All eyes on weather as trout season opens

04-13-2012 // Bob Jarzomski - Erie Times-News

This excerpt is from the Erie Times-News

Sparkling cold tributaries teeming with hatchery-raised fish await an angler invasion Saturday for the statewide opening day of Pennsylvania trout season.

While the annual rite of spring draws throngs of families searching for their limit of fish, some anglers choose to sit out the frantic first day.

But if the trend of abnormally warm, dry weather that started with the winter that wasn't continues, those anglers might want to hit the streams earlier and more often this season.

Trout won't thrive, and some don't survive, if water temperatures get unusually high.

"I believe it's going to be a great year for fishing, but if we don't get much rain, and temperatures spike to an extreme, then it could be trouble,'' said Mike Laskowski, owner of Oil Creek Outfitters in Titusville. "If that's the case, then go out and fish early, and catch as many as you can.''

Most experts think it is unlikely that a dry or hot spring and summer could send stocked trout belly-up in the streams. But the waters near Allegheny National Forest and elsewhere in Pennsylvania that hold naturally reproducing wild trout could be threatened.

"Trout are cold-water fish, but if they don't find the streams we stock to their liking, they typically move out,'' said Chuck Murray, Lake Erie biologist for the northwestern Pennsylvania region of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission. "That's why we don't usually stock the streams until just before the season opens. If they are released two weeks before the season, they might not be there when it opens. But this issue is bigger in other areas of the state as to how long the fish will stay in an area.''

Allen Woomer, the Northwest Pennsylvania Area Fisheries manager for the Fish and Boat Commission, is worried about low water levels that could have an effect on wild trout streams.

"The levels are down for this time of year, and if we have a dry, hot period in the spring and summer, then that could be a double-whammy because of the low flows,'' Woomer said. "Thankfully, the water that remained very cold over the winter did not cause the stream temperatures to be too high after the very warm weather in March. We had some normal cold weather lately, and right now the streams are back to normal, and perfect for good fishing.''

Ed Perry, who retired in 2002 after 30 years as an aquatic biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, now travels throughout Pennsylvania as an advocate for the National Wildlife Federation's global warming campaign. Though Perry sees frightening prospects in the future, he believes this year should be fine.

"It appears that the water temperatures will still be OK this spring, but it could pose a problem if it continues to heat up in the summer,'' Perry said.

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