Early-season fishing opportunities do exist

Trout season actually began yesterday morning in 18 counties in the southeastern corner of the state.

This split trout opener has been in effect here in Pennsylvania for several years now. The idea of having two opening days was to take advantage of the milder weather that part of the state usually enjoys in early April and to allow anglers there to get out fishing a bit earlier as well. Of course, the weather hasn’t been all that mild down in the southeast corner so far this year, but I’m sure some folks from our area still traveled to the southeast yesterday just to fish in the early opener there.

Here in our region, the traditional first day of trout season is still almost two weeks away, and all stocked trout waters are closed to all fishing until opening day. But for those anglers who don’t mind practicing catch-and-release, we have plenty of special regulation waters that allow fishing for trout year-round. And because these special waters are managed for catch-and-release fishing, the quality of the fishing there tends to be better as well.

The Little Juniata River in Blair and Huntingdon counties and Spring Creek in Centre County are managed under “Catch and Release All Tackle” regulations. Both of these streams have remarkable populations of wild brown trout and are often rated among the best trout streams in the eastern United States. Although no trout can be kept or killed at any time on these streams, fishing is permitted with any type of tackle using artificial flies and lures and live bait.

The famous Fisherman’s Paradise section of Spring Creek located between State College and Bellefonte is the oldest piece of special regulation water in Pennsylvania and is currently managed as “Catch and Release Fly-fishing Only.” About a mile of Yellow Creek in Bedford County downstream of the village of Loysburg is also under the same regulations. Fishing on either of these sections is restricted to fly tackle and artificial flies only.

A half-mile section of Spruce Creek in Huntingdon County is managed under “Catch and Release” regulations. Both spinning and fly tackle are permitted here, but fishing must be done with artificial lures or flies only. The use or possession of live bait is prohibited.

Three stream sections in our area managed under “Delayed Harvest Artificial Lures Only” regulations. They include a section of the Little Juniata River near Bellwood in Blair County, 1.3 miles Black Moshannon Creek in Centre County and over a mile and a half of Chest Creek near Patton in Cambria County. All fishing must be done with artificial flies or lures, and the use or possession of live bait is prohibited.

Canoe Lake in Blair County and Duman Dam and Lake Rowena in Cambria County are now designated as “Approved Trout Waters Open to Year-Round Fishing.” All three of these waters were stocked last week and are open to fishing from March 1 until the opening day of trout season, although no trout may be kept or killed during this period.

There are many other special regulation trout waters around the state. For the specific locations and regulations pertaining to those waters, be sure to check the “2014 Pennsylvania Fishing Summary” book that comes with your fishing license.

Of course, trout aren’t the only game around when it comes to springtime fishing. Crappies become active soon after the ice disappears from area lakes, and that early bite can be a great time to catch some of the bigger specimens of these tasty panfish. A few sunny days can start warming the water in the shallower bays, which will coax largemouth bass near the shorelines as they go on a feeding spree in preparation for spawning a few weeks from now.

Most years I have already caught some smallmouth bass on the Juniata River by this time, but that hasn’t happened so far this spring. I made a trip to the river back on March 18. The weather was sunny that afternoon, but a stiff, persistent wind kept things chilly.

The water was up some and the color was good, so I was hopeful I would hook a bass or two, at least until I took a water temperature. My confidence waned somewhat when my thermometer read just 39 degrees, and I spent the next two hours fishing tube jigs and a suspending jerkbait without a single strike.

In spite of the bass being no-shows that day, it was satisfying just being on the water, casting and enjoying the sunshine, after the long hiatus of last winter. I know, too, that the water will warm up a little and the smallmouths with it someday soon. And I’ll be back on the river to enjoy some of my favorite springtime fishing.