The festival and celebration that is trout stocking in Pennsylvania

The past Monday in the second full week of April, an in-season stocking of a local stream in my part of Pennsylvania was scheduled.

That day was highlighted by clear skies and unseasonable warmth, a perfect day for fishing.

As I often do on a restocking day, when the predetermined time for the stocking truck to arrive and reach its initial stocking point came, I drove to this place to observe just how many vehicles would be following the Fish & Boat Commission truck.

The truck’s first stop follows a lane to a farm, owned by a most gracious and generous farmer who allows both the fishing and overall parade of vehicles restocking brings to his land.

Here, the upper section of this stream is narrow compared to how it widens farther on, still it is the starting point of putting trout into these waters.

I have a good vantage point at this “first stop” to watch this festival that the restocking of trout waters usually becomes, and from that spot I was not disappointed with what I witnessed.

I can truthfully say that I have never before watched so many cars and trucks following a load of trout. The agency’s truck was stream side, and from that point stretched the “followers” along the lane, all the way back to a busy main highway where other official Fish & Boat Commission vehicles sat, flashing red lights engaged, while additional commission personnel stood directing traffic around the many more “followers” who had parked roadside because the farmer’s lane could hold no more.

I’m certain the wonderful weather had brought the multitude of anxious anglers to this starting point that day, all of them tagging along to basically choose a spot where they would know fish were “dumped,” their chances of catching trout greatly enhanced.

After the procession moved on I could see that about five vehicles remained, their occupants content to start their fishing at this particular place, and follow no longer. I headed home knowing full well that this stream would be filled with fishermen at every stocking point.

Without hesitation, I praise the Fish & Boat Commission for all it does for trout anglers. Not only for the number of fish stocked, but for the effort it takes to secure areas to fish. Many of the stocked streams across this state run through private land (this particular stream courses entirely through private land for many miles), and each year local waterways conservation officers have to knock on doors obtaining permission to allow the fishing public to park their vehicles nearby and cross the owners’ land to fish stocked waters.

I often hear the complaints from a small sampling of trout anglers about such items as too many fishermen on announced stocking days, too many opening days for trout, kids getting the first shot at fish, too few fish, and even complaints pointed at fish size even when they do catch some.

But I’ve come to realize that by the time mid-May arrives, most streams and trout lakes are becoming basically free of anglers, yet personal experience reveals that many trout remain to make a fishing trip to these places worth the effort.

And that is not only a local experience, but one that I see throughout the state as I often travel many, many miles to fish for trout. The reality I recognize first hand is that as June approaches, the majority of trout anglers that crowded early season stocked waters are long gone, yet plenty of trout remain.

And I thank the Fish & Boat Commission for those remaining trout, and the efforts and time the agency gives to stock these fish and secure the areas where they may be caught — and I certainly do catch them.

I have always believed, and still do, the cost of my fishing license and a trout stamp is one of best rewards I am able to identify for my money spent.

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