Spring officially begins on Saturday.
Yeah, I know the calendar said it began March 20, but we all know Spring hasn’t sprung until trout season opens in Pennsylvania.
It’s going to look a little different this year, with just one opening day for the entire state.
We haven’t seen that here in several years, since the advent of the early opener in the southeast, followed two weeks later by the traditional opener everywhere else.
For 2021, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission has decided to open trout waters to fishing across the state on what would have been the southeast opener.
"The move to an earlier statewide schedule for trout season ensures that we can preserve our cherished fishing traditions, while reducing the amount of travel across multiple opening days,” said PFBC Executive Director Tim Schaeffer.
“We wanted to give anglers as much time and information as possible to plan ahead…
“Starting two weeks earlier gives trout anglers statewide two more weeks to enjoy everything that comes with this special time of year.”
This is certainly a huge shift from last year, when the Fish and Boat Commission announced the morning of April 7 – without prior notice – that trout season was open immediately.
The surprise opener was done to minimize crowding during the COVID-19 pandemic. And it caught thousands of anglers flat-footed and unable to get to their favorite streams.
For me, that day will remain one of the most memorable fishing days of my life. I happened to be at home and saw the notification on my phone within minutes after it was announced.
So I headed to the West Branch of Brandywine Creek a half-mile away and found it completely deserted – but stocked to the gills with trout.
For about two hours, I had the stream all to myself. It was incredible.
Of course, I then had to turn back to the reality of being in the midst of a worldwide pandemic. So I certainly don’t ever again wish to repeat that day under the same circumstances.
We all have notice that the 2021 trout season opener will be Saturday at 8 a.m.
The PFBC and its stocking crews have planted 3.2 million adult trout in 701 streams and 128 lakes for the angling public.
Locally, 29,000 trout were stocked preseason in 22 Lancaster County streams and Muddy Run Recreation Lake. Another 21,800 will be stocked after opening day.
The stocking numbers this year match last year’s, and there were no waters added or lost to the stocking rolls.
Don’t be surprised if you hook into a real bruiser this season.
The PFBC plans to release about 60,000 brood fish in 2021. That’s the same number as last year, but double what we saw in 2019.
These are 2.5- and 3.5-year-old rainbow, brook and brown trout measuring 14-20 inches. About 70 percent of the total number of brood trout were stocked preseason, with the rest marked for stocking after opening day.
If you want to focus on big trout, about 10,000 of these trophy fish will be headed for sections of 24 streams managed under “delayed harvest, artificial lures only” rules.
There are no such waters in Lancaster County, but you can find several in surrounding counties: Quittapahilla Creek in Lebanon County; Manada Creek in Dauphin County; East Branch Brandywine Creek and Pickering Creek in Chester County; and Tulpehocken Creek in Berks County.
Also, be on the lookout for those creamsicle trout that glow like neon beacons under flowing water. About 13,000 golden rainbows – often incorrectly called palominos – were raised for stocking this year.
The golden rainbows are bigger than the average stocked trout, weighing 1.5 pounds on average.
And on top of all these trout stocked already or marked for stocking through the year, the PFBC says another 1 million trout have been and will be stocked by local sportsmen’s clubs, which reared the fish in their own nurseries.
And then there are the millions of native trout scattered all over Pennsylvania – including in several streams here in Lancaster County.
Suffice it to say, there are plenty of fish in the state. On Saturday, it’s your turn to go catch them.