ll save that subject for another upcoming story.