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Crowds decent but catches slightly off on first day of trout season

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Opening day of trout season generated mixed reviews in one way and offered evidence that understanding of a couple of new rules still has a ways to go.

This year, for the first time, anglers were allowed to fish right up to opening day on trout-stocked waters designated as open to year-round fishing. The catch was that anglers could not keep fish before Saturday.

In years past, trout season closed April 1. There was no fishing allowed until 8 a.m. of the opener.

Not everyone seemed to understand that things had changed.

“Those traditions must run deep because we had people, who could have been fishing if not keeping anything, not casting a line into our year-round lakes before 8 a.m.,” said waterways conservation officer Mike Walsh in Allegheny County.

That was observed at North Park Lake in Allegheny County, Bradys Run Lake in Beaver and Duman and Rowena lakes in Cambria, for instance.

Those who were aware of the rule change allowing fishing prior to opening day were mixed as to whether they liked it.

Don Ringling of Greensburg, fishing at Lower Twin Lake, said he feared the slow catch rate was due in part to the fact that some of the trout hooked and released in the days before the opener probably didn't survive. Waterways conservation officers Scott Opfer in Fayette County and Al Colian in Cambria said they heard similar concerns voiced by fishermen in their districts.

Conservation officers Walsh and Pat Ferko in Somerset County said anglers in their districts seemed OK with the new regulation.

In the meantime, officers again encountered anglers seemingly unaware that the rules now say everyone, regardless of age, fishing from any canoe or kayak and all other boats shorter than 16 feet in length must wear a lifejacket between Nov. 1 and April 30. Officers encountered numerous fishermen in violation of the law, and citations and warnings resulted, officers said.

­— Bob Frye

Sunday, April 14, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Landon Fox was doing well, if not quite as well as last year.

Fishing the kids-only section of Traverse Creek in Raccoon Creek State Park on opening day of trout season last year, he almost couldn't help but catch fish, he said. He caught and released dozens.

“We just used everything we had and the fish just bit on everything we had,” said the second-grader from Hopewell.

Saturday, fishing the stream again on what was 2013's opening day of trout season locally, he had three nice looking rainbow trout on a stringer by 10:30 or so. But they were the only fish he'd caught to that point.

Around him, other children had caught a few fish, if no limits either.

“Daddy, does this one have teeth?” 4-year-old Anthony Hage asked his father, Brian, holding up the one rainbow trout he'd caught on what was his second opening day.

“We had a pretty good morning, but it's a little bit cold, so we're taking a break,” Brian, of Hookstown, said as they walked to the car.

That chilly weather, coupled with heavy rains in the last couple of days prior to the opener, impacted the fishing around the region, though to varying degrees.

Anglers were doing very well on Deer Creek, said Mike Walsh, a waterways conservation officer in Allegheny County for the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.

“I personally saw one guy catch and release 10 fish while we were checking anglers,” Walsh said.

But things were spottier on Buffalo Creek.

“It was running pretty high and fast. We didn't see or even hear of anyone catching any fish there,” said Bill Scott of Kittanning, who fished the stream for a few hours early in the day with his wife, Barb.

They eventually moved to Northmoreland Lake but weren't having any luck there.

Plum Creek was likewise too fast and muddy to produce much good fishing, added Jim Linsenbigler of Apollo, who abandoned that stream to try Northmoreland Lake with his sons, Sam and Jimmy.

Crowds were good, if perhaps just slightly below average, in other spots. North Park Lake was ringed with lots of fishermen, Walsh said. But at Keystone State Park and Donegal lakes, despite the presence of numerous boats, “pressure-wise, I would say things were down,” added Amil Zuzik, a deputy waterways conservation officer in Westmoreland County.

Lower Twin Lake had a good number of fishermen, but the trout weren't cooperating to a large degree. Catches were spotty.

Greg Thompson and Kenny Potoka of Ruffs Dale had been at the lake since 6:30 a.m., but by 1 p.m. had just one trout between them.

“Kenny got that one first thing, at 8 o'clock. He threw out and bam, he got it. But we haven't had even a hit since,” Thompson said.

In Armstrong County, the number of anglers “was below average for opening day because of the stream conditions,” said Bruce Gundlach, the commission's conservation officer there.

“Some of the larger streams, such as South Fork of Pine, Cowanshannock and Buffalo, were all running high and muddy with very few trout being caught,” he said. “The smaller streams, though still high, produced more fish. One young angler caught and released 17 brook trout in Cornplanter Run.”

Still, anglers seemed in a good mood for the most part.

Harold Roch of Georgetown was fishing Traverse Creek with his son, Matt, and they'd caught one trout. They'd only seen four caught between 11 anglers in the first few hours of the day.

“So it wasn't the best first morning we've ever had,” Harold Roach said. “But we'll keep at it.”

Albert Talerico of Crafton was fishing the kids-only section of Traverse Creek with his 6-year-old daughter Grace. Last year there, she'd caught two “trout fish,” she said.

They hadn't caught any fish in the first few hours Saturday, but they were planning to stick it out, too.

“She loves her fishing,” Talerico said.

Landon Fox does as well, so his dad was preparing to be on the water for the duration Saturday.

“We'll fish until he gets bored, so we'll probably be here all day,” he said with a smile. “But that's OK. I get a kick out of watching these little kids pull fish in.”

Bob Frye is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @bobfryeoutdoors.

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