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Environment & Science

On 1st day of trout season, anglers flock to local watering holes

First Day of Trout Season
Grace Oddo
Ty, a fisherman, shows of his catch at the Little Lehigh Creek in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Four-year-old Landon Wiltrout could hardly contain his excitement at the thought of seeing the fish at the Li'l-Le-Hi Trout Nursery.

One hand holding onto mom, another hanging onto a bag of fish food, he flung the pellets as far as they could go, squealing with joy as he watched the speckled trout dart up to the surface of their rearing ponds to gobble up the snack.

"He's been cooped up in the house all week because of the rain," mom Julie Wiltrout said. "It's nice to finally get outside."

Julie and Landon Wiltrout
Grace Oddo
Julie Wiltrout and her four-year-old son Landon pictured in front of one of Li'l-Le-Hi Trout Nursery's rearing ponds. They had taken the day to come and learn more about trout populations in Pennsylvania.

Across the way at the Little Lehigh Creek on Saturday, the trout were the ones being gobbled.

High school buddies Ty, Travis and Brock stood firmly in the rushing current, waiting for the next gullible trout to take their bait. Eventually, one bit and Ty showed the fish off briefly before attaching it to a stringer.

"We hooked this one before, so he had it coming," joked Ty.

First day of trout season, an 'unofficial holiday'

Whether you intend to look at 'em or eat 'em, Saturday marked the beginning of trout season in Pennsylvania, a special day for many amateur and professional anglers.

"Trout fishing has been popular in Pennsylvania for hundreds of years, so this is like an unofficial holiday," said Mike Parker, communications director for the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.

"It'll be exciting for people to get out there."

Although some may affiliate fishing with cargo shorts, sunglasses, and a generous amount of sunscreen, those at Little Lehigh Creek mostly donned sweaters and sweatpants.

"It's typical for this time of year," Travis Kreitz of Kutztown said.

This is because trout season, compared to other fishing seasons, happens exceptionally early. Trout are finicky and prefer the cold water.

"If you go into a stream right now, you may get hypothermia, but it's a perfect temperature for a trout," Parker said, jokingly.

Stocking up for the season

Parker and his team at the Fish and Boat Commission have been stocking Pennsylvania's lakes and streams with the speckled fish since February, after hatching and raising them at one of the commonwealth's 14 trout hatcheries.

Wild and stocked Brook (the state fish!), Brown, Rainbow and Golden Rainbow trout can all be found in state waters. Golden Rainbow Trout, according to Parker, are particularly rare.

"They're like needles in a haystack," he said. "Folks should have fun trying to find them."

The commission also collaborates with privately affiliated trout nurseries, such as the Li'l-Le-Hi Trout Nursery in Allentown, to raise the trout before transporting them into state waters.

Li'l-Le-Hi Trout Nursery invites the public to come and visit the fish while they are maturing.

Trout swim in climate-controlled rearing ponds on the property, protected by a net lining to detract hungry herons, raccoons, and foxes.

For $1, visitors can buy a bag of fish food and feed them.

"It's so nice that this is free," Wiltrout said. "It's just a nice place to come and learn about the nature around you."

Efforts Saturday to reach Landon for further comment were unsuccessful, as he was busy running laps in the nearby grass.

Once the trout are big enough, they leave their humble homes for bigger waters, either to meet their fishy fate or to be released back into the stream. Each year, the cycle repeats.