Trying to find the good in a bad situation

Notes and observations while thoroughly enjoying 11 more days of trout season:

A WISE AND PRUDENT DECISION: The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission thoroughly hit it out of the park with its decision — in conjunction with the Office of the Governor, the Department of Health, and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources — to abruptly move the opening of the 2020 trout season from yesterday at 8 a.m. up to Tuesday, April 7.

With the COVID-19 pandemic raging through the Commonwealth, the wise decision was made to limit the congregation of crowds, particularly in the most traditionally heavily-fished areas on streams, so as to limit the spread of the disease.

The decision was also made to reduce the threat of illegal poaching — which includes fishing before the official start of the season, fishing without a license, or fishing with a prohibited weapon.

Though some short-sighted anglers were upset with the decision, the surprise early start was not only the right thing to do — it was the only thing to do.

Starting the season on schedule would have made the required social distancing of at least six feet — an arm’s length plus the length of a standard fishing rod — between anglers a logistical nightmare on a day in which people customarily get to their favorite fishing spots two or more hours early, and some sit or stand elbow-to-elbow around prime fishing holes.

With nobody being sure about who is carrying the virus, the PFBC’s astute decision saved a ton of headaches.

But much more importantly, it also undoubtedly saved some lives.

SPREADING OUT: In the spirit of eliminating congregation on streams, the PFBC is also urging fishermen not to climb into a fishing spot that is already being occupied.

This is no skin off the back of any reputable sportsman who abhors the idea of lines being crossed, people wading into areas where they should be fishing, and the general disruption that occurs when a large group is huddled anywhere on a stream.

EVERY DAY IS A SATURDAY: Working nights at the Mirror has afforded me the pleasure of heading out to largely vacated trout streams on April and May afternoons when many adults are working and kids are in school.

But, due to the pandemic and the mandated closure of schools and many businesses, more people are out on the streams seven days a week now instead of just on Saturday or Sunday.

The flip side of that, however, is that the pure, unadulterated enjoyment of trout fishing can now be accessed by more people, more often.

And in this chaotic time of great social and personal upheaval, I believe that such a pleasant distraction is a good thing.

GO WITH THE FLOW: All seasoned trout fishermen already know this, but it’s worth pointing out to others who are just starting the pastime and who want to get more production and enjoyment out of it.

Correctly reading a stream and presenting bait naturally generally yields very favorable results. Letting the bait drift with the water’s current toward the head of a riffle, where trout are often waiting, plays into a fish’s natural feeding habits.

It doesn’t take trout long to get acclimated to their surroundings, and unnatural presentation is usually something that many fish will quickly learn to ignore.

Trout require less energy and don’t need to consume as much oxygen to function in turbulence, and, consequently, they can often be found in or near pools on streams.

Here’s hoping that everybody out on the streams can catch and release their limit. And most importantly, stay safe.

John Hartsock can be reached at jhartsock@altoonamirror.com


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