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Some Veteran Advice for the Surprise Opening to Trout Season

Ken Hunter - On April 6, I sat down to write a piece on the opening of trout season that would be coming up in a little over a week; well forget that idea since like a lot of other surprised people I just found out that the season opened — that would be 8 a.m. on April 7. You can bet that the streams weren’t crowded on the “new opening day” since it came as a total surprise. I suspect that’s why the PA Fish and Boat Commission made such a move — to avoid too many people gathering too close together due to COVID-19, and from what I saw this morning, it seems to be the working. By the end of the day, however, I suspect the streams and lakes will see their share of fishing activity as people find out about the change.

I must admit that the sudden change of opening day will have little effect on my own trout fishing since I’ve been avoiding the first-day crowds for the last 20 years. That doesn’t mean I’m not getting to do my share of trout fishing; in fact, I usually have a good bit of trout fishing in long before the so-called opening day ever rolls around. Truth is, some trout fishing can be done year-round by focusing on any number of special regulation areas. These special regulation areas like the Keystone Select Delayed-Harvest sections found on many streams throughout the state allow trout fishing, but much of the year, it is strictly catch-and-release. Also, you are required to use artificials only or fly fishing only. My trout fishing is done almost exclusively with a fly rod in hand, but trust me, it can be very effective even in March.

With what I assume to be a temporary change of the traditional opening day now, anybody — regardless of whether artificials or some type of bait is used — can now get in on some earlier trout fishing on a much broader number of streams and lakes. While my preference is the fly rod, there are a number of other tactics that will produce good action in these early weeks.

When I started trout fishing as a high-school kid, my buddy’s dad taught me the art of salmon egg fishing; indeed, he had elevated salmon egg fishing to an art. Learning to feel the two eggs threaded on a number 12 wet fly hook as they rolled and pounced along on the bottom was a deadly method for catching early season trout. That same technique will work with any number of other baits like wax worms, maggots, mealworms, regular garden worms, and even some of the newer Berkley scented artificial baits.

Obviously, another popular choice of the early season trout angler is the live minnow rig. While there are a number of different ways to rig a minnow, most anglers like to thread the line through the mouth and out the anal and then slide a double hook over the loop on the end. Pitch the rig up and across and bring it back with a variety of retrieves-add weight as needed.

By the way, there are several good old reliable artificial lures that still take plenty of trout under the right conditions. The good old CP Swing and a number of other in-line spinners are very effective on all trout species. Along the same line are the Rapalas, Rebels, and similar plastic minnow-type artificials. Some buddies of mine whom I consider real experts with spinners prefer to cast upstream and work the spinner downstream with the current — keep it just off the bottom and keep the blade spinning.

Whatever method you choose, I would suggest not trying to remove a limit of trout each time out — practice some catch and release, especially this early in the season, and there will be more trout available later in the season. Be careful how you handle the trout if you plan to release them.

Enjoy the early opener and give everybody around you some space.

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