Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission tentatively going ahead with April 18 trout opener

(Hazleton) Standard-Speaker (TNS)
The opening day of the statewide trout season in Pennsylvania is still tentatively set for April 18.

For anglers who like to be alone, fishing is a fitting pastime for a pandemic.

For those who enjoy rubbing elbows when trout season begins, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission gives this advice: spread out.

“We are really encouraging anglers and boaters to practice social distancing. We cannot push this message enough,” commission spokesman Michael Parker said via email.

Most fishing rods are about 6 feet long, a good measuring stick for keeping a safe distance.

The commission, tentatively, is going ahead with plans to start trout season statewide Saturday, April 18. A mentored youth trout day still is set for a week from today, Saturday, April 11.

An earlier mentored trout day and season opener for counties in the Southeast Region — which includes York — were canceled last month.

Stocking process: Meanwhile, commission workers stocked 1.6 million trout as of Tuesday without help from the public. Volunteers were asked to stay away to diminish the spread of COVID-19.

Instead, workers like Mike Nerozzi, who don’t normally take part, helped pour trout into ponds, streams and lakes.

“It’s been a rewarding experience, and I think it’s really brought us closer together as a staff,” said Nerozzi, who usually works at his office or the state Capitol as the commission’s director of policy and planning.

“A lot of people don’t realize how personally invested our employees are in the PFBC’s mission. We all feel a sense of purpose right now in helping families enjoy the outdoors safely during this stressful time.”

The commission’s crews are working fast, putting out 400,000 more than at this time last year. Some trout already in the water were initially scheduled to be released later in the season. Workers let them go early in case illness sidelines the stockers later in the season.

License sales up: Sales of fishing licenses are up 10%, primarily online, compared to the same time last year.

Before opening day, anglers have to release any trout that they catch promptly and, ideally, without injury.

They also can fish for panfish and other species year round depending on regulations for the waters they frequent.

Even though park offices and programs are shut down, the lakes, streams and trails at the parks remain open for anglers. So are lakes and boat launches that the commission owns.

Tips to stay safe while fishing: Anglers can protect themselves and slow the spread of coronavirus before they even start fishing. Fishing licenses are sold online at fishandboat.com so they don’t have to go to a store.

A new rule says anglers no longer have to display licenses, but show them off anyway so an officer can see it from a safe distance.

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission offers these other suggestions for fishing during the pandemic:

►On the way to the water, drive alone instead of car pooling.

►Take your own bait and tackle, too, rather than sharing.

►Give yourself at least 6 feet, remind children not to wander into others’ space and if the shoreline is too crowded try another spot.

►At state parks, facilities are closed so go to the bathroom before leaving home.

►Take away trash because the parks’ maintenance crews are cut down.

Follow other rules set by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control for blunting coronavirus: wash hands after fishing, cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing and avoid touching your mouth and nose.

“The rules we are following at the gas station and the grocery store don’t just go out the window when we go trout fishing,” the commission’s Mike Parker said.