Anglers ready to fish

The winter of 2012-13 in this area unfolded much like the course of a bad cold – annoying, persistent, and without a quick end in sight.

One of the more unpleasant months of March in recent memory ushered out a winter that, while lacking for record snowfalls, taxed the patience of people like trout fishermen, who spent over four months yearning to get back on the water.

Mark Hoover, 22, of Saxton, who was checking out a line of spinning lures with his fishing buddy Zach Shaw, 22, also of Saxton, earlier this week at Unkel Joe’s Woodshed in the Pleasant Valley Shopping Center, summed up that sense of yearning best.

“It will be nice to roll down the windows of the car again and not freeze,” Hoover said. “I wouldn’t say [this past winter] has been worse than most, but it seems like it’s been longer. There have been winters where we’ve definitely had more snow, but this winter has been more of an annoyance.

“I’m definitely ready for the fishing season,” he added. “I’m just excited to get back out there.”

Hoover and Shaw will be fishing on Raystown Lake when the 2013 trout season opens in this area at 8 a.m. Saturday.

“My father owns a boat, and we might fish out of that eventually, but we’ll probably fish off the shore to begin with before we bother lugging the boat in,” Hoover said.

Winter grudgingly began to release its hold on this area early this week, with the temperatures reaching the mid-70s. Saturday’s temperatures are expected to be much cooler, in the low 50s, for the trout opener.

Shaw, like Hoover, is happy to see the winter end.

“I’m glad it’s over,” Shaw said.

There are two sides to every story, however.

For fishing tackle merchants like Larry Baker, president of Unkel Joe’s Woodshed, a cold winter with freezing temperatures is actually better than the unusually mild winter of 2011-12, when ice-fishing sales dipped.

“Last year, we had a terrible ice-fishing season, but this past winter, ice fishing was good again,” Baker said. “We had better sales this past winter because the ice fishing was real good.”

Baker knows that most fishermen are happy that the winter is over, though.

“Cabin fever is at a fever pitch right now,” he said. “We had some very poor weather in March, and a lot of people are itching to get back out there fishing again.”

Among them is Tyler Gates, 23, of Osterburg, who plans to fish Bob’s Creek near Pavia Saturday. Gates is an avid fly fisherman, and was holding a woolly bugger fly imitation that he plans to use Saturday.

“I tied flies almost every night,” Gates said of how he passed the winter months. “It [the winter weather] really [stunk].”

Gary Carl, 51, of Hollidaysburg, was shopping for a rod and reel at Unkel Joe’s. Carl plans to rejoin the trout-fishing force this Saturday after a 12-year leave from the sport.

“I haven’t touched a rod and reel in a dozen years,” said Carl, who plans to fish with his brother-in-law on Canoe Creek Saturday. “I’ve been out of it for awhile. I’m glad to be back in it.”

With the weather warming up this week, Carl expects elbow-to-elbow crowds for Saturday’s opener.

“Most of us are excited now that the weather is turning around,” he said. “I’m sure [fishing areas] will be packed.”

Matt Rito, 24, of Altoona, fished for trout for the first time last spring. He caught a couple last opening day on Bald Eagle Creek in Centre County, and enjoyed it enough that he’ll be returning there this Saturday.

“This is only my second first day,” Rito said. “I like using lures, but I’ll probably be using power bait and wax worms this Saturday because there will be so many people on the stream. It’ll be great just to get back out in the outdoors again.”