Special regulation waters provide preseason trout fishing scenarios

If some of that grand weather we had during the last half of February didn’t help shake off the winter blues and provoke the urge to get outside and do any number of things, I’m not sure what could.

I certainly took advantage those balmy days to hit the water and fish for both bass and trout. I don’t recall ever catching a river smallmouth bass in February before, but in several trips to the Juniata River, I landed more than 40 hard-fighting smallmouths from 12 to 18 inches long on soft-plastic tube jigs.

While most streams and lakes that are stocked with trout are now closed to all fishing until the opening day of trout season, there are many special regulation trout waters around the state that offer year-round catch-and-release fishing opportunities for trout.

For the specific locations and regulations pertaining to those waters, check the “2017 Pennsylvania Fishing Summary” book that comes with your fishing license or the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission website, fishandboat.com, for locations and the specific regulations in place for the various special regulation areas. Here is a rundown on some of the more popular special-regulation areas in our region.

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 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.

Canoe Creek Lake in Blair County and Koon Lake in Bedford County are designated as “Stocked Trout Waters Open to Year-Round Fishing.” A section of the West Branch of the Susquehanna River in Clearfield County from the SR 2001 bridge near Hyde to the first railroad bridge downstream of Moose Creek is also in this program. Fishing in these waters is permitted year-round with any type of tackle using artificial flies and lures and live bait, but no trout may be kept or killed until the opening day of trout season on April 15. Of note to area anglers, Duman Lake and Lake Rowena in Cambria County had been in this program in previous years but have been removed from the program for 2017 and are closed to fishing until opening day.

Five stream sections in our area are managed under “Delayed Harvest Artificial Lures Only” regulations. On these projects, all fishing must be done with artificial flies or lures, and the use or possession of live bait is prohibited. They include a section of the Little Juniata River near Bellwood in Blair County; 1.3 miles of Black Moshannon Creek in Centre County; 1.1 miles of Little Clearfield Creek and 1.7 miles of Sandy Lick Creek in Clearfield County; and over a mile and a half of Chest Creek near Patton in Cambria County.

The Delayed Harvest section of Chest Creek has also been added to the Keystone Select Trout Waters program and will receive a special allotment of larger trout, measuring from 14 to 20 inches, during the preseason and in-season stockings there.

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.

Fly anglers in our area have a couple of more options for early-season fishing. 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.

Special presentation

For those interested in fly-fishing, I will be giving a special presentation on fly-fishing and fly-tying for trout at the regular monthly meeting of the John Kennedy Chapter of Trout Unlimited on Tuesday, March 7 at 7 p.m. at the Allegheny Township Municipal Building at 1400 Colonial Drive in Duncansville.

I will be showcasing some of my favorite fly patterns for trout here in our region, along with tips on how to tie and fish them. The program is free and open to the public. For more information, call 309-3474.

Appreciation banquet

Another worthwhile event I look forward to each spring is the annual Landowner/Sportsman Banquet at the Blair County Game, Fish and Forestry Association.

The banquet is Thursday, March 16 at 6 p.m. in the club’s main lodge at 301 Riggles Gap Sportsmen Road, Altoona. The club hosts this family-style roast beef dinner each spring as a grassroots gesture to thank landowners who open their property to hunting and fishing.

Following dinner, representatives of the Pennsylvania Game Commission will present a special program. Space is limited, however, and reservations are required. Tickets are $10, and sportsmen can obtain free tickets for a guest landowner. For more information or reservations, contact the lodge at 814-942-8522.