Harrisburg — Folks who are into fall trout fishing may want to make the most of it in coming weeks because next year fall stockings will be just a memory on many streams.
The Pennsylvania & Boat Commission is planning to cut the number of waters it stocks in the fall by 50 to 70 percent because of lack of angler interest, according to Tom Greene, the agency’s cold-water management chief.
Currently, 150 lakes and streams are stocked in the fall.
“October is a great time to be on a trout stream, but no one is fishing,” Greene said. “The day of reckoning has finally come: we’ve got to stop wasting the resource.”
The commission is now working to identify which waters it will remove from the fall stocking schedule, said Greene, who indicated those near populated areas will likely be retained, while many rural streams probably will be dropped.
The change won’t mean fewer trout; it means the majority of streams will get their fall allotment in the spring, he said. “We’re not going to cut the number of fish; we’re just going to stock them at a time of year when more people are fishing.”
Dwindling interest in the fall program has been evident for years, Greene said. “You go to Pine Creek and other streams in the north central part of the state on a beautiful day in October, and you’ll be the only one on the water. It’s a scenario happening across the state.”
“It’s great for the guy who has the stream to himself, but we can’t stock for one angler.”
Although the commission has tried to promote fall fishing as comparable to fishing in spring, it apparently can’t compete with other activities, Greene said.
“It could be football, steelhead or hunting, but whatever it is, anglers don’t seem to appreciate trout fishing in October and November, and that’s some of the best fishing of the year.”
Because trout typically don’t winter-over, it’s a waste to stock streams when few people are there to catch fish, Greene said.
“Everything has its place and time. Fall stockings were a fluff thing we just can’t afford anymore. Switching the bulk of these stockings to spring will save us at the hatchery and in terms of the trucking expenditure.”
Dropping most of the fall program would come on the heels of another belt-tightening move – to disband the Early Season Trout Stocked Lakes program in spring. But unlike that proposal, commission staff doesn’t need the commissioners’ approval to reduce its fall program, Greene said.
The decision was made by staff, with input from an advisory group that includes representatives from Pennsylvania Trout Unlimited and other organizations. Area fisheries managers will determine which streams should come off the fall list.
Mike Laskowski of Oil Creek Outfitters hopes Oil Creek in Venango and Crawford counties isn’t one of them.
“We don’t see the same big numbers in fall that we do in spring, but the delayed-harvest sections definitely get fished. In fact, even people who could just as easily run up for steelhead in Erie come here, so what does that tell you?” he said.
“We can have good fishing into December, and it’s a better quality experience because you’re not bumping into people like you do in spring.”
“I’d hate to see that kind of angling opportunity taken away,” Laskowski added
Glen McConnell of McConnell’s Country Store in Waterville, Lycoming County, said Pine and Little Pine creeks get plenty of action in the fall.
“People who archery hunt for deer in the mornings, fish in the afternoons. With the way deer numbers have been going, fishing has become an even more important option,” he said.
Because trout fishing is a big part of McConnell’s livelihood, he said he’ll feel compelled to pick up the slack if Pine and Little Pine come off the state list, he said.
“The commission sees that we’re already stocking in spring, so maybe they figure we’ll do even more.”
There also is concern that cutting some streams will increase angling pressure on others.
Trout guide George Daniel of TCO Fly Shop in State College said, if anything, angler use on central Pennsylvania waterways is up, year-round.
“Maybe most of the commission’s customers are terminal bait fishermen, but on the fly-fishing end, fisheries here are getting so crowded, we’re worried about more postings,” he said.
“Local TU chapters are trying to establish relations with landowners so the pressure that keeps growing won’t get to the point where they’re closing off more land.
“It’s already a huge problem.”
Daniel said new access at Benner Springs has brought more anglers to Spring Creek and the newly opened canyon water.
And he cited a recent article in a national magazine that named central Pennsylvania one of the most desirable retirement spots for folks who like to fly-fish, behind Jackson Hole, Wyo., and West Yellowstone.
“Our limestone streams provide good fishing in fall,” he said. “Right now, the freestoners are so low and dry, the limestoners are the only streams you can fish.”