PFBC cancels Southeast Regional trout season amid COVID-19 outbreak
Pennsylvania trout anglers who’ve grown accustomed to two opening days in recent years will experience a return to the way things used to be, as the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission recently announced it is cancelling the Southeast Trout Season and Mentored Youth Fishing Day amid concerns of the COVID-19 virus.
Instead, trout season will begin statewide on April 18, with only one Mentored Youth Trout Day being held on April 11. The season dates will apply to all counties in Pennsylvania, including the 18 southeastern counties that typically got a two-week head start on the season.
While this may come as a disappointment to anglers who wouldn’t mind “social distancing” in the great outdoors, the decision falls in line with schools, sports leagues and public services that have done the same in an effort to slow the spread of the virus throughout the commonwealth.
“Thank you to the anglers and boaters of Pennsylvania for their understanding as we all experience these changes together,” said Tim Schaeffer, agency executive director. “While our calendars may start to look a little different, one thing we can count on is that there will be a trout season and there will still be plenty of fish out there to enjoy. Working under unprecedented circumstances, our staff is committed to providing the quality fishing experience that we all expect.”
The Fish & Boat Commission also announced a number of changes to its trout stocking plans. For starters, public volunteers are no longer permitted to assist with trout stocking, a longtime tradition for many families across the state.
“We realize that many of our stocking volunteers look forward to helping us, but we must take these necessary precautions to ensure public safety during this vital period,” Schaeffer said. “Just as we’ve counted on our volunteers for decades to help us stock trout, we’re counting on them now to play it safe and stay home. We appreciate their service throughout the years, and we hope that we can invite them back to join us again very soon.”
To accommodate for a lack of manpower, the commission will modify its stocking methods this year and agency staff are being reassigned to ensure all streams and lakes are stocked in a timely manner.
In some cases, pre-season and in-season allocations of trout will be combined into single stocking events to increase the efficiency of stocking trips. Initially, stockings will be prioritized to deliver trout to regions of the commonwealth that are predicted to be affected most severely by COVID-19 that could result in restrictions on travel.
Moving forward this season, trout stockings will be announced upon their completion, rather than in advance on the FishBoatPA mobile app and the Fish & Boat Commission website (www.fishandboat.com). The change in stocking procedures will not result in any reduction in the approximately 3.2 million trout scheduled to be stocked statewide in 2020, and stocking will occur seven days a week until further notice.
“This change in our stocking approach is necessary to fulfill a critical mission of our agency and our obligation to anglers,” added Rick Kauffman, the commission’s District 6 commissioner. “We’re trying to get as many fish in the water as possible as quickly as possible while we still have the best access to waterways and available staff. While our methods may be different this season, people will have the same opportunity to get outdoors and fish, which has proven benefits to our physical and mental health.”
Lastly, to reduce unnecessary travel and social contact amid health concerns, anglers and boaters will be able to display their fishing license, launch permit, or boat registration renewal digitally on a phone or other mobile device as proof of possession.
This change will allow customers who may be unable to, or feel uncomfortable visiting a store to purchase a fishing license, launch permit, or boat registration renewal to make the purchase using the FishBoatPA app or computer through The Outdoor Shop (www.pa.wildlifelicense.com) and not have to possess a printed copy of the document.
If approached by a waterways conservation officer in the field, the angler or boater would only have to produce the digital image of the license, permit or registration on their phone or mobile device. A digital copy, photo or screenshot of your fishing license, launch permit or boat registration on your phone or mobile device will all be accepted as proof of possession.
These changes, made by the commission under direction of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the Pennsylvania Department of Health, are intended to reduce large gatherings of people and the number of anglers traveling into the regional area (18 southeastern counties), which is already heavily affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.