Trout fishing season is now open in Pennsylvania, an unexpected move the state announced with little fanfare Tuesday, giving anglers an excuse to leave the house during the coronavirus pandemic.
The state said it opened the season early to discourage a concentration of people gathering on the traditional opening day, to minimize travel, and to reduce the threat of illegal poaching in waters that have already been stocked. The season had been scheduled to open April 18.
“We realize that this announcement is another disruption to tradition, but it is in the best interest of public health and safety,” Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission executive director Tim Schaeffer said in a statement. “We have already seen that anglers and boaters across the Commonwealth are willing to adapt their behavior to include social distancing, and we ask everyone to follow their lead while enjoying outdoor activities during this challenging time.”
The measure allows all properly licensed anglers and youth to begin fishing for and harvesting trout. All regulations, sizes, and creel limits apply, but officials say all anglers and boaters should limit travel by fishing close to home and fish only with people living in their household. The state also suggests wearing a face mask, keeping at least six feet away from other anglers, and not sharing fishing gear.
“The trout we have been stocking have had time to spread out, and so should you,” Schaeffer said.
Fishing and boating is permitted in state parks and state forests, but state park facilities — including restrooms — may be closed. Some parks may close if visitors do not follow social distancing guidelines, according to Terry Brady, a spokesperson for the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, who told The Inquirer last week some parks were being stretched beyond their capacity with a “crush of visitors.”
To further discourage group gatherings, the commission will not be releasing a stocking schedule or a list of waters that have been stocked. Anglers should also be aware that public access to some waters may be restricted by the landowner or local municipal government.
Out-of-state residents who have a Pennsylvania fishing license should comply with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s travel advisory, which urges residents of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut to refrain from nonessential domestic travel.
The commission also announced that Mentored Youth Trout Day will not take place this season. All Voluntary Youth Fishing Licenses purchased in 2020 will be honored for all mentored youth fishing opportunities during the 2021 season.