Fun on Pennsylvania’s trout opener

Even though Pennsylvania regulations allow you to fish year-round on many streams, I still look forward to the opening day of trout season. Although now it should be more appropriately called the opening day of stocked trout season.

Pennsylvania has two opening days, and I live in the area where the season opens on the Saturday closest to April 15. This year it opened on April 14. The season in 18 southeastern counties started two weeks earlier.

At one point in my life I tried to set records on the opening day, but now I enjoy a more laid-back family outing.

My daughter Lindera, her husband John and I arrived at our pre-selected spots around 7 a.m. — to be ready for the 8 a.m. starting time. We were about 50 yards apart. The water was 49 degrees and looked beautiful. For once my hands weren’t freezing as I waited.

Checking up and down stream, I could count about a dozen other anglers in a 500-yard section of stream. I realize that some opening-day anglers encounter many more people, but that level of humanity is not for me. My family’s preferences lead us to areas that are not heavily fished. If you are willing to scout, you could locate a similar spot, too.

I waded into a brush-lined area at the head of a deep pool — the same place that I began the 2017 season. Last year, I caught three rainbow trout with my first five casts. With the good weather and water conditions this year, I was expecting similar action.

However, this year was not last year. I made 10 casts and did not even get a hit. I heard no splashing trout or happy cheers coming from the other anglers around the bend at the heart of the pool. If you are a spinner fisherman, there is no use beating the water to death. I started probing new water while fishing upstream to reconnect with Lindera and John.

I fished through one small pool, then a few pockets. I saw only one medium-sized trout look at my lure. By 8:20, John had one trout and Lindera had two — the largest being a 14-inch rainbow. We have a friendly competition while we fish — nothing cutthroat.

The three of us worked our way upstream. John picked up a heavy 14.25-inch wild brown trout from the head of a small pool and my score stayed at zero. To have a rewarding outing when fishing with others, you have to be able to enjoy their success, too.

It wasn’t until 8:40 that I had my first hit. I set the hook and the rod bowed. Lindera commented that it must be big because my reel’s drag was giving up line. I suspected that my drag was set too loose. Fortunately, it was my daughter who was correct. When I got the trout in closer we could see the size of it. After a brief tussle, I landed the colorful 17-inch wild brown trout that is pictured with this blog. We were all impressed by the bright red spots on the big trout’s adipose fin. He was released after a few quick photos.

The three of us – all fishing different-colored spinners — continued to work our way up stream, catching a variety of stocked and naturally reproduced trout. We covered about 1.5 miles of stream.

While this might seem odd to some of you, we also carry binoculars while we fish and keep track of the birds that we see. This adds enjoyment for us and makes the success of the outing less dependent on the number of trout that we catch. We did set a birding record for the day – 51 species. The prize birding “catch” was a pair of American bitterns that took off from along the stream.

As for how our friendly competition turned out, Lindera caught 25 trout, John ended up with 21 and I caught 22.

I always like to tally the sizes and the species that I catch, particularly the wild fish. It helps me to keep track of the health of this stream. My species breakdown was six wild brown trout, two native brooks, one stocked brown, eight stocked brooks, and five rainbow trout. The biggest native brook trout measured eight-and-a-half inches. Some years the native brook trout count is higher. We saw several golden rainbows, but caught zero.

It was a good day astream. Although I will fish many times between now and April 2019, I will always look forward to the next opening day.

Categories: Blog Content, Pennsylvania – Mark Nale