MIDDLETOWN – For those who fish the waters in the Southeast Region of Pennsylvania, the wait is almost over.

Again this year, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission will have an early opener for the trout season in the region, with the action getting underway Saturday, April 3, at 8 a.m. Two weeks later, the statewide season opens Saturday, April 17, at 8 a.m.

Recently appointed PFBC executive director John Arway, a lifelong angler, considers – as do many native Pennsylvanians the opening day of trout as a holiday. That is especially so when making the day a family event.

Last weekend, Arway attended the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs convention and, as may be expected, one of his topics dealt with trout fishing. He told the delegates he plans to take an active role in improving the state's fishery and that his "board room" will be on the water whenever possible.

One of the most appealing aspects of trout fishing is that the activity can be as simple or technical as each individual angler wants. Targeting these fish can be done with anything from hatch-matched, hand-tied flies to the latest and newest in commercial lures and baits to self-trapped minnows and self-dug earthworms.

Canned corn, processed cheese and homemade dough baits – and even those tiny marshmallows used in hot chocolate are among the most effective and inexpensive baits that are used by kids of all ages for trout. In addition to nightcrawlers, meal and red worms are time-tested productive baits.

Salmon eggs are still used by some anglers, but have been bypassed in popularity by scented products, with Berkley and YUM the most visible. Both products come in a variety of shapes, sizes and textures – including artificial eggs and nuggets matching the scent and taste food trout were fed in the hatchery.

All forms of the previously mention baits work well at almost all depths, from bottom fishing to floating them on the surface into holes along undercut stream banks. While there are various rigs that will get and keep bait on the bottom, most anglers who plan to fish deep find the easiest way to get the bait down where the fish are is to use a jig-head hook.

In almost all instances, thinking small is best for catching big trout, but that is especially so when using jigs to get on the bottom on work a deep hole. Both plain hooks dressed with natural or artificial bait or hair jigs with or without bait will work equally well in most conditions.

Some die-hard anglers will use fly tackle during the early days of the season, and in some instances fishing a fly on ultra-light spinning tackle is effective. For novices, remember that unlike bait, which can attract fish by its scent, flies must match the available food in the water being fished.

To a certain extent, that is also true with lures – including spoons and spinners. Both lure types can be fished with or without bait, as they are designed to attract trout with their bright colors – especially in gold or silver – and, in the case of spinners, there movement and sound.

Best of all, the trout in Pennsylvania waters are among the most healthy freshwater sport fish anywhere. In fact, sport-caught trout from state waters can be an important part of a healthy, balanced diet.

"Fish are high in protein and are a valuable source of vitamins, minerals and beneficial oils that are low in saturated fat," Arway said. "Trout are especially high in vitamin B-12 and omega-3 fatty acids, which improve cardiovascular health and brain development in children."

To help anglers make educated choices about which fish from the state's many waters to eat and how often, regular sampling and testing of wild fish and hatchery trout released into Pennsylvania waters is conducted. Because exposure to high levels of various chemicals can increase certain health risks, this testing enables the PFBC and other agencies to make both general and specific recommendations.

Results from the most recent tests indicate there is no need for additional special guidelines for eating PFBC-raised trout. Both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and American Heart Association are among the nutrition experts recommending the eating as many as three servings of freshwater fish per week.

For complete information on Pennsylvania trout and regulation, visit the PFBC Web site at www.fishandboat.com.