Plan a Pennsylvania native brook trout adventure

For many Pennsylvania anglers, trout fishing is limited to hitting stocked trout streams a few times in April and May. The Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission, along with the cooperative nurseries, do a good job of stocking the popular trout streams, but there are other – often lesser-known – streams that hold good to excellent populations of native brook trout.

I like to get away from crowds and fish some of Pennsylvania’s many mountain streams for our naturally reproduced state fish. I have had two such outings so far this year – both in May.

The first was a small Clearfield County stream that I have fished several times in the past. I didn’t do well during my previous visit – the water was low and the trout were small and few.

So why go back?

Native trout populations vary depending on many factors. These include water quality and quantity, the food supply, the availability of spawning gravel and fishing pressure. This little freestone stream has good quality water, spawning gravel, an ample food supply and, from the looks of the stream, little angler use.

For a stream such as this, the biggest limiter of native trout numbers and size is water quantity. Drought hits the trout with a double whammy. Low water levels concentrate the trout in the deeper pools. This makes them easy pickings for predators such as mink, water snakes, kingfishers and herons.

Flowing water is a natural conveyor belt that brings food to the trout. A reduced flow means less food and the concentrated trout compete for the smaller food supply. Therefore, lower flows lead to smaller trout populations and stunted growth – a double whammy.

I only had a short time to fish, so I parked near the stream and walked a little over a half-mile downstream to my starting point. Wood thrushes and ovenbirds were filling the air with their song and wildflowers decorated the stream in the sunnier areas.

The water level and temperature (58 degrees) were perfect and the trout cooperated. I landed 13 colorful native brookies as I fished my way back upstream to my pickup. Even though the season was young, I did not see another boot track. Unlike my previous visit, there seemed to be ample trout, and although most of the trout were small, I landed two 8.5-inch natives and two 10-inch beauties.

Although I was targeting brookies, most native brook trout water also contains at least a few wild brown trout. This is particularly true of the larger brookie streams and smaller flows that feed waters containing mainly naturally-reproduced brown trout. Good examples would be the brookie-bearing tributaries to Penns Creek in Centre County. On this Clearfield County outing, I caught only one 5-inch wild brown trout.

My second native brook trout adventure came on a Clinton County stream that I had never visited before. My brother Frank and I spent the better part of the day exploring this mountain flow last week.

We caught more wild brown trout in this fast-flowing stream, but over 75 percent of the many naturally-reproduced trout that we caught were native brookies. Although I caught no 10-inch brook trout, all of the fish were colorful and several brookies were 8 to 9 inches long.

On our walk out, I photographed bear tracks in the mud. A short time later, we encountered a large bear – what a great way to end an exciting day astream.

Take your own brook trout adventure. Flies, lures or live bait will all successfully tempt native brook trout. Check the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission website’s interactive map to locate a prospective stream.

In my opinion, this is one of the most useful features on the website. You can use the filters to find Class A, Wilderness or Natural Reproduction trout streams. Zero in on the area that you want to fish. Click on a colored stream on the map and more information will appear. This includes stream length, species present, the percent of public land and directions.

That map can be your guide to many pleasurable days astream.

Categories: Blog Content, Pennsylvania – Mark Nale

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