Although spring officially began Tuesday, for some it arrived Sunday, March 11, with the beginning of daylight savings time.
In Pennsylvania, however, anglers have marked spring's arrival for decades by the opening day of trout season. And, in the Southeast Region, spring arrives this year a week from today – Saturday, March 31 – at 8 a.m. Two weeks later, Saturday, April 14, the 2012 trout season opens throughout the rest of the state at 8 a.m. – and the regular trout season is then open 24/7 statewide.
According to Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission waterways conservation officer Doug Daniels, whose jurisdiction is comprised of portions of both Carbon and Schuylkill counties, it is surprising to him that so many anglers still equate the opening of "fishing" season and the opening of trout season as one in the same. Although the license year in Pennsylvania is from January 1 through December 31, he said – even with all the publicity – he still occasionally encounters anglers who are fish on the previous year's license and truly believe it is not necessary to buy a new license until the opening of trout season.
"As recently as this spring I came across an angler who was truly unaware that his fishing license was invalid," Daniels said. "He didn't try to hide the fact he was fishing, and we were talking for some time before I even asked him to show me his license – which he produced without hesitation."
That said, trout anglers age 16 and older must have a fishing license and Trout/Salmon Stamp or Combination Trout/Salmon Stamp-Lake Erie Permit, which is needed to fish for trout, salmon and steelhead in Lake Erie and its tributaries. License holders must sign all licenses, stamps and permits in ink and – unlike the newly adopted regulation for Pennsylvania hunting licenses – must displayed on an outer garment and anglers must be able to provide another form of identification upon request of a PFBC WCO.
Locally, all waters in Lehigh and Schuylkill counties are open for the Regional opening day, as are the portions of Lizard and Mahoning creeks in Carbon County that border Schuylkill County. Other waters open for Regional opening day are all waters in Adams, Berks, Bucks, Chester, Cumberland, Dauphin, Delaware, Franklin, Juniata, Lancaster, Lebanon, Montgomery, Perry, Philadelphia and York counties, sections of Mahantango Creek between Northumberland and Dauphin counties and sections of the West Branch of Mahantango Creek between Snyder and Juniata counties.
During the regular trout season, which is open through Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 3, fish must have a minimum length of seven inches and there is a five-fish, combined species, creel limit. During the extended trout season, which is open from Tuesday, Sept. 4, though Monday, Dec. 31, the seven-inch minimum remains in effect, but the creel limit is three fish, combined species.
Anglers should be aware that different rules apply for waters designated as Special Regulation Areas. These waters are listed in "Summary of Pennsylvania Fishing Laws and Regulations" distributed with fishing licenses.
Locally, the PFBC has designated the following as Approved Trout Waters and will be open for the Regional opening day:
Carbon County: Lizard Creek, Mahoning Creek.
Lehigh County: Cedar Creek (Lake Muhlenburg outflow downstream to mouth), Coplay Creek, Jordan Creek, Kistler Creek, Laurel Run (South Branch Saucon Creek), Lehigh Canal (from first lock upstream of Monocacy Creek downstream to Monocacy Creek Crossing), Little Lehigh Creek, Monocacy Creek, Ontelaunee Creek, Swabia Creek, Switzer Creek, Trout Creek (Big Trout Creek, Slatington).
Schuylkill County: Bear Creek, Cold Run, Deep Creek, Little Catawissa Creek, Little Mahanoy Creek, Little Schuylkill River, Lizard Creek, Locust Creek, Locust Lake, Lower Little Swatara Creek, Mahantango Creek, Mahoning Creek, Neifert Creek Dam, Pine Creek (tributary to Little Schuylkill River), Pine Creek (tributary to Mahantango Creek), Pine Creek (tributary to Schuylkill River), Rabbit Run Reservoir (off East Valley Road southwest of Tamaqua), Red Creek (Landingville), Sweet Arrow Lake, Tuscarora Lake, Upper Little Swatara Creek, Whipoorwill Dam.
For more information on fishing seasons, access the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission website at www.fish . state.pa.us.