trout stocking 2

Joselito Guzman pours a bucket of fish into Muddy Run north of Bird-in-Hand in this file photo.

With all the wind and mild weather we’ve had lately, it kind of feels like Spring.

Which means it kind of feels like trout season should be just around the corner.

For Lancaster and surrounding counties, it’s not a stretch to say the countdown has begun to the April 4 opener. (Mentored Youth Trout Day is set for March 28 on local waters.)

And stocking season begins in just two weeks.

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission has big plans for the 2020 trout season – emphasis on “big.”

While the agency expects to stock 3.2 million trout in 707 streams and 130 lakes, as it basically has for the past decade or so, the commission is doubling its allocation of its biggest trout to be stocked.

Some 60,000 brood trout – 2.5 and 3.5 year old breeder rainbow, brook and brown trout measuring 14-20 inches – are marked for stocking this year. That’s double the number planted in 2019.

Most trout stocked by the state average 11 inches in length.

About 70% of the breeders will be stocked preseason, which means opening day will be your best bet to catch them, with the remaining 30% scheduled to be stocked after the season opens.

Also increased will be the number of golden rainbow trout to be stocked. Many anglers refer to these creamsicle-colored trout as “palominos,” but in Pennsylvania, they are actually golden rainbows.

(Yes, there is a difference.)

About 13,000 goldens, weighing an average of 1.5 pounds, will be stocked this year. That’s about 40% more than were stocked last year.

Approximately 80% of the golden rainbows will be stocked preseason, while the remainders will be plated after opening day.

"The addition of more trophy-sized trout is something every angler can get excited for," said Brian Wisner, Director of the PFBC Bureau of Hatcheries.

"We've been able to produce more of these beautiful, large trout at our hatcheries thanks to our talented staff, equipment upgrades, innovations and increased efficiencies in the process.

“Because we'll be stocking these fish in many places ahead of the mentored youth days and regular opening days, and then adding more in the weeks after the season opens, everybody has a great chance to catch one of these special trout."

The Fish and Boat Commission encourages – and needs – anglers and others to help with the stocking of local waters.

If you’ve never done it, it’s pretty fun. Basically, you get a bucket of trout handed to you at the stocking truck, and you carry it to the water for dumping.

Or, if you’ve got a good pair of waders, you might get the chance to float stock a stream. That’s where you walk downstream with a floating basket of trout, and occasionally scoop out trout into the flow.

The date, time and meeting location for each stocking is listed on the trout stocking schedule. Show up, and you can help out.

"Not only is it a fun, educational, and rewarding experience, but it's also a very big job to pull off every season,” said Tim Schaeffer, the commission’s executive director.

“We couldn't do it without our volunteers."