Wednesday, February 8th, 2023
Wednesday, February 8th, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

Access to many trout waters still is tenuous

Pittsburgh – Opening Day had special meaning for anglers fishing
the Little Juniata River this year, since public access battles at
Spruce Creek are finally over.

But while the Little Juniata’s navigability was upheld by
Huntingdon County Common Pleas Court last year – ensuring wading
anglers hassle-free fishing – the river remains a symbol of how
tenuous access can be.

In Pennsylvania, 80 percent of state-stocked streams are on
private property, and landowners could put a serious hit on trout
fishing if they all decided to post.

“We get to fish by the grace of landowners,” said Tom Greene,
the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission’s chief coldwater
biologist. “We have to be good stewards of their property, which
means practicing proper etiquette and not littering, because we
lose water all the time.”

The commission is hoping to stem that tide, with an access
acquisition plan it launched in conjunction with the Pennsylvania
Environmental Council last fall. It is seeking to replicate the
sort of easement agreements it is making with landowners on popular
Erie steelhead streams on waters elsewhere in the state. 

“Even where access is a non-issue, we’re trying to be proactive,
so it doesn’t become an issue,” said Jackie Kramer, whom the
commission hired in January to implement the plan. “We’re holding
small meetings with stakeholders statewide to identify sites where
easements might be donated or purchased.”

This year, the commission reported losing just one significant
stream – Dotters Creek in Monroe County – to landowner postings.
“That’s not to say there isn’t a posting here and there, but there
were no large tracts to speak of,” said Greene.

“We have to lose 25 percent of a stream before we remove it from
the stocking list.” Others, including Horm Run in Jefferson County,
were removed from the trout-stocking list because of low angler
use, fish movement, or water-quality problems.

Biologists are evaluating more streams for those issues.

The commission added four new trout waters, statewide: East
Brandywine Creek in Chester County, Huntingdon Creek in Columbia
County, Jordan Creek in Lehigh County, and Little Neshannock Creek
in Lawrence and Mercer counties.

And it restored some streams that were taken off the list years
ago: Cold Run in Schuylkill County, Delaware Canal in Bucks County,
Laurel Lake in Cumberland County, Lyman Lake in Potter County, and
Rock Run in Lancaster County.

It usually takes a cooperative effort by a number of interested
parties to get streams added to the stocking program. In the case
of Little Neshannock Creek, which has been stocked from its
confluence with the West Branch downstream to its mouth, new
property owners were open to angling and some long-time residents
reconsidered.

“Our conservation officers and sportsmen’s clubs worked with
landowners to make this happen,” said commission biologist Al
Woomer. “It’s a very good stream to have as a stocked trout
fishery. It also has some smallmouth bass – although it’s too small
to be a really good bass fishery – and there are (forage) species
like creek chubs, darters and common shiners.”

The commission has reduced the stockings of Clear Run and North
Fork Redbank Creek in Jefferson County and Rocky Run in Elk County
to in-season only. But it has expanded the stocked stretches of the
following streams: Big Spring Creek (Cumberland County), Codorus
Creek (York), Cowanshannock Creek (Armstrong), French Creek
(Chester), Lehigh River (Carbon, Luzerne), Little Clearfield Creek
(Clearfield), Manatawny Creek (Berks), Meshoppen Creek (Wyoming),
Montour Run (Allegheny), Pekin Run (Jefferson), Raystown Branch
Juniata River (Somerset), Sacony Creek and Willow Creek (Berks),
Tuscarora Creek (Bradford, Wyoming), West Branch Chester Creek
(Delaware), West Branch Meshoppen Creek (Susquehanna, Wyoming
counties), Wheeling Creek, Dunkard Fork, North Fork, and Whitely
Fork (Greene), and Yellow Creek (Bedford). Frances Slocum Lake in
Luzerne County and Lake Wilma in Greene County received more fish
this year.

Both Wilma and the extension of North Fork, Dunkard Fork,
Wheeling Creek by 1/2-mile are attempts to compensate for the
demise of the hugely popular Duke Lake in Ryerson Station State
Park, which was breached three years ago.

The 19-acre Wilma is owned by Consol Coal but has been managed
by the commission for years for largemouth bass, crappies, channel
catfish and bluegills. When Duke was breached, the commission added
trout.  

“It’s a small impoundment and it doesn’t have the amenities of a
state park, but it’s the best we have for that area,” Lorson said.
“We wanted to be sure it would work out well and it has, so we’ve
increased the number of trout.”

In Clearfield County, the delayed-harvest, artificial-lures-only
section of Sandy Lick Creek was extended by about half a mile from
the confluence with Laborde Branch downstream to the SR 0219
bridge.

For a statewide list of Approved Trout Waters and inseason
stocking schedules, visit www.fishandboat.com.

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