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Best waters may be for wild trout

Posted on August 15, 2013

Might changes be in store for some of Pennsylvania’s most popular trout streams?

Perhaps yes.

Right now, streams like section 2 of Penns Creek in Centre County, sections 4 and 5 of Yellow Creek in Bedford County, Fishing Creek in Clinton County and sections 8 and 9 of Monocacy Creek in Northampton

County get stocked with adult-sized trout both before opening day of trout season and after.

Sections 4 and 7 of Little Lehigh Creek in Lehigh County, section 1 of Martins Creek in Northampton, and section 4 of Pohopoco Creek in Carbon County are treated the same way.

All are popular with anglers, too.

The two sections of Monocacy, section 4 of Yellow Creek, Phopoco Creek and both sections of Little Lehigh Creek, for example, see more anglers at 8 a.m. on opening day of trout season than 90 percent of all other trout-stocked waters statewide, according to commission data.

All the rest save Martins Creek and section 5 of Yellow Creek – which is open to angling year-round – see more fishermen on opening day than 75 percent of stocked waters.

“They are among the most popular fisheries we have in Pennsylvania, some of them,” said Leroy Young, director of the commission’s Bureau of Fisheries.

But some within the commission want changes.

Specifically, a proposal expected to go before the commission board at its next meeting in October would call for scaling back or eliminating the stocking of adult fish on those stream sections.

The reason? It’s “very likely” all are home to Class A populations of wild brown trout, Young said. Class A is the highest designation the commission can confer on a trout stream and is reserved for those that are the best of the best for wild trout.

The commission knows good numbers of wild brown trout inhabit all of those stream sections, he added. But they’ve not been sampled, in large part because of the stocking that occurs.

It might be time to change that and, at the same time, propose to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection that all of the waters, which are limestone streams, become listed as “exceptional value” waterways.

None of that would rule out continued stocking completely, Young said. While most Class A streams are managed exclusively for wild trout, with no stocking, the commission has the authority to make exceptions with the written consent of the agency’s executive director or his designee.

“It’s almost never happened, but it’s there as a possibility,” Young said.

The proposal expected to go before the board this fall would likely suggest that the stream sections in question be eligible for stocking only with fingerling trout or, at most, adult trout only in the preseason, and then only if certain conditions are met, Young said.

Those conditions might  include: that a stream section was stocked the year prior to its listing as a Class A water; that the trout stocked not be of the same species as the predominant species of wild fish; and that they be near intensely urban areas – those with more than 125 people per square kilometer – where opportunities to fish for stocked trout on opening day are otherwise limited.

The topic generated very little debate among commissioners at their summer meeting, though one, Len Lichvar, of Somerset County, said that when it comes to section 5 of Yellow Creek in particular, additional action might be warranted.

The year-round angling rule that allows anglers to harvest trout – wild or stocked – during the fall spawning season might need to be revisited, he said.

“We may need to add some additional protections there,” Lichvar said.