How will Winter Storm Stella affect Pennsylvania’s southeast Trout Season opener?
Some of the heaviest Pennsylvania snowfalls on record have come in the latter half of winter, when all necessary ingredients combine for a wet, powdery blast.
But this year’s near-record Winter Storm Stella, which rocked eastern portions of the state from March 13-15, felt a little nastier than normal — particularly because it came on the heels of balmy 70-degree temperatures that prompted trees to bud and flowers to bloom earlier than usual.
As the drastic change in scenery transpired, the outdoorsman in me begged to ponder the implications this might have on nature and wildlife. Then I got to thinking, “How will this affect the southeast’s early trout season opener?”
Considering the region received anywhere from 8 to 24 inches of snow, leaving roadways impassible and the governor declaring a State of Emergency, I figured some of the preseason stocking arrangements had to be impacted.
A brief glance at the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission’s trout stocking schedule revealed several revisions from its previously planned stocking dates. Some notable streams listed in red, meaning the schedule was altered, include Dauphin County’s Clark and Mahantango Creeks, Lehigh County’s Jordan Creek, Chester County’s East Branch of Brandywine Creek, and the Manatawny in both Berks and Montgomery Counties.
While most were rescheduled to be stocked prior to the season opener, not all were guaranteed to be stocked in time for the March 25 Mentored Youth Trout Fishing Day. Regardless, the fish placed in streams will have less time to acclimate to the water than previously anticipated. But what does that mean for anglers?
With daytime temperatures projected to rise well above freezing over the next few weeks, it is likely nearly all snow will be melted off by April 1, which will make navigating stream banks easier and safer, but should cause water levels to rise significantly — affecting clarity, visibility and wading options.
A rise in water level could be beneficial in areas where water was needed, but it may also cause previously stocked fish to disperse from their original stocking locations — which could be viewed as both a positive and a negative, depending how one looks at it.
At the same time, it’s anyone’s guess as to whether the bite will be impacted by the recharge in streams. Though trout are a coldwater species, they are known to be a little more lethargic in low water temperatures. Fresh snowmelt can cause temps to dip dramatically, momentarily turning off the bite, where as a slower, more gradual melt can bring excess feed into the stream, prompting improved feeding conditions.
The best suggestion would be to closely monitor stream conditions in the days leading up to the openers and plan accordingly to fish safely and wisely, no matter the outcome. Though the weather leading up to trout season often can be unpredictable, we can still count on an abundance of trout in the water.