Pennsylvania trout anglers are going to experience that, locally as much as anywhere, in the coming weeks. The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission is stocking trout mid-winter in a number of lakes and river sections for the last time just as its kicking off year-round trout fishing regulations in those same waters for the first time.
The winter stocking program is ending because the commission just doesn't get enough angler use out of what are expensive fish to raise, according to staff in the bureau of fisheries, which proposed the change.
“It provides an activity for guys who like to go out and catch trout,” said Tom Qualters, supervisor in the commission's southwest region office.
“But you can see the other side, too, that if you put the fish out instead at a different time, in spring, when more people are out, and you can give them more fish to fish over, that's better.”
The trade-off is fishermen are getting more time to fish.
Most of the waters losing their winter stocking were part of the early season trout stocked waters program. Under its guidelines, anglers could fish throughout the month of March — after other trout stocked waters had closed — and keep three fish per day.
Fishing on those waters closed for two weeks immediately prior to opening day of the regular trout season.
The majority of the waters in that program are lakes located in Western Pennsylvania: North Park Lake in Allegheny County, Brady's Run and Raccoon lakes in Beaver, Harbar Acres Lake in Butler, Bessemer Lake in Lawrence, Duman Lake and Lake Rowena in Cambria, Dunlap Creek Lake and Virgin Run Dam in Fayette, Laurel Hill Lake in Somerset, Canonsburg Lake in Washington, and Donegal, Keystone, Mammoth, Northmoreland, and Upper and Lower Twin lakes in Westmoreland.
Starting this year, those waters will be open to fishing year-round, without any closures. But all fishing will be catch and release between March 1 and opening day.
“Guys can fish over them, but they can't keep anything,” Qualters said.
At least some state parks are working to make anglers aware of the change. Raccoon Creek State Park in Beaver County sent out notice this week letting anglers know they can fish the main lake at any time, but Traverse Creek — which also gets stocked with trout — will remain closed from March 1 to opening day.
There's one other change anglers will need to remember. It involves the two rivers that had been in the early season program, the Yough and Shenango.
They, too, will be open to trout fishing every day of the year.
“But they're a little different in that anglers will need a trout stamp to fish them any time year-round, whether they're harvesting trout or not, from now on,” said Dan McGuire, a commission waterways conservation officer in Somerset County.
“On the lakes that are open year-round, that won't be the case unless you're going to harvest trout. But the rivers are a little different.”
On the Yough, the section impacted will go from the dam to the mouth of the Casselman River, he said.
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