trout fishing

An angler wades for trout in a Pennsylvania stream.

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission this fall voted to do away with two separate trout season openers in the state.

Starting this year, trout season will open statewide on the first Saturday in April.

That’s April 2, 2022.

Since the Mentored Youth Trout Day is always a week before the statewide opener, that day will be March 26, 2022.

According to the agency’s board of commissioners, surveys conducted the past couple years show anglers prefer having a single opening day, rather than two.

"Thank you to the anglers of Pennsylvania for making their voices heard about trout season and being a partner in this decision," said Richard Kauffman, president of the Fish and Boat Commission’s board. 

"While necessary changes to the last two seasons because of the pandemic were inconvenient for many people, we used the unprecedented opportunity to ask a lot of questions about how we've been doing things for the last fifteen years. 

“Through a wealth of public input, including angler surveys presenting opening day options, it became clear that our agency and most Pennsylvania anglers value and prefer a single opening day of trout season moving forward."

In selecting the first Saturday in April as the permanent date for the statewide opening of trout season, the agency considered several factors such as weather, water temperature, stocking and enforcement logistics, and social impacts.

For many years, Pennsylvania opened trout season statewide on the same day – the first Saturday after April 11.

In 2007, the Fish and Boat Commission split the state to account for warmer water temperatures here in the southeast part of the state.

In Lancaster and all or parts of 17 surrounding counties, opening day since 2007 has always been scheduled for two weeks before the traditional opening day.

That earlier start provided more time to stock trout and to fish for trout at times when the water temperatures were truly cold in southeast Pennsylvania.

Nothing warms up faster than a stream running through an open, Lancaster County cow pasture.

So for 13 of the last 15 years, Pennsylvania anglers could take advantage of two opening days.

They could fish opening day on the Southeast streams, and then two weeks later, they could head to the mountains for the general trout opener.

The last two years were the exceptions.

In 2021, the Fish and Boat Commission opened trout season statewide on April 3 due to concerns about overcrowding during the pandemic.

The previous year, trout anglers woke up on Tuesday, April 7, and discovered the Fish and Boat Commission declared without any prior warning that trout season was open immediately.

The surprise opener was declared, once again, to try to minimize overcrowding.

COULD BE COLD

In deciding at their October meeting to maintain a single opening day going forward, the commissioners chose to lean toward the earlier opening.

For Southeast trout anglers, the new opener won’t be much of a change.

Trout season in the Southeast opened in late March at the earliest over the past 15 years, so opening the season on the first Saturday in April going forward doesn’t quite open it as early as it has.

The group of guys I have fished with the past 30 years has spent the traditional trout opener in Centre County’s Poe Valley near State College.

We camp out for a couple of days to celebrate opening day.

All of those openers would have fallen on the first Saturday after April 11, which is at least a week and a half later than this year’s opener.

I can remember fishing in the snow. I can remember many frigid days and nights.

And those experiences were sometimes two weeks later than what will now be opening day in the mountains.

There are parts of Pennsylvania that very well could be buried under snow on April 2.

The area of Centre County where we fish opening day saw 7 inches of snow fall during a storm on April 2, 2018.

According to Weather Atlas, the Coudersport area of Potter County historically sees an average of 4 inches of snow in April, with most of that falling in the earliest days of the month.

April 2 might not feel any different than other opening days over the past 15 years here in Lancaster County.

But it might be nasty in places like Bradford County.

STATE PARKS ADJUST

The October vote by the Fish and Boat Commission to start the 2022 trout season statewide on April 2 has the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources working to adjust its camping season.

Several state parks in the area where trout season historically opened the Saturday after April 11 didn’t open their campgrounds until early April.

The Poe Paddy State Park campground in Centre County, for instance, shows camping isn’t allowed until April 8 – which is the Friday after the April 2 opener.

Christina Novak, the director of DCNR’s Office of Communications, said her agency is working to rectify the situation so that state parks where trout fishing typically occurs will have their campgrounds open to anglers in time for the April 2 opening weekend.

If you want to reserve one of the prime camp sites in those parks for opening day, stay tuned to DCNR’s website.

“DCNR will be expanding seasons in our reservation system for trout fishing parks for the new single opening date,” Novak said. 

“We anticipate this process will be complete in January. We will do a news release with specific park info and additional details.”

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