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Offers for preseason trout fishing are out there

Commentary

As we enter the final week of February, it’s almost safe to think that winter should be making a quiet exit relatively soon.

That cautious optimism is based somewhat on the exceptionally mild winter we have experienced so far.

A few of the unseasonably nice days last month and this month offered the opportunity to do some most welcome wintertime trout fishing. And the weather forecast for next week looks favorable for another trip or two.

The extended trout season on stocked trout waters runs until this Saturday, Feb. 29, with a daily limit of three trout. On March 1, all stocked trout waters are closed to all fishing until the opening day of trout season, which is April 18 in our region this year. After that date, many trout waters around the state that are managed under special regulations offer preseason trout fishing options for early-bird anglers on a catch-and-release basis.

A complete statewide listing of all special regulation areas and the specific rules for each one can be found in the “2020 Pennsylvania Fishing Summary” book that comes with the purchase of your fishing license. This information can also be viewed online at the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission website, fishandboat.com. We are fortunate to have numerous special-regulation areas here in our region. I’ll highlight a few of the most popular of them.

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 year-round with any type of tackle using artificial flies and lures and live bait. 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.

Canoe Creek Lake in Blair County and Koon Lake in Bedford County are designated as “Stocked Trout Waters Open to Year-Round Fishing.” Also in this program is 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 and new this year the section from the confluence with Anderson Creek to the SR 2024 crossing at Porters Bridge. 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 from March 1 until the opening day of trout season on April 18.

Four 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 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.

The DHALO area of Sandy Lick Creek is scheduled to be stocked on March 2; stocking on the DHALO area of Little Clearfield Creek is scheduled for March 24; the DHALO area of Chest Creek is scheduled to be stocked on March 26; and the DHALO area of black Moshannon Creek is scheduled to be stocked on March 27.

Because 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 when fishing during the preseason. Information on the boundaries of DHALO areas can 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.

These and the many other special regulation areas throughout the state will allow anglers to fish for trout between now and opening day regardless of whether they fish with flies, lures or bait. So if you are looking to say good-bye to Old Man Winter as soon as possible, think about getting your fishing license, dusting off your tackle and heading to a favorite stream.

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