PLYMOUTH TWP. — When Fred West Jr. pulled an enormous golden rainbow trout out of Harveys Creek just a half hour after the start of Saturday’s trout season opener, he thought the accomplishment would be tough to beat.
Fifteen minutes later, West did just that, catching another rainbow trout that was longer than the first. By 9 a.m., West, of Pringle, had two trophy trout that each exceeded 20 inches in length.
“I got here at 4 a.m. and I’m thrilled,” he said. “The second rainbow snapped my rod right when I got it to shore, but it doesn’t matter. You couldn’t ask for a better day.”
Approximately 150 cars lined Route 29 along Harveys Creek for the 8 a.m. start of trout season. The scene was similar at waterways across the region where the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission stocked trout.
Nanticoke resident Jamie Dana brought his 5-year-old daughter, Megan, to Moon Lake an hour before the 8 a.m. start. The lake was crowded, but the action was slow.
By 10 a.m., Dana had yet to get a bite nor did he see anyone else catch a trout.
“This was my daughter’s first trip for trout and she was talking about it all week. I had visions of here catching a big rainbow,” Dana said. “It was cold this morning so maybe the trout moved to deeper water. We’re still having fun though and the weather has been perfect.”
Warm, sunny weather was part of the reason for large crowds of anglers on Saturday. The other factor behind the high turnout was the more than 3 million trout stocked by the PFBC.
The agency’s hatchery trucks have been busy since late February stocking waterways with brook, brown and rainbow trout. The PFBC annually stocks approximately 3.15 million adult trout in more than 720 streams and 126 lakes open to public angling. These figures include approximately 2 million rainbow trout; 640,000 brown trout; and 500,000 brook trout. As with past practice, the average size of the trout produced for stocking is 11 inches in length.
In addition to these fish, the PFBC plans to stock about 8,700 trophy golden rainbow trout that weigh an average of 1.5 pounds and measure at least 14 inches long. Also, PFBC cooperative nurseries run by sportsmen’s clubs across the state will add another 1 million trout to waters open to public angling.
‘Loving it today’
Streams seemed to produce better results than lakes on Saturday. George Vitanovec, Wilkes-Barre, caught three rainbow trout by 9 a.m. at Harveys Creek and anglers were still landing fish throughout the morning.
Vitanovec said he spends opening day at Harveys Creek because it’s close to home. Add in the nice weather and it made for a perfect start to trout season, he said.
“We’re all loving it today. I’ve been out on opening days when you had to dip your rod in the water to get the ice off the guides,” Vitanovec said. “I’ve been fishing the opening day for more than 60 years and it’s a tradition.”
While the weather was nice at Lily Lake in Slocum Township, the bite on opening day was cold. At 8 a.m., a handful of anglers lined the shore and a few dozen boats drifted on the lake, but the fish weren’t biting.
Tom Skoronski, who brought two of his grandchildren to Lily Lake in the morning, said it was disappointing to not even get a bite.
“They stocked the lake three weeks ago and it’s open to year round fishing, and also the mentored youth day, so there’s a lot of pressure on these fish before opening day arrives,” Skoronski said. “I pulled in here shortly after 7 a.m. and was worried that we wouldn’t find a spot to fish, but there was no one here.”
The situation at Lily Lake was common at other lakes in the county, according to waterways conservation officer Aaron Lupacchini. He said anglers at Lake Frances and Briar Creek Lake also had a slow day, compared to streams such as Nescopeck Creek and the Big Wapwallopen Creek.
“My guess is the water warmed up faster in the creeks,” Lupacchini said. “If we get some more warm days, the lakes will get warm and the fish should start biting there as well. There will be plenty of fish left in the lakes during the season.”
Waterways Conservation Officer John Cummings, whose district includes northern Luzerne County, said the action on streams always seems to be better than lakes when the weather is clear and sunny.
Harveys Creek and Meshoppen Creek, Bowmans Creek and the South Branch of Tunkhannock Creek, in Wyoming County, each had large crowds with a lot of fish being caught, Cummings said, while Frances Slocum Lake and Lake Winola were slow. Harveys Lake was also spotty, with the exception of anglers fishing from shore near the Grotto.
“The places where they were catching fish I received a lot of compliments from anglers. The fish look really nice this year,” Cummings said. “The colors are just outstanding on these trout, and people are really happy.”
Aside from a few violations for failing to wear a personal flotation device while on a boat, Cummings encountered few violations during the morning.
But Lupacchini said he encountered more violations than usual — an issue he attributed to warm weather bringing out larger crowds. The infractions included fishing without a license, using bait and keeping fish in a delayed harvest area, and parking in front of entrances to private property.
Reach Tom Venesky at 570-991-6395 or on Twitter @TomVenesky