Outdoor Opportunities By COL(Ret.) Grey D. Berrier II
Here in PA, there are multiple harbingers of Spring each year. Like many folks, I eagerly anticipate the arrival of the first robin and the initial chorus of spring peepers out in the woods. Another indicator of Spring’s arrival is the sight of PA Fish & Boat Commission (PF&BC) stocking trucks hauling their precious cargo of trout to our local waterways for stocking. Preseason stockings are a March ritual that often go unnoticed, but thanks are definitely in order for the dedicated men, women, and youths who volunteer to help PF&BC employees distribute trout in Lawrence County and across the other 66 counties spanning the Commonwealth. Over the past decade or so, the PF&BC has made a deliberate effort to try to stock trout several weeks before opening day to give the fish more time to become acclimated to their new homes, get used to feeding on native food sources, and to distribute themselves more evenly throughout the stocked waters. However, there will always be those pools that hold schools of stocked trout and those concentrations of fish attract a lot of attention on opening day of trout season. What do you do once that “low-hanging fruit” is picked off in the first hour or so after the season opens or on waters where the trout are more spread out and randomly located? Regardless of whether you prefer to pursue trout with bait (earthworms, mealworms, waxworms, minnows, salmon eggs, corn, marshmallows, PowerBait, etc.); lures (spinners, spoons, jigs, or even small crankbaits); or flies (wet, dry, nymphs, or streamers); there are certain spots on a stream that are going to hold trout where you should focus your attention. Here’s a simple acrostic using the word T-R-O-U-T to help you find and catch fish on just about any water that holds trout.
Trees – Before the humans arrive, stocked trout are subject to predation by great blue herons. The survivors quickly learn fallen trees, branches, stumps, and roots mean safety. From their woody lairs, they can dart out to pick off food floating past. While you may lose hooks when fishing close to woody structures, you will catch more trout than if you avoid the potential snags.
Rocks – Trout, like every other species, have to obtain more calories from the food they consume than the amount of calories they expend obtaining that food. Swift moving water often brings more potential food items past, but a trout will expend a lot of energy constantly fighting the flow. If you pay attention, there is a small pocket of slack water behind each rock and boulder in the current where trout like to hold to ambush passing foodstuffs. Deliberately presenting your bait, lure, or fly close to any rocks will target these waiting fish.
Observe the Water Column – Not all the water in a stream moves downstream at the same speed. Especially during high water, the top third moves the fastest, the middle third is a little slower, and the bottom third moves the slowest. Trout spend most of their time and do most of their feeding in this bottom third early in the season. You need to use the correct amount of weight to get your bait, lure, or fl y down into this prime area and keep it there to maximize bites.
Undercut Banks – Quietly approach any stream because trout may be literally hiding right under your feet. Some of the largest trout take advantage of muskrat holes, overhanging roots, and the cavities carved by fl owing water to hide from predators and to ambush passing food. Transitions in the
Waterway – Most streams consist of a series of pools and riffles. Frequently, actively feeding fish congregate at the head of a pool to take advantage of food items washed down through the riffles. Casting into the tail end of a riffle and allowing your offering to drift into this “feeding zone” in the pool can often produce more than one trout from the same spot.
Whether you pursue trout here in Lawrence County or somewhere else in PA, focusing your attention on these prime locations will put you onto more trout, so you can either practice catch-and-release or have a fresh trout dinner. Good luck! God Bless, Be Safe, and Great Outdoors! ©WBB 2019