Excitement is high among anglers for the opening day of trout season Saturday.
The current weather pattern suggests lower-than-normal stream levels, which will make many of the smaller streams tough to fish. The onslaught of angler interest at the magical stroke of 8 a.m. will have many trout hiding or spooked before a cast is even made. These smaller streams, as well as the larger flows, will quickly settle down, as many trout enthusiasts will be off the water by lunchtime.
Reduced numbers of stocked fish has emphasized the popularity of the first day as many are now competing for the same fish. As the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission has reduced costs, a number of favorite holes and streams no longer receive fish, sending anglers to another area.
Although the crowds can be thick at times, the shoulder-to-shoulder fishing is embraced as part of the annual ritual. While many hunt by themselves, the first day of trout allows you to target trout and spend time with friends and family. I was never much for fishing closely to another angler, but I have no problem casting across the line of someone fishing in my group. Luckily, the dispersal of freshly stocked trout happens quickly, and finding a spot all to yourself is still possible, even on the first day.
With many anglers practicing catch-and-release, the afternoon of the first day and Sunday can allow for good fishing, although many of the trout will have already been taken. However, in-season stocking will commence Monday, and with times and dates provided by the PFBC, experiencing several daylight outings is possible.
For those that are a once-a-year trout fisherman, locating the essentials can take some time, and waiting until Friday to realize that your waders have run off is ill-advised. Leaking waders is almost as bad as losing them, but for many a wet foot is just part of the opening-day tradition.
For several seasons I have considered new waders, but I continue to postpone the inevitable, which keeps me in a 10-year-old pair. Fortunately, storing waders in a cool, dry and dark place can allow them to last for a long time. The lack of soles and ankle support is the reason I would like to have a new pair of neoprene waders.
With such a large number of anglers hitting the water on the same day, shortages can be expected from time to time. Bait is one of the major essentials, and often those who wait until the last minute must settle for something other than their favorite. To someone that does not target trout, trading minnows for maggots might not seem like that big of a deal, but it would ruin many an angler’s day.
The influx of anglers to the northern part of the state can at times even deplete the amount of beer and gas in some of the smaller mountain towns. Someone visiting from another country, upon seeing the amount of trucks parked along the streams, would be safe to assume that either there was another gold rush going or the salmon were running. Explaining why the first day of trout is so significant can be difficult, although the end of winter and the tradition weigh heavily on the hype.
While many wouldn’t dream of missing the opening day, anglers looking to fish through the week will have a hard time finding crowds comparable to the first day. In most instances fishing pressure quickly dwindles, and those looking to have a quiet day on the water will be able to do so easily, although the number of fish in the water will be much lower.