Trout season here in our area, along with most of Pennsylvania, opens at 8 a.m. on April 16, while the special regional opening day for 18 counties in the southeastern part of the state will be April 2. In preparation for this annual rite of spring, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission plans to stock 3.2 million trout in 744 streams and 122 lakes throughout the state. Rainbow trout will comprise more than half of the total trout stocked, with an estimated 1.8 million of this species scheduled to be released for the 2011 trout season, along with about 859,000 brown trout and 536,000 brook trout.
Many waterways will also receive a few of some 9,000 so-called trophy golden rainbows, which are expected to average 1.5 pounds in weight and 14 inches in length. Bred to display a bright yellow coloration because of a genetic mutation, goldens are garish and grotesque compared to the natural beauty of a real trout. Some folks incorrectly refer to them as "palominos," which was another genetically engineered freak fish that was even uglier. Palominos haven't been stocked for many years, but for some reason, that ridiculous name lingers on. Other than the obvious novelty factor, I've never understood what the attraction to these disgusting faux trout, much less why our Fish and Boat Commission goes to the time and expense of raising them.
This year, the co-op nursery program is expected to produce more than 730,000 additional trout that will be stocked around the state in waters open to public fishing. This joint venture between local sportsmen's clubs and the Fish and Boat Commission began in 1952 and continues to be a worthwhile and successful effort, with about 150 clubs and organizations currently participating in the program. Co-op nurseries are largely a volunteer effort for the clubs and organizations involved. The Fish and Boat Commission supplies the club with fingerling trout and technical expertise, and the club supplies the manpower, food and other necessities to raise the fish to adult size. Almost every county in our region has one or more clubs that operate a co-op trout nursery, and they provide thousands of trout for area waters in addition to the regular state allotments. Many of the co-ops supply trout for special youth fishing events throughout the spring.
So far this month in Blair County, Blair Gap Run, Canoe Creek and Clover Creek have already been stocked. Last Wednesday, I spent a few hours helping to stock some trout in Canoe Creek. In spite of cold weather and persistent snow flurries, a small group of folks was on hand to carry buckets of trout to the stream. Blair County waterways conservation officer, Craig Garman, told me he is grateful to have a handful of regulars that he calls the "Blair County Stocking Crew." These stalwarts show up for almost every trout stocking regardless of the weather to help with the stocking chores. Of course, all volunteers are welcome to help carry fish to the streams during any scheduled stocking.
Upcoming preseason stockings in Blair County include the Frankstown Branch of the Juniata River on March 15; meeting place for this stocking will be the Claysburg post office 10:30 a.m. Poplar Run and South Poplar Run will be stocked on March 17; meeting place is the Newry post office at 10:30 a.m. Bald Eagle Creek will be stocked on March 18; meeting place is village of Bald Eagle 9:30 a.m. Canoe Lake will be stocked on April 1; meeting place is the Canoe Creek State Park office at 10:30 a.m. The final preseason stocking for Blair County will include Bells Gap Run, Riggles Gap Run and Vanscoyoc Run on April 12; meeting place is the Sheetz store off the Bellwood exit of I-99 at 10 a.m.
n One other worthwhile reminder I would like to pass on this weeks is the Blair County Game, Fish and Forestry Association will hold its annual Landowner/Sportsman Banquet on Thursday, March 24 at 6 p.m. in the main lodge at 301 Riggles Gap Sportsmen Road, Altoona. This traditional roast beef dinner is held each spring to thank landowners who open their property to hunting and fishing. Following dinner, representatives of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission a program will present a special program. Space is limited, however, and tickets are required. Sportsmen can obtain free tickets for a landowner guest. For more information or to obtain tickets, contact Sharon Merritts at 946-9315.