By John Crooks
So far March has been miserable, wet, rainy and soggy. In fact, area streams have been so swollen that the state Fish and Boat Commission has delayed stocking trout at several sites across the region.
But that won’t hurt trout season, according to two local experts. There may well be high water, and fishing in those conditions requires special strategies. Otherwise, plan on finding your streambank spot just as early as ever because anglers will be shoulder-to-shoulder as usual when the season opens April 16.
“Since March is usually a wet month anyway, we are used to stocking trout in high water conditions,” said area Fish and Boat Commission Waterways Conservation Officer Terry Crecraft.
“High water is the norm this time of year. Naturally we won’t stock a stream if it is overflowing its banks — we reschedule that stocking for a time when the waters have subsided. It’s just a matter of getting the trout in the streams at the right time,” he said. “We work with the hatcheries and make changes to the preseason stocking schedules as needed and we do our best to keep our volunteers informed to changes.”
As an example, he said, “last Saturday’s stocking of Oil Creek East Branch and Five Mile Creek will be rescheduled for April 9.
“As far as the trout are concerned, the trout are very hardy and are not usually effected by short-term high-water conditions. Trout can endure higher, fast moving water by moving to deeper holes and by moving to the cover of structures within the stream. Once stocked, they will do well until stream conditions return to normal.”
High water can, however, effect the fishability of the streams and anglers’ success, according to Crecraft. “High, cloudy and riley water make it more difficult for trout to see the fishermen’s bait. Hopefully by the season opener on April 16 the streams will be in a more normal condition.”
If the streams aren’t back to normal, avid trout fishermen like Chuck Papinchak of Cochranton employ special strategies.
Papinchak agrees with Crecraft that high water and delayed stockings won’t hurt the season. And he’s already prepared if high water continues into the season.
“In high water conditions where the water is cloudy and murky, I always have my best luck using night crawlers or red worms,” Papinchak said. “I fish these baits right on the stream bottom. In high, murky water the trout cannot see well and have to rely on smell to find food. With trout season almost a month away we have no idea what water conditions will be so we’ll just have to hope for the best.”
Area Fish and Boat Commission Waterways Conservation Officer Terry Crecraft has issued this statement in anticipation of the April 16 trout season opener: “As in past years, I’d like to remind fishermen about the necessity for the mandatory trout/salmon stamp for trout fishing. This year the trout stocked locally were received from the Corry hatchery. They are in great shape and are expected to adapt quickly to county streams. Fishermen using private lands are reminded to use caution and discretion in parking their vehicles and not to litter, destroy fences or cause any unnecessary problems with the landowner. Opening hour is 8 a.m. on Saturday, April 16. Any activity in or along the waters before that time is prohibited. Also, anglers planning on fishing Lake Erie or its tributaries must have a Lake Erie Permit. It is now available as a combination Trout/Salmon and Lake Erie Permit, which is a little cheaper than buying the two permits separately.”
Cochranton-area resident Crooks is a longtime outdoors writer.