trout fishing

An angler fishes for trout on a mountain stream in Centre County. More anglers were licensed in Pennsylvania last year than in the past two decades.

As the weather gets warmer, the call to hit the water with rod and reel gets stronger.

Trout season is in full swing across Pennsylvania. Streams and lakes are still being stocked, and the wild trout are attacking insect hatches like sharks circling a fresh kill.

According to various internet message boards and social media groups, the bass fishing is taking off – especially on the Susquehanna River.

Like many other outdoor activities, fishing in Pennsylvania saw a significant spike in 2020. It’s something you can do outdoors, close to home and away from other people, so it’s a natural pandemic-era pastime that anyone can pick up.

Pennsylvania fishing license sales had been on a slow, steady decline since a record 1.16 million fishing licenses of all types were sold here in 1990.

That same year saw a record 1.02 million state residents buy fishing licenses – the only time in history Pennsylvania has licensed more than 1 million anglers.

The total number of Pennsylvania fishing licenses sold in 2020 was 934,239 – a 20-percent increase over 2019, and the most the state has sold since 2001.

That license total includes the sale of 766,771 resident licenses, which was up over 100,000 from 2019, and was the most Pennsylvania has sold since 2004.

In terms of revenue for the state Fish and Boat Commission, 2020 license sales hauled in $22.6 million. That’s up from $18.8 million generated a year earlier, and is the highest single-year sales figure ever achieved in this state.

Anglers can buy licenses anywhere in the state, so license sales registered by county by the Fish and Boat Commission do not necessarily equate to the number of licensed anglers who live in a given county. But it gives some metric of fishing popularity on a county-by-county basis.

In 2020, 19,894 fishing licenses were sold in Lancaster County. That’s the fourth highest county total in Pennsylvania.

Tops was Allegheny County, where 36,924 licenses were sold, followed by York, with 23,654 and Erie, with 23,231.

Lancaster County’s 2020 sales were down from the 22,423 sold here in 2019.

Pennsylvania’s bump in licensed anglers certainly followed a national trend for 2020.

The Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation reported 3.1 million people tried fishing for the first time in 2020.

Those anglers were part of a wave of angling interest that pushed U.S. fishing license sales up 10.2 percent over 2019 to more than 50 million.

FISH FOR FREE

If you haven’t ever fished, or you haven’t fished in a long time, and you want to give it a try, you can do so on Memorial Day weekend for free.

Pennsylvania’s first fish-for-free day of 2021 in scheduled for Sunday, May 30. The second is Sunday, July 4.

On these days, anyone can legally fish on Pennsylvania waters without a fishing license. That license-free requirement includes the trout stamp. You don’t need one.

All other fishing regulations apply as far as creel limits, special tackle requirements on designated waters, bait restrictions, etc.

So why not give fishing a try this year and see why a record number of people are into it these days?

BIG FISH HOOKED

The Fish and Boat Commission every year runs its Angler Awards program, which recognizes the biggest fish caught across Pennsylvania in a given year.

In 2020, some monster fish were hauled in by anglers, including a few that involved Lancaster County residents or waters.

The biggest fish caught on local waters by a Lancaster County resident was the 40-pound, 4-ounce flathead catfish caught on the Susquehanna River June 20, 2020, by Scott Failor II of Lancaster.

Failor was using a shad when he hooked into the giant flathead that was the biggest catfish of that species reported last year.

Art Erdman Jr. of Leola caught the fourth-largest flathead of the year on August 6, also while fishing the Susquehanna River. His catfish weighed 38 pounds, 3 ounces.

Curtis Silk Jr of Wrightsville caught the fifth-largest brook trout reported in 2020. Silk caught the trout on a Berkley worm, while fishing Yellow Breeches Creek on Feb. 26.

The trout was 18 inches long and weighed 3 pounds, 2 ounces.

Dylan Evans of Ephrata caught the third-largest bluegill in 2020, while fishing with worms at Quarryville Park pond. The big panfish weighed 15 ounces.

Just a few miles east of the eastern Lancaster County border in French Creek State Park, Todd Capetola of Pottstown caught the biggest chain pickerel of 2020 while fishing Scotts Run Lake.

The big pickerel was 24 inches long and weighed 7 pounds, 3 ounces.

Just north of Lancaster County, the biggest rainbow trout of the year was caught by Brian Evans of Lebanon on Lakeside Quarry near Myerstown.

Evans’ trout measured 27 inches long and weighed 12 pounds.

Some other notable fish caught in 2020 are as follows:

The biggest largemouth bass weighed 8 pounds and was caught on Bessemer Lake.

The biggest smallmouth bass reported weighed 6 pounds, 9 ounces, and was caught on Lake Erie.

The biggest muskie measured 53.5 inches long and weighed 40 pounds, 14 ounces. It was caught on Tionesta Lake.

The biggest golden rainbow trout measured 27 inches long and weighed 10 pounds. It was caught on Yellow Breeches Creek.

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