The opening day of trout season is hours away in most of Pennsylvania. Here are a series of tips for a better experience from Randy Leighton, deputy waterways conservation officer for the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission:
Anglers should be aware of local regulations regarding the upcoming regular season trout opener April 14 for our area.
It is unlawful to fish or possess trout or salmon in or along any Lake Erie tributary stream or the East and West Basin Ponds (Waterworks Ponds, Presque Isle State Park) from 12:01 a.m. April 13 until 8 a.m. April 14, a period of 32 hours
All anglers fishing Pennsylvania waters of Lake Erie, Presque Isle Bay, and their tributaries are required to possess a valid Lake Erie permit.
The main tributaries where a permit is required are Cascade Creek, Crooked Creek, Eight Mile Creek, Elk Creek, Four Mile Creek, Mill Creek, Raccoon Creek, Seven Mile Creek, Six Mile Creek, Sixteen Mile Creek, Twelve Mile Creek, Twenty Mile Creek, and Walnut Creek.
Conneaut Creek, although partially in the Commonwealth, does actually enter into Lake Erie within the border of the state of Ohio. Therefore, anglers are not required to possess a Lake Erie Permit.
Anglers fishing the East and West Basin ponds (Waterworks Ponds, Presque Isle State Park) are not required to possess a Lake Erie Permit.
Anglers fishing inland ponds, lakes and reservoirs in Erie County are not required to possess a Lake Erie Permit.
In many cases an angler may need both a trout/salmon permit and a Lake Erie permit to fish in waters in the Erie area. Rather than purchasing these individually, a Combination Trout-Salmon/Lake Erie permit may be purchased.
A Few Words Well Worth Repeating About This Weekend:
Anglers fishing this area are only too well aware of the loss of angling access due to posting. There is really no need at this point to dwell on what has been lost. We are all aware of the crowded conditions we generate and the tension it can cause with local landowners. Future access along the area tribs is in the palms of our hands and it is our choice as sportsmen to treat the given access we have with respect or to lose it altogether. This special weekend brings an overlap of steelhead season with opening day of regular trout season making Erie County one of the hottest spots in the state on opening day. In our area this can mean excessively crowded conditions and excessive angling pressure along the tribs. Think about the area you may be fishing and understand that it may be through the generosity of a local landowner that you are able to fish there. Treat these and all areas as if they were your own. If you are fishing near a residential area, keep noise and lights to a minimum and leave with everything you brought in. If an area is posted, respect the rights of those that own it by staying out. Be aware of where you park observing any posted signs and assure that you are not blocking any right of ways. It’s really not much to ask when you think about the consequences
Trout and Salmon for Lake Erie, Presque Isle Bay and the tributaries:
Trout and Salmon regulations changes at 8 a.m. April 14 for Lake Erie and its tribs, and Presque Isle Bay. Minimum size is 9 inches, with a creel limit of 5 (combined species only 2 of which may be lake trout).
Some opening-day suggestions
Light or ultra light spinning or spincast reels filled with 2- to 4-pound-test line are best suited for our area streams. Closed faced reels work best for the kids to avoid tangles. Rods should be no longer than 6 feet (5 feet is better) so you can keep your bait out of trees and away from others while casting. Noodle rods, which are popular in our area, can work well to detect those subtle strikes. Tie a short shank, size 10 to 14 hook and add one or two small (size BB or bird seed) split shot 12-18 inches above the hook. The removable type split shot works better as it allows you to change weights easily. If you are using larger baits like whole night crawlers, larger hooks (size 6 or 8 ) might work better. Float the bait under a small float just large enough to carry the bait. Large floats do little more than spook the fish and make it difficult to detect strikes. Adjust the float to keep the bait near the bottom, or as deep as possible at the Gravel Pit Pond
Popular trout baits include corn, red worms, nightcrawlers, crickets, salmon eggs (fresh cured or jarred types in different colors), the Powerbaits, marshmallows and the favorite, emerald shiners (everyone has a secret weapon). Try a variety of baits in case the trout are finicky (and they usually are.) Put just enough bait on to just cover the hook, but do not go overboard. For example, on a size 10 hook use: a) one or two pieces of corn or, b) one cricket or, c) one red worm d) one or two salmon eggs or, e) one-third to one-half of a night crawler or a single minnow. Typically the smaller the presentation, the better. It doesn’t hurt to watch what the guy catching all the fish is using either (my favorite technique).
It is unlawful to transport or cause the transportation of VHS-susceptible species of fish out of the portion of the Lake Erie Watershed in this Commonwealth into other watersheds of this Commonwealth except when certain conditions are met. It is illegal to use VHS-susceptible fish species, fish parts and eggs taken from the Lake Erie Watershed as fishbait in Commonwealth waters outside the Lake Erie Watershed except when the fish are certified as VHS-negative. It is legal to transport dead recreationally caught fish out of the Lake Erie Watershed solely for the purpose of human consumption.
Regarding trout fishing in our area, this includes Lake Erie Emerald Shiners, a popular bait in this area for trout. Many bait shops are now selling certified VHS free shiners for bait and a few are not.
The key to catching trout is to “read” a stream for good spots and then “present” your bait in a natural manner. “Read” the water for spots that offer trout a place to hide from predators while watching for food to drift by. Trout are usually found near the bottom in pools and in slower “pockets” around rocks, boulders. or submerged trees.
Stand downstream of a spot you think a trout might be. “Present” your bait by casting several feet upstream of the target area. Let the bait drift downstream into the target area while slowly reeling in the slack line. If your bait does not tick along the bottom, add more weight to the line. If your bait hangs up on the bottom. take some weight off. Cast two or three times into the same spot. If you do not get a bite, change baits or try a different area if possible. A stop in the downstream drift of your line along with a sharp tap in your line signals a bite. Give the fish a second or two at most to take the bait, then pull back on the rod and set the hook. A strong set is not necessary if you are using sharp hooks.
The Gravel Pit Pond in Fairview is literally a mined-out gravel pit and as such is quite deep and, pending weather, very clear. Small baits with very light line should be fished deep under a float or without any float at all. With a little patience, you may be rewarded with a tough fight from a beautiful brown trout!
Cooperation and consideration in crowded fishing areas will make for a great day of angling for all. Area officers will be out and covering as much of the area as possible. There are plenty of fish to be caught and sharing your secrets with others can develop into lifelong friend ships. As always be aware that many areas of our tributaries run through private land and your behavior is a direct influence as to how many areas will remain open to public fishing in the future. Be especially considerate of younger anglers and the elderly … we were all young once and we certainly are all getting older … and please police your area for litter before you leave, even if it’s not your own. Good luck!