In unexpected announcement, Pennsylvania trout season is open effective immediately

  • The Pennsylvania trout season was unexpectedly opened on Tuesday.
  • The decision was announced by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.
  • The decision was made to alleviate the big crowds that show up for opening day.

HARRISBURG — The statewide Pennsylvania trout season is now open.

In an expected announcement on Tuesday morning, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission issued a statement on its website that the state trout season would open at 8 a.m. Tuesday.

The PFBC said the decision was made in consultation with Gov. Tom Wolf, the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

This measure allows properly licensed anglers and youth to begin fishing for and harvesting trout. All regulations, sizes and creel limits still apply.

Anglers and boaters must abide by social distancing guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Gov. Tom Wolf’s stay-at-home order regarding COVID-19. 

According to the news release, the decision to open trout season immediately is intended to discourage concentrated gatherings of people that may have occurred on the traditional opening day, to minimize intrastate and interstate travel and to reduce the threat of illegal poaching in waters that have already been stocked.

The statewide opener had been set for Saturday, April 18. Typically, the opening day of trout season features large crowds of people fishing in close proximity to each other. 

Originally, the state trout season was set to open in 18 southeastern counties (including York) last Saturday, with the rest of the state beginning its trout season on April 18. The opening day in the southeastern counties was canceled on March 18 in favor of a full statewide opening day of April 18. However, beginning Tuesday, the season was open statewide.

David Bent of Delta scored two of the biggest trout he ever caught while fishing the surprise opening day at Muddy Creek Forks, Tuesday, April 7, 2020. The PA Fish & Boat Commission opened rout season across the state, Tuesday,  more than a week before the scheduled opening day. 
John A. Pavoncello photo

“We realize that this announcement is another disruption to tradition, but it is in the best interest of public health and safety,” said Tim Schaeffer, PFBC executive director, in a news release. “We have already seen that anglers and boaters across the Commonwealth are willing to adapt their behavior to include social distancing, and we ask everyone to follow their lead while enjoying outdoor activities during this challenging time.

“The trout we have been stocking have had time to spread out, and so should you.”

Taking precautions: Anglers and boaters should limit travel by fishing close to home, cover their faces with a mask or other cloth covering, keep a distance of at least 6 feet from others (the length of arm with an outstretched fishing rod is a good guide), only go fishing with members of their families living in the same household, and never share fishing gear with others. If another angler is in an area you intended to fish, move on to another spot.

Grace Kauffman, 8 of Brogue, tries to catch a trout at Muddy Creek Forks, Tuesday, April 7, 2020. The PA Fish & Boat Commission surprised anglers by opening trout season across the state more than a week before the scheduled opening day of April 18. 
John A. Pavoncello photo

Nonresident Pennsylvania fishing license holders should comply with the CDC travel advisory urging residents in several states, including New York and New Jersey, to refrain from nonessential domestic travel.

No stocking schedule: PFBC staff will continue to stock trout throughout the spring, but not all waters have been stocked at this time. To further discourage group gatherings, a stocking schedule and list of waters that have been stocked will not be provided to the public this season. Anglers should also be aware that public access to some waters may be restricted by the landowner or local municipal government.

Fishing and boating is permitted in Pennsylvania state parks and state forests, when social distancing guidelines are followed. DCNR is encouraging people to fish and conduct other outdoor recreation within 15 minutes of their homes. Anglers should note that state park facilities, including restrooms may be closed.

“Outdoor recreational activities, including fishing, lift our spirits and help relieve stress, but they need to be done with attention to social distancing guidelines to help protect ourselves and others, and slow the spread of COVID-19,” DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn said in the news release. “That means practicing physical distancing of six feet, avoiding crowds and staying close to home, and being prepared with a mask and hand sanitizer.”

Regardless of fishing location, anglers should bring a bag with them and carry out their trash.

No Mentored Youth Trout Day: As a result of this action, a Mentored Youth Trout Day will not take place this season. The PFBC will honor all Voluntary Youth Fishing Licenses purchased in 2020 for all mentored youth fishing opportunities during the 2021 season.

To participate in trout fishing, anglers must have a Pennsylvania fishing license and Trout/Salmon Permit, both of which may be purchased online using the FishBoatPA mobile app for smartphones, or at www.fishandboat.com. Those who do not have the ability to purchase online and are unable to visit a retail location may call 814-359-5222 for purchasing assistance. 

Anglers may produce a digital copy of their license on their mobile device as proof of purchase. A signed, printed copy is not currently required to prove you own a valid license. If approached by a Waterways Conservation Officer in the field, an angler or boater may provide a digital image or receipt of their fishing license, and a digital receipt from their launch permit or boat registration. Anglers may still display their fishing license.

— Reach Steve Heiser at sheiser@yorkdispatch.com. Information for this story was provided by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.