Special waters provide preseason trout fishing

Right now, I’m suffering from one of the longest bouts of fishing withdrawal I’ve experienced in many years.

By the middle of March most years, I have typically made several outings for trout or bass or both. But some lousy weather, high water, a bout with the flu and schedule conflicts, I haven’t had a rod in my hand since the first week of December. And talking with many fellow anglers recently, I know I’m not the only one ready to get back on the water.

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. Check the “2018 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:

n 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.

n Although no trout can be kept or killed at any time on these streams, fishing is permitted year-round with any type of tackle using artificial flies and lures and live bait. New for this year, a section of the West Branch of the Susquehanna River from the outflow of the AMD treatment plant near Watkins downstream to confluence of Cush Creek near Dowler Junction will be included in the “Catch and Release All Tackle” program.

n A half-mile section of Spruce Creek in Huntingdon County is managed under “Catch and Release Artificial Lures Only” regulations. This is also a wild brown trout fishery. 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.

n 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 14.

Five stream sections in our area are managed under “Delayed Harvest Artificial Lures Only” (DHALO) 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 is also included in 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.

Several of the DHALO sections in our area have already been stocked this month, and most of the others will be stocked in the next week or two. That means plenty of fish for trout anglers looking to jumpstart their season. Most DHALO areas are located on stocked trout streams that are closed to all fishing until the opening day of trout season, so be sure to stay within the boundaries of the special regulation area. Information on the stocking schedules and boundaries of DHALO areas con be found on the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission website.

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.

So whether you pursue trout with flies, lures or bait, a multitude of special regulation areas will allow you to scratch the fishing itch right now, or at least as soon as the weather and water conditions permit. All those opportunities are catch-and-release, of course, so, if bringing home some dead trout is part of your game plan, you’ll have to wait another five weeks.

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