All-tackle Keystone Select stream section new in Pennsylvania
Centre County has a new and unique special regulation water located on Bald Eagle Creek, north of Port Matilda. The best access to the stream is through Soaring Eagle Wetland, at 6543 South Eagle Valley Road, Julian.
At their October 2020 meeting, the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commissioners unanimously approved the passage of an experimental special regulation for this .86-mile section of Bald Eagle Creek, which is mostly on the Wildlife for Everyone property.
This “Miscellaneous Special Regulation,” as it was officially designated, is designed to enhance stocked trout management. The regulations here are almost identical to current Keystone Select Stocked Trout regulations. However, all terminal tackle types (bait, lures and flies) are permitted. Only flies and lures are allowed in all other Keystone Select areas. It is the only such water that allows the use of bait.
Prior to the last round of stream-section-additions to the Keystone Select program, the main angler complaint about this otherwise popular program was that bait anglers were not permitted to fish in those stream sections. This was discovered when the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen and Conservationists surveyed member clubs located near the stream sections to be added. By creating this new “exception” on Bald Eagle Creek, the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission has now moved in the correct direction — opening the water to all anglers.
The attraction in this special regulation stream section, or any Keystone Select, is big trout. Under the Keystone Select program, large trout — 14 to 20 inches in length — are stocked at a rate of up to 250 trout per mile. The regulation is designed to provide for harvesting trout under a reduced creel limit when stream conditions are less favorable for trout survival due to typically decreased summer flow and elevated water temperatures. Apart from that, anglers will be permitted to fish for stocked trout for an extended period of catch-and-release angling with all tackle types. Then, as stream conditions become less favorable for trout survival, harvest will be permitted under a reduced creel limit.
Stocking day on the Wildlife for Everyone property occurred March 13. Several dozen people were on hand to watch over 200 large trout and many more smaller rainbow, golden rainbow and brown trout being stocked in this section of Bald Eagle Creek. About a dozen anglers stuck around to try their luck on the newly stocked fish. The stream section is scheduled to be stocked again on April 19.
This is the first Keystone Select water in central Pennsylvania and the only one in the entire state to allow the use of bait. Permitting the use of bait gives agency staff an opportunity to compare angler opinions, usage, catch, and preferences to those at other Keystone Select streams that are managed with traditional artificial-lures-only restrictions.
Based on current use, local anglers seem to be happy with the new special regulation water on Bald Eagle Creek — and the big trout. Fishing pressure on some days has been high, with a full parking lot (15-20 vehicles) observed on March 22.
“I want to thank the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission for taking a step in the right direction with this new special regulation water,” said Mark Jackson, of Warriors Mark. “This all-inclusive water allows everyone, with their tackle method of choice, to fish in this new special regulation area and enjoy catch-and-release, delayed-harvest trout fishing at its best. When completed, the new boardwalk and fishing platform at the Soaring Eagle Wetland will allow the inclusion of even more anglers.”
Unfortunately, some fly anglers have grumbled about the all-tackle regulation. I guess that they would rather have the water for themselves, but their usual accusations (litter and trout hooking mortality) don’t seem to hold water. I live near this new Keystone Select section of the Bald Eagle Creek and I have visited it several times — most recently on March 25. I am happy to report that I encountered absolutely no litter of any kind and I saw no dead trout in the water. All anglers using the water seemed to be happy to enjoy the “Keystone Select” experience. I hope that the Fish & Boat Commission takes note.