Ihave an urge to go groundhog hunting this week.

After Punxsutawney Phil's putrid pontification about an early spring, there's likely an army of readers eager to join me.

But despite the dreary weather of late, the equinox has passed. Spring is here. I promise. We'll give the groundhog a reprieve.

If you've traveled the county's back roads or spent some time near a trout stream over the last couple of weeks, you most likely saw one of the surest signs of the season. The "Great White Fleet" has been out and about loading the region's streams, creeks and lakes with truckloads of trout.

The Fish and Boat Commission has been busy loading its iconic white stocking trucks with rainbows, browns and brookies, and working to prime the area's waterways for a couple of big days on the horizon. In all, the agency will help plant close to four million trout across the Keystone state.

But those fish don't have long before they are targeted by a mass of eager anglers. In fact, the first trout of the season will be added to a lucky angler's creel early Saturday.

For the first time in its history, the Fish and Boat Commission will open select waters across the southeast to anglers under the age of 16. It's part of the agency's mentored youth fishing program. While not all of the region's streams our open to early angling (and none in York County), a dozen lakes and reservoirs will be open Saturday for the one-day youth season.


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The rules for the mentored youth day are fairly simple. Go to the commission's website, fill out a registration form (the mentor must have a valid fishing license and trout stamp), and go fishing. Each participant -- even the mentor -- can harvest two trout that reach the minimum legal length of seven inches.

This new opportunity is the perfect reason to invite a youngster to go fishing. Even if you don't have school-aged children of your own, borrow one for the day. Ask a neighbor, a nephew or a kid from church to spend the day with you. Not only will you give him or her a day filled with memories, you'll get the chance to hit the water a week early.

If you don't have many friends that meet the definition of "youth," don't worry. You've only got to wait another week until you can hit the local streams. The regional opening day of trout season is March 30. That's when the carnival that is opening day roars into town, marking the true start of spring.

Next year, let's not celebrate the wisdom of an overfed groundhog. Let's base our forecast on the coming of spring by the first sighting of a stocking truck. It's a much more reliable indicator. And now that there have been sightings all across the region, spring is most certainly here.

Andy Snyder writes about the outdoors for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at sports@york dispatch.com.