COVID-19 has, sadly, brought a whole new meaning to the term “spring fever.” And while it has disrupted everyone’s daily life, along the way it has also impacted the sporting community, notably as anglers eye the opening of the New York and Pennsylvania trout seasons.
It’s a situation that seems to change daily as we head toward the trout season kickoffs (April 1 in New York and April 18 in Pennsylvania, with an April 11 youth offering in the Keystone State). At this point it appears we will have opening days, although elbow-to-elbow fishing on some of the traditional hotspots like Catherine Creek may be discouraged due to coronavirus concerns.
In Pennsylvania, the Fish and Boat Commission responded to the crisis by merging the state’s youth season and regular-season opener, in essence eliminating the early kickoff in 18 counties in the southeastern part of the state. Instead of the March 28 youth season opener and April 4 regular-season opening in those downstate counties, it will be a statewide youth season April 11 and an April 18 regular-season opening day.
That move was a product of the high number of COVID-19 cases in southeastern Pennsylvania; Fish and Boat Commission officials, following direction offered by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), wanted to reduce the potential for large gatherings of anglers and a migration of anglers from other parts of the state into the region for the early opener.
Another offshoot of the COVID-19 outbreak is that opening-day anglers may very well see more stocked trout in their favorite water than ever before. That’s because the Fish and Boat Commission has gone to an accelerated stocking schedule, essentially merging the pre-season and in-season plantings of trout into one effort. That, commission officials say, will hopefully occur prior to opening day, since anglers are accustomed to hitting their favorite trout water for the opener with full knowledge that trout will be available for the catching.
The decision has Fish and Boat Commission personnel scrambling at a feverish pace to have the stockings completed before opening day; staff from around the state have been reassigned to assist, since at the same time volunteers – who traditionally play a major role in trout stocking efforts – have been banned out of an abundance of caution to avoid unnecessary human interaction. Fish and Boat Commission Executive Director Tim Schaeffer says he’s hopeful and even optimistic waters that typically receive trout ahead of the opener will be stocked prior to April 18.
When it’s all said and done, however, Schaeffer assured anglers that all 3.2 million trout will be stocked and the situation won’t mean any reduction in the number of trout planted.
Too, Pennsylvania won’t announce which waters have been stocked until after the fact, as opposed to past years when stocking dates were announced well in advance. The stockings will be posted on the commission’s website at www.fishandboat.com.
In New York, DEC officials have also urged volunteers to stay home rather than assist in the trout stockings as they typically enjoy. But the good news is water levels and temperatures this year have been conducive to getting fish stocked ahead of the April 1 opening day.
New York officials have also urged anglers to take the customary coronavirus-related precautions, including avoiding close contact and keeping a six-foot buffer between you and the next angler – even on Catherine Creek and other waters that see heavy pressure on opening day.
And as the New York opener approached, conditions were better than in some years, with acceptable flows and decent water temps that should make for some success instead of a few ceremonial casts and a quick retreat back to the truck for a cup of coffee.
And in today’s crazy world, what better way than to seek a little solitude on the water, escape the pressures of everyday life and perhaps bring home a fish or two for a meal?
Steve Piatt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org