Pennsylvania’s wild trout resource is astounding
I slowly eased into the cool water and made my first cast of the morning. A smile broke across my face when my glittering lure was intercepted by a chunky brown trout over a foot long. I attempted to set the hook and came up empty. Four more casts – four more misses – and my expression was beginning to change to one of frustration.
What was I doing wrong? The trout were certainly here, so it was not their fault. I checked my lure — shaft straight, hooks sharp and in the proper alignment, blade spinning freely. My spinner appeared to be in perfect working order.
I made yet another cast into the long pool and this time was able to land a smallish 8-inch wild brown trout. That fish was quickly followed by four more measuring from 9.5 to 14.5 inches. All of the trout had perfect fins, bright red spots and beautiful coloration. The largest trout had golden flanks and was just stunning.
Here I was, on a wild trout stream section that I had never fished before. The buttercups were in full bloom and honeysuckles were filling the air with their sweet perfume. Birds were singing and I had closeup visits from curious Canada warblers, scarlet tanagers and American redstarts, as I fished slowly up the small Centre County wild trout stream.
I had selected a cloudy morning, following a relatively warm night. I find that those conditions are best in the spring. The flow was good and my stream thermometer registered 51 degrees.
It might be difficult for some to believe, but I had five — my limit — of legal-sized naturally-reproduced brown trout, plus several smaller trout, all caught in less than a half hour. All of the trout were carefully released, and I kept fishing for another two and a half hours — covering a little over a mile of stream. I saw no other anglers, so the coronavirus was far from my mind.
This small stream is one of many that anglers drive past on their way to fish stocked trout waters. In fact, this stream is a tributary to a stocked trout stream. Me, I favor those smaller, less-fished waters, and I often find that they are full of cooperative wild trout.
Spring Creek, the Little Juniata River, Penns Creek, and Bald Eagle Creek (from Milesburg downstream to Bald Eagle State Park) are the well known wild trout streams in my area. However, Pennsylvania is just full of smaller, lesser known — and often rarely fished — wild trout waters.
You don’t need to be a biologist to locate these streams or spend a lot of time through trial and error. If you visit the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission’s website (www.fishandboat.com) — on the top right click on “Locate,” and from the pulldown menu, select “Trout Streams.” A map of the state will pop up and you can zoom in on areas that you might want to investigate. Then you can check the filters, or “layers,” as they call them, to select stream classifications.
Class A Trout Streams have the most wild trout and show up as green lines. Centre County, my county, has well over 30 Class A streams.
Natural Reproduction Trout Streams (these are the lower-biomass wild trout streams) show up as blue. If you check that layer you will see that the map has blue lines from one end of the state to the other.
Wilderness Trout Streams are also Class A or Natural Reproduction, but if you check that box they show up in purple. Wilderness Trout Streams are often more difficult to access and provide an away-from-the road fishing experience. Centre County has fewer than 10 Wilderness streams and most are in the northern third of the county. However, northcenteral Pennsylvania has dozens of streams in this category.
The interactive map is also nice because it shows which streams are on public property, such as Little Fishing Creek, which is mostly in the Bald Eagle State Forest; Tomtit Run on State Game Land 33; or Benner Run in the Moshannon State Forest. By knowing where the public land is, you know ahead of time that you will not run into a wall of no trespassing signs or purple-painted tree trunks when you arrive at the new stream. If you click on the stream itself, more information pops up, such as the type of trout, stream length, or the percent of the stream in public ownership.
The stream that I fished last week was a blue line (not Class A), and I was actually heading to another stream, but this one looked good, so I stopped. It was time well spent and I had fantastic action for the entire three hours.
This was the seventh wild trout stream that I have fished so far this spring and I caught trout during each outing — sometimes many trout. Naturally reproduced trout in some streams tend to run small, but I have caught one 16-incher and a good number of wild fish over 12 inches. On the outing described at the beginning of the column, over half of my trout measured 7 inches or longer.
I will visit other “blue lines” during the next few weeks. Look at the Fish and Boat Commission map and you will see that there are plenty to choose from. If you only looked at Centre and the surrounding counties, you could visit one different Natural Reproduction trout stream a day and not cover them all before Christmas. The entire state offers a lifetime of wild trout angling. Pennsylvania is blessed with a wealth of wild trout water.