Pennsylvania trout season off to a cold, slow start – but with high participation
With a single statewide Mentored Youth Trout Day followed by opening day a week later this year, one would expect anglers to be evenly disbursed on Pennsylvania trout waters. Perhaps they chose to stick closer to home, especially with the Easter holiday falling a day after the opener, but the places I fished in Schuylkill and Lebanon Counties saw plenty of anglers turn out to fish.
My 5-year-old fishing buddy started his season during the youth day on Sweet Arrow Lake, in Pine Grove. In an attempt to avoid launch traffic Saturday morning, we put my johnboat in the water Friday evening after work and docked it at my brother’s place overnight. We opted to carry it down the bank to the dock rather than test the trolling motor against the high winds that would’ve made crossing the lake from the boat ramp challenging.
The next morning, the wind laid down a great deal, but it was still chilly. Foster was a trooper, though, fishing from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. We picked up one rainbow on Powerbait and another while trolling with a spinning lure. They didn’t come easy, but it was all the more satisfying when my son finally hooked up. As he landed his fish, folks from the shoreline cheered and clapped for him. We saw some really nice trout caught around us, and a lot of families turning out to enjoy the day.
Temperatures plunged the following Saturday, just in time for the statewide opener. The 25-degrees I woke to didn’t seem to deter many anglers though, as I counted 52 vehicles already parked along a three-mile stretch of Quittapahilla Creek at 6:15 a.m., making me thankful for a day on the boat with my old college roommate, Zach.
We hadn’t fished together for 12 years, so it was a fun morning, despite lousy action at Stoever’s Lake in Lebanon. The fish were stocked the day before, but I saw only one or two anglers limit out, with most success coming from a father and son team anchored not far from our boat. They had the magic touch no one else seemed to master.
Shore anglers were catching a few fish, but we didn’t catch our first trout until I began trolling around 11:15 when most of the 28 boats had given up for the day. I caught a rainbow, then Zach hooked up with another, and he followed with a bonus crappie.
The lull in action was occupied by not one, but two, capsized kayak observations within an hour about 150 yards from our boat. The first angler flipped his kayak and was able to crawl on top of it momentarily before the hull filled with water and completely sank everything but the nose, forcing him to swim to shore. A friend grabbed the nose and eventually towed the sunken craft back to the launch.
Later in the morning, more yelling and splashing occurred in the same vicinity, where a second kayak angler and his craft ended up in the lake. With his kayak sinking nearby, the angler anxiously treaded water (while wearing waders) long enough for a nearby bass boat to quickly pull anchor and come to the rescue. He clenched onto the bow of the boat as the driver motored him to shallow water where he crawled out under his own power.
Thankfully neither angler succumbed to the 52-degree water temps, but it was a scary reminder of the importance of wearing a life jacket, and that when a kayak flips, there’s no guarantee it will stay afloat. Had those men been fishing alone, they would’ve been in big trouble — losing their kayaks, gear and possibly even worse.
I took Sunday off for the Easter holiday, but saw a lot of people fishing on the way to and from church. On Monday morning, with the day off from work, I was back at it, this time trying some wade fishing along the Quittie.
I struck out at my first three locations, but each time I seemed to be getting closer to the action. At the first stop, I saw no fish and got zero hits. At the second place, I saw a few fish and got zero hits. At the third spot, I saw more fish and got zero hits. All fish seemed super pressured and not interested in anything I was throwing — perhaps having something to do with all the other anglers I found at every single location.
Almost deciding to pack it in for the day, I abruptly opted to make a fourth and final stop before heading home. Again, people were already fishing here, but I found an open spot to squeeze in and make a few casts. While probing the water, I observed a teenage boy land a nice golden rainbow downstream. Then, a teenage girl caught a rainbow upstream. “Looking pretty good,” I thought.
Finally, I remembered what it was like to feel a nibble, and I subsequently landed three nice trout — all on nightcrawlers. I actually decided to keep these fish, and it’s probably good that I did. Upon cleaning them, I found other anglers’ hooks in all three of their mouths — some “guzzled.”
So, I had to work hard to nab a few trout these first few days, but at least I didn’t get skunked. It was a cold, slow start to the season – but participation was high. That makes the fishing more difficult, but it’s still good to see so many showing an interest in the sport.