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Pennsylvania's Opening Day of Trout

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Mark the item that best describes your PA trout experience:

I prefer the original, 1 opening day occurring in April.

I prefer the newer, 2 opening days occurring in March and April.

I have no preference.

I avoid fishing opening day.

I'm not from the area and I don't routinely fish Pennsylvania.

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..........................      .........

......           ..RESULTS?  Complete the survey and see what others are saying.

Pennsylvania's Opening Day of Trout:

The words "opening day of trout" evoke many responses from anglers.  Kids shriek with excitement, while others debate the crowds.

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Pennsylvania's opening day of trout has been around since 1950.  Until recently (2007) opening day of trout occurred once a year.  Then in a break from tradition, the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission (PFBC) opted for two openers.  2008 marked the second year of two openers with March 29 beginning the first opener and included Adams, Berks, Bucks, Chester, Cumberland, Dauphin, Delaware, Franklin, Juniata, Lancaster, Lebanon, Lehigh, Montgomery, Northampton, Perry, Philadelphia, Schuylkill and York counties.  The second (traditional) opener for the rest of the state occurred April 12.

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Two separate opening days?

There are many reasons for two openers, but the PFBC made their decision based on air temperatures provided by the the National Weather Service.  The PFBC determined that spring arrives significantly sooner in the southeastern portion of the state.  As such, the state decided to have two openers.  Oddly enough, in some regard, I see this as paralleling the USDA's plant hardiness zones for PA.  Benefits do exist.  With two openers, there's potential for more money to be made.  State angling commerce begins two weeks sooner, and there's additional potential commerce from anglers traveling to fish both openers, read more here.   Also, it's suggested that by having an earlier opener, trout can be stocked closer to opening day, thus reducing poaching numbers.  Additionally, there's a possibility that an earlier opener improves survivorship of released fish.

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On to the practical stuff:

Now with a second year of dual openers under our belts, how do anglers feel?  One Patriot-News reader writes "I would like to thank the Pennsylvania Game Commission for moving trout season ahead by two weeks.  For the last two years it has been that cold that my fishing line has frozen in the eyelets."

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My own account of fishing Clarks Creek during opening day included witnessing several anglers leaving the stream early and warming up in their cars.  I don't believe these anglers caught their limits, as I saw very few fish caught or on stringers.  Marcus Schneck's article, Trout, anglers find 1st day slow-going, reported similar results quoting Glenn Kneasel of Jonestown, "I'm going to go warm up, maybe take a ride, see if anyone else is catching anything.  I'll wait 'til it warms up.  I don't need this."  Mr. Schneck also wrote that the low temperatures "seemed to affect the trout."  Luke Young of Schuylkill commented, "It seems like they're a little slow this morning."

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Low temperatures may not have been the only contributing factor to a slow opening day.  Fewer stocked trout may also be to blame.  By my account, it appeared fewer trout were stocked in Clarks Creek than in past years.  Over the past month, I've heard similar tales from other anglers - less fish being stocked.  This is further supported by press releases from the PFBC, read more here.  Beginning in 2007 (same as the start of the dual opener), 800,000 less trout were stocked than the previous year.  PFBC is opting for larger fish (~30%) versus more fish.

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Another item of interest is that the number of fish stocked per stream is no longer published.  PFBC has moved in this direction to prevent confusion over numbers and also so anglers don't "jump to incorrect conclusions", as stated by the PFBC.  PFBC bases their stocking on a "complex formula" that ensures that all waters across the Commonwealth are stocked in a similar fashion, read more here.  In my younger years, the stocking numbers provided interesting reading, a little strategic planning for picking fishing locations, and a sense that streams were being stocked.  Somehow,  without numbers, it seems a bit uninteresting.

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The following table is from PFBC's site.  While many anglers practice catch and release, I thought this table warranted inclusion to show the evolution of the daily trout creel limit.

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Daily Creel Limit For Trout

          Year

    Limit

         1925

      25

         1933

      20

         1937

      15

         1938

      10

         1952

       8

         2000

       5

Table provided by PFBC

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Bottom-line:

The new opener occurs two weeks sooner.  Fewer fish are stocked, but the average size is larger.  The sooner start date may increase survival rates of released fish and may increase state revenue.  The earlier start may result in fewer fishermen due to colder temperatures.

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References:

Angler Use, Harvest and Economic Assessment on Trout Stocked Streams in

    Pennsylvania by R. Greene, R. Weber, R. Carline, D. Diefenbach and M. Shields

   retrieved: May 6, 2008.

Fishing: Trout season arrives early in eastern Pennsylvania, by John Hayes, Pittsburgh

   Post-Gazette, retrieved: May 4, 2008

New-Look Trout Stocking Schedule Now Available, February 16, 2006 Press Release

   by PFBC, retrieved: May 6, 2008

PA State Fish Hatcheries: Engines for Rural Economic Development by PFBC, retrieved:

   May 6, 2008.

Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission Chronology by PFBC, retrieved: May 4, 2008

Pennsylvania Trout Anglers Big on Recycling, August 31, 2006 Press Release by

   PFBC, retrieved: May 6, 2008

Q & A by the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission, retrieved: May 4, 2008.

Trout, anglers find 1st day slow-going, by Marcus Schneck, The Patriot-News, March

    30, 2008

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