Trout season kicks off in the 18-county southeast region of Pennsylvania 8 a.m. Saturday, and despite ice remaining on some of the region's northern-most lakes, all the waters are stocked and ready to fill those stringers for the first time in 2014.
Our veteran shop owners are once again warning people about the cold water temperatures, not just for its effect on the fish, but its effect on you and any first-timers you're taking out there.
Be sure to bring along a change of clothes and something to warm up your hands and toes on opening day. And just because you can put up with the cold, don't expect that a youngster will. If you're trying to make a lifelong angler out of a six-year-old, remember that one or two hours of fun is better than two more hours of shivering frustration.
The weather forecast is calling for rain today and potential rain on Saturday, so the water should be a bit high and murky. Our shop experts are advising people to fish close to the stream banks and fish with smaller tackle and smaller pieces of bait.
There's no better feeling than throwing that first trout of the season onto a grill, but just remember that the fish may be extremely sluggish and very slow to respond to food because of the cold water.
2014 Pennsylvania Fishing Regulations: http://fishinpa.com/
2014 Pennsylvania Trout Stocking Schedule:
Willie's Bait & Tackle, 5105 Main St., Cementon (610-261-2767): Willie says the shop has been busy since last Friday as people get ready for Saturday. A lot of people have been scouting the streams and say the trout look bigger than last year, and there are less goldens. Willie stocked up on minnows on Thursday and is replenishing the stock daily. He's not happy about the predicted rain for the opener, but it should still be a good day for anglers. He's hoping the rain is minimal. PowerBaits, Berkley trout worms and trout magnets are his best bets for artificial baits, with butter worms, wax worms and fathead minnows getting the call for live bait.
Bob's Wildlife Taxidermy, 4642 Kernsville Road, Orefield (610-398-7609): Bob says it's going to be cold and we need to be prepared for that. If you are taking the kids, make sure you pack extra changes of clothing. Hand warmers also help. If you or the kids get wet and cold and don't have a change of clothes or way to get warm, the whole opening day adventure is ruined or cut short. The optimum water temperature for active feeding or fishing action for brook and brown trout is 58 degrees, and 61 degrees for rainbow trout. Most streams right now are still below 44 degrees, so the fishing can be tough with the fish responding lethargically. Fish are cold blooded and cold temps mean a very slow metabolism, so they will not be looking for a big meal. Keep your baits small and your retrieve slow. If you use PowerBaits, downsize your hook and offering. Baits such as meal worms, butter worms, wax worms, small minnows and small pieces of nightcrawlers and other worms will do the trick. If you like spinners or spoons, go small and have good action on a slow retrieve. Fishing in areas down stream of heavy springs or spring fed tributaries may help. Bob gets frustrated by ice forming on rod guides and line, but his father taught him that any decent car wax can be applied to your rod guides. Buff it off like you would on your car, the water beads off before it can freeze. He also stretches out his fishing line and treat it the same way. The shop is fully stocked with fresh baits, and a fair assortment of artificial baits and tackle.
Archery @ the Glenn, 7 Auburn St., Allentown, (610-791-7665): Brian says they are fully stocked with all types of minnows, worms and other live bait and just hopes the weather holds out to make it an enjoyable day for both young and old. The new trick this year is a tool that you use to shape PowerBait into a ball, and then roll the ball in Berkley's new glitter that gives it some flash and a smell to supposedly attract the fish.
Heritage Fly Shop, 2643 Fish Hatchery Road, Allentown (610-248-8836): Dave says conditions on the Little Lehigh are perfect. There have had some very good baetis hatches mid-afternoon. Midges can be used all day. Fish the bottom with size 22 cressbugs, as well as the usual pheasant tail, hare's ear and sucker spawn patterns.
Mike's Bait & Sports Shop, 328 East Lawn Rd., Nazareth, (610-759-2905): Mike says the streams are in nice shape, but the rain may mess things up. With the cold weather, fish small. Wax worms usually work well in colder water. The fish weren't well spread out during stocking because of the snow, so some honey holes will be barren while some typical empty spots may be load with trout. The water level will probably be up, so the trout will be tight against the shore and in the eddys.
Klotz's Bait Shop, 216 Hess Ave., Hellertown (610-838-7970): Caroline says she just got her minnows in on Thursday and is fully stocked with everything except blackheads. Friday should be the biggest day of the year for the shop. The Saucon has some big trout stocked in it.
Cabela's, 100 Cabela Drive Hamburg, (610-929-7000): Jon Reilly, the fishing and fly fishing department manager at Cabela's, says the rush is on to prepare for the regional trout opener this weekend. Some of the lakes may still have ice issues but most of the trout-stocked bodies of water in the southeast part of the state have opened up. Stream action should be good with most streams running at good fishable levels. Slow moving lures, dough baits, and live baits will be your best bets this weekend because of the colder than average water temperatures. Wide-bodied spoons such as the Little Cleo's or Cabela's Game Fish Spoons can be reeled much slower than the thinner style spoons due to the lift that is created while reeling them or from the stream current. Hold your rod tip high and slowly crawl these lures through the deeper pools to draw strikes. Don't be afraid to throw some bigger than average baits for the first 20-30 minutes to pick out the bigger or more aggressive fish first. Slow sinking soft plastics such as the Berkley 3-inch trout worm or the Leland Trout Magnet can also be very productive on finicky fish. These lures, along with Berkley PowerBait and live worms, will be good go-to baits this weekend. Cabela's has a large variety of PowerBait Dough Bait choices on hand and is stocked up on live worms. Be sure to call or stop by for advice from their expert outfitters.