Trout season to look different in Pennsylvania as COVID-19 pandemic alters regulations

The (Easton) Express-Times (TNS)
Jason Zander, 8 of Leader Heights, holds up his very first trout he caught while fishing with his brother and father at Muddy Creek Forks,Tuesday, April 7, 2020 after the PA Fish & Boat Commission surprised anglers by opening trout season across the state more than a week before the scheduled opening day. 
John A. Pavoncello photo

As warmer weather moves into our region, many fishermen are looking forward to trout season, which begins in less than two weeks in Pennsylvania.

Because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, however, anglers can expect seasons, rules and regulations to be substantially different than in previous years, which means a little preparation and planning are in order.

This year’s Pennsylvania trout season comes with one very noticeable difference — there will be only one Mentored Youth Trout Fishing Day and one regular trout season opener. In past years, the state has essentially had four opening days — the regional mentored youth day, regional trout opener, statewide mentored youth day and statewide opener — but this year it has consolidated them so anglers across the state have the opportunity to fish for trout starting at the same time.

The 2021 statewide mentored youth opening day will take place Saturday, March 27, beginning at 8 a.m., followed by the statewide opener Saturday, April 3, starting at 8 a.m.

The Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission (PFBC) says the season date changes were made to provide extra opportunities for people to get out, help to reduce anglers traveling to fish the multiple openers and assist with relieving angling pressure on the more popular waters to aid with social distancing.

“The move to an earlier statewide schedule for trout season ensures that we can preserve our cherished fishing traditions while reducing the amount of travel across multiple opening days…,” PFBC Executive Director Tim Schaeffer said. “Starting two weeks earlier (also) gives trout anglers statewide two more weeks to enjoy everything that comes with this special time of year. We appreciate the cooperation of the anglers as we prepare for the safest season possible and encourage them to enjoy their local waters.”

Children taking part in the youth day must have either a voluntary youth fishing license ($2.97 including fees) or a free PFBC permit, while adults must have a regular fishing license and trout stamp. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and changes to last year’s fishing seasons, the PFBC is allowing holders of 2020 voluntary youth fishing licenses to use those licenses this year for the youth day. Only anglers under age 16 may keep trout on this day, with the creel limit two fish seven inches or longer.

Stocking numbers: While season dates and regulations are changing for 2021, the number of fish being stocked has not.

This year, Pennsylvania will release approximately 3.2 million rainbow, brown and brook trout in 701 streams and 125-plus lakes during preseason and in-season stockings. This includes 60,000 brood fish measuring 14-20 inches in length, as well as approximately 13,000 golden rainbow trout, which many anglers also call palominos.

The PFBC has posted its stocking dates on its website and app.

Anglers can go online, check for the county they want to fish and it will pull up the list of approved trout waters and when they are being stocked. It’s important to note that the agency is not permitting walk-on volunteers this year to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Instead, it is employing staff and preselected volunteers who have assisted in the past to help with stockings.

Creel limits and sizes: Trout are a great tasting fish, with many anglers keeping a few for the dinner plate.

In Pennsylvania, fishermen are allowed to harvest five trout seven inches or longer from the season opener through Labor Day. Starting Sept. 6, the creel limit is reduced to three per day.