CRANBERRY — On Sunday, more than 60 vendors gathered at the Pittsburgh Marriott North to prepare for the upcoming fishing season.
Trout season, the most popular, begins on April 16, according to Lenny Lichvar, a commissioner with the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.
In anticipation of trout season, this when the surge of fishing licensing takes place with the majority of licenses being sold just before trout season, he said.
The state has already begun its annual stocking, putting about 3.2 million trout into fishing waters statewide, Lichvar said.
“We stock more trout than anything else,” he said. “But not all trout are stocked.”
In fact, people tend to overlook the bodies of water that aren’t stocked, but Lichvar said those off-the-beaten path waters have their own naturally reproducing populations. Wild trout are still fairly common across the state, he said.
Pennsylvania has hundreds of miles of wild trout waters, so Lichvar said visiting those unstocked waters might be a good way to mix up a typical fishing routine. After all, this state has more flowing water than any other state except Alaska, he said.
But for those who might not want to change up their location, changing over to fly fishing might be another fun change for the upcoming season.
John G. Hayes, 83, makes his own artificial fishing flys and has been for 60 years. Over that time, he’s really grown to perfecting the method, but his flys aren’t for sale, he stressed.
Many of the lures are created to look similar to a species natural prey, such as crane-fly larvae, according to Mark Fedosick, with the Montour Run Watershed Association.
But some lures are designed to be bright and dramatic, which excites and confuses the fish, according to Tyler Straight with Autumn Siren Flies.
Straight said that fish will investigate the foreign object by biting at it, and the larger fish like steelheads and pikes will do so very aggressively.
With mimicry and boldness, different flys can help catch virtually any kind of fish, Hayes said, but fly fishing does tend to be a little more difficult than conventional fishing. This is primarily due to the flexibility of the rod, especially if someone is trying to catch a larger fish.
If you ask Matty Michanowicz of Pittsburgh, all fishing is fairly hard.
“It’s hard to catch a fish period, I don’t care how you do it,” he said.
“They call it fishing. They don’t call it ‘catching.’”
For trout fisherman who want to upgrade to fly fishing, Hayes recommends using a four or five weight rod and line, which is typically an eight- or nine-foot rod, he said.
While winter fishing was particularly good this year, it could impact how good the fishing season is later on, according to Todd Deluccia with Keystone Predator Outfitters.
Winter snows can help recharge the water table, he said, but with this year’s lower snowfall, the water levels will depend on how wet this spring and summer are, he said.
If there are drought-like conditions or there aren’t moderate enough rains, the water levels may not be ideal for fishing.
Despite that, Deluccia said there aren’t any huge environmental indicators like disease or local pollution that would ruin the fun of fishing. He’s predicting a typical fishing year.
In fact, in the Montour Run watershed, the water quality has been improving, Fedosick said.
While many abandoned mines have iron-heavy discharge that flow into the groundwater or directly into streams, treatment plants have been introduced in the area.
For discharge that is a bright orange color, the waters are heavily polluted with iron, but no stream life can exist there, according to Fedosick. But there are treatment centers and data to track how well the area’s water are improving, he said.
“We still have some work to do, but it’s getting better,” Fedosick said.
This can typically be measured by the type of insect or fish life in the waters since some insects are more negatively affected by poor water conditions than others.
If fishing is something a person wants to get into, there’s a specific nonprofit based out of Pittsburgh that can help: Venture Outdoors.
The company is funded by donations and memberships to help make fishing more accessible, according to Cyndi Kolowski with the organization.
She stressed that this is not the kind of trip where a person spends
$350 dollars to have a day with a guide.
Instead, the nonprofit conducts tours of around 10 people, with some trips to Lake Arthur as well. The tours are typically one day, about 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and there are tours for multiple different skill and experience levels, Kolowski said.
“Some trips may require previous experience,” she said. “But most of the classes are beginner friendly.”
For her, the best part of fishing is the beauty of the nature, she said, especially the brook trout.
“It’s like God’s little painting on the side of the fish,” she said.
Because of the beauty and the closeness to nature that the tours provide, Kolowski believes it’s a wonderful experience and way to unwind. But best of all, Venture Outdoors helps provide the necessary gear and knowledge to people who may have never set foot near water before.