Trout season begins April 13, 2002. There are likely to be a bit less trout stocked this year, due to the trout hatchery pollution debacle, but good trout fishing will still abound in Pennsylvania's trout waters.
The weather for opening day is forecast to be cloudy but quite warm (in the 70's) with no mention of rain.
One thing that the PA Fish and Boat Commission is considering this year is a reduction in the size of the panfish creel limit from 50 fish per person per day to 25 fish. This would probably include the species currently covered by the term panfish in Pennsylvania (Sunfish, crappies, catfish, carp, perch, etc.) Another idea mentioned in circles has been to limit the size of various panfish species, or remove certain species from the blanket term and create a set of limits for those species.
Feal free to write in and let me know what you think about these changes. I'd like to include some responses on this page to spurn further discussion of the subject.
Now don't get me wrong, I know that catfish are considered panfish by the Pennsylvania Fish Commision, and thus have no closed season. Anyone who seriously fishes catfish, though, knows that the ultimate catfishing time of year is in the summer. Those hot, nasty, sweaty days when all you want to do is lay around. Well lay around on the bank of the river, 'cause it's time to do some catfishing.
Let's brush up on some basics, since the season's just starting.
Get out there early (and late). This may be the cat's time of year, but they get lethargic, too. Early and late feeding times are your best chances.
Live bait works. This is no surprise, but when I say live, I don't mean dead and rotting for three days. Secret family recipes rarely work better than cut fish, nightcrawlers, or other conventional types of bait.
Lastly, even though the entire fish world seems to be going to ultralight tackle for everything, ultralight and cats just don't mix. The gears in the best high-end ultra-light in the world will strip just like the gears in a $6 SouthBend it you hook into a 10 - 15 pound cat. Do you know how big the cat that bites your bait will be?
With cats, Good luck = good eating. I wish you both.
Opening Day Of Trout Season was April 14. Opening Day featured very comfortable weather, but not the greatest fishing in this part of the state. We struck out this year on Pine Creek, though I saw many folks doing much better. Many anglers I've talked to didn't do very well, either.
There is an upside to all of this, though. I've noticed more trout in our lakes and streams than usual, with recent stockings added to the large number of fish still in there. Good trout fishing is out there.
While fishing going into a cold front is never very good, I recommend fishing for trout toward the end of the cold front, while it's still a little chilly, but heading into a warm front. Good timing could make the difference.
North Park Lake
North Park Lake holds several slab size bluegill, some respectable pumpkin seed, bullhead cats (mostly of the brown variety), and there are some monster carp up under the docks at the boathouse. Oh, and don't forget the snappers. There are box and snapping turtles galore at North Park.
Usually, when you hear about Lake Wilhelm, someone is talking about great walleye or bass, or maybe talking about the pike and muskie that seem to have been in there for ever. Lake Wilhelm is an incredible panfishing lake, though, also. Just a few years back, my dad and I went on what was a custom in our family; a two day trip up to the best lake we could think of (in Pennsylvania). It was always Lake Wilhelm. There were walleye, too, (that's where I caught my first), but man - the panfish. We never needed the daily limit of fifty each (combined species). I'd get two cats while I was fishing for
walleye with dead minnows, he'd bring in a bluegill bigger than his hand. It was great. If you
ever get the chance - ever - take a kid to a place like Lake Wilhelm. You and he (or she) will
never forget it.
Moraine State Park - Lake Arthur
Lake Arthur has always been a good
place to catch fair - sized yellow perch. Though this lake has is making a comeback in regard to
game fish, it will always be a big panfish pond to me. Bass are on the increase, though, due
mostly to the Fish & Game Commission declaration of "conservation lake" a few years back. Maybe
it can be included in a gamefish report in the future.
Raccoon Creek State Park
Raccoon Lake is a great local fishing lake for several reasons. First, it's one of the best-stocked lakes in the region, with trout catchable all year long and bass that reach large sizes. Second, it's a beautiful lake surrounded by mountains, yet only about 25 miles from Pittsburgh. The reason it's mentioned here, though, are the crappies. I caught my largest crappie ever at Raccoon when I was about 14. It was a black crappie, and I'll bet he weighed a couple of pounds. White crappie are in there, too, and both tend to school around the largemouth habitat (which makes for a fun surprise when out there with ultra-light tackle). Give it a try sometime and Raccoon just might become one of your favorite lakes.