Trout season here in our area, along with most of Pennsylvania, opens at 8 a.m. on April 14, while the special regional opening day for 18 counties in the southeastern part of the state will be March 31.
To prepare for opening day, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission will be stocking almost 3.2 million trout in 736 streams and 121 lakes throughout the state. More than half of those trout will be rainbows, with an estimated 1.8 million of that species scheduled to be released for the 2011 trout season, along with about 840,000 brown trout and 512,000 brook trout. Many waterways will also receive a few of some 8,500 so-called trophy golden rainbows, which are expected to average 1.5 pounds in weight and 14 inches in length.
An additional 730,000 trout will be stocked around the state in waters open to public fishing through the co-op nursery program. This joint venture between local sportsmen's clubs and the Fish and Boat Commission is largely a volunteer effort. The Fish and Boat Commission supplies the club with fingerling trout and technical expertise, and the club supplies the manpower, food and other necessities to raise the fish to adult size. Almost every county in our region has one or more clubs that operate a co-op trout nursery, and they provide thousands of trout for area waters in addition to the regular state allotments. Many of the co-ops supply trout for special youth fishing events throughout the spring.
So far this month in Blair County, Blair Gap Run, Canoe Creek, the Frankstown Branch of the Juniata River and the delayed harvest section of the Little Juniata River near Bellwood have already been stocked. Upcoming preseason stockings in Blair County include Bald Eagle Creek on Wednesday; meeting place is village of Bald Eagle at 9:30 a.m. Poplar Run and South Poplar Run will be stocked on March 19; meeting place is the Newry post office at 10:15 a.m. Clover Creek will be stocked on March 22; meeting place is the Williamsburg post office at 10:15 a.m. Canoe Lake will be stocked on April 7; meeting place is the Canoe Creek State Park office at 10:15 a.m. The final preseason stocking for Blair County will include Bells Gap Run, Riggles Gap Run and Vanscoyoc Run on April 11; meeting place is the Sheetz store off the Bellwood exit of I-99 at 10 a.m.
For complete information on the preseason and in-season stocking schedules for other counties, check the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission website at www.fishandboat.com.
Volunteers are welcome to help carry fish to the streams during any scheduled stocking. Last week, I helped with the socking efforts on Canoe Creek, which is always a lot of fun.
Besides getting outside for a little exercise and to take some pictures, it's always nice to see some of the regular crew of folks who turn out to help with most of the stockings here in the county. The average size of most of the fish I noticed was as very nice. Some of the golden rainbows stocked were positively huge, with a couple of them looking to be more than two feet long and probably weighing at least 6 to 8 pounds. Hooking one of those monsters will certainly make some angler's opening day a memorable one.
Another event I look forward to each March is the annual Landowner/Sportsman Banquet hosted by the Blair County Game, Fish and Forestry Association. This year, the banquet is on Thursday, March 22 at 6 p.m. in the club's main lodge at 301 Riggles Gap Sportsmen Road, Altoona. This traditional roast beef dinner is held each spring as a grass-roots gesture to thank landowners who open their property to hunting and fishing. Following dinner, Mary Jo Casalena, wild turkey biologist for the Pennsylvania Game Commission, will present a special program. Space is limited, however, and tickets are required. Sportsmen can obtain free tickets for a landowner guest.
For more information or to obtain tickets, contact Sharon Merritts at 946-9315.