Whatever problems arise in the man-made world, Pennsylvania’s waters still flow and the fish still bite!
Melting snow in Pennsylvania’s mountains and ridges have joined waters from spring rains to feed our “freestone streams,” the perfect habitat for the native, wild brook trout that thrive here in Penn’s Woods. Brook trout, or “brookies” — Pennsylvania’s state fish — have been revered by anglers throughout the ages for both their fighting spirit and bejeweled color schemes.
With nearly 16,000 miles of these wild trout streams, as well as nearly 5,000 miles of additional streams and over 125 lakes all stocked with Brook Trout, Brown Trout and Rainbow Trout (including steelhead and golden rainbow), Pennsylvania offers some of the best and most beautiful trout fishing in all of North America.
This year, Pennsylvania’s statewide trout fishing season opened early on April 7. While some businesses and park facilities were closed due to the COVID-19 crisis affecting how and when fish may be stocked and stalked, there are plenty of great spots to cast your line. Be sure to check with the Fish and Boat Commission for any changes, including some re-instated trout stocking areas. And be sure you have a valid fishing license if you are age 16 or older, which you can purchase online.
Ready to get outside and stretch your legs this spring?
While we want everyone to get outside and enjoy Pennsylvania’s greater than great outdoors, please be sure to practice safe social distancing with at least six feet between you and your fellow anglers (unless, of course, it’s a family member living in the same household). Please limit travel to fishing areas close to home, wear a mask, and take hand sanitizer with you on your fishing adventure to help keep you and others safe.
Once you are ready to go, here are a few special places where you can pursue a variety of trout right now:
Meadow Run, near Uniontown, is a seemingly modest freestone stream, but among the best trout streams to be found despite being surprisingly close to urban areas.
Adventurous anglers willing to do some hiking can find some great spots to cast their line along Linn Run and the waters that feed it in Linn Run State Park. The waters fan out into the adjacent Forbes State Forest — 50,000 acres with a variety of streams that feature some really great habitat for wild brook trout.
Spring Creek near State College is such a storied wild trout stream with more wild brown trout per mile than any other stream in the state, there is even a stretch dubbed “Fisherman’s Paradise.” Spring Creek is a no kill, catch and release only fishing area, ideal for challenging your fishing prowess and hooking the “big one” then releasing it back to the wild.
Also near State College is Penns Creek, the state’s longest and wildest limestone stream. Get ready for a challenge because the trout on this stream are notoriously finicky and fickle! With its size and muddy bottom the creek can be difficult to wade when flow levels are high so come prepared with felts and a wading staff.
Spruce Creek in Huntingdon County is known by fishermen far and wide as having some of the best trout fishing in the world. Areas of the creek are tackle only (i.e., no bait), catch and release, so be sure to check before casting your line, and some areas are the domain of private clubs; however, a number of clubs offer single-day memberships.
With both native and stocked trout, the Yellow Breeches Creek near Harrisburg is well known as a great, year-round trout fishing locale; and its natural beauty has been recognized with a designation one of Pennsylvania’s Scenic Rivers. Several stretches of the creek have large populations of wild brown trout; just be aware that catch and release regulations apply to various sections.
Practically in view of Philadelphia’s Center City is Wissahickon Creek, where children and adults can spin and fly-fish for stocked trout.
Looking forward to a future fishing trip?
Get a jump on planning some future fishing adventures so you’re ready once the world opens up again! From luxury resorts with guided fly-fishing to state park cabins for laid-back family camping, Pennsylvania offers a range of great fishing adventures.
Nemacolin's new Case Brown Cottage offers the ultimate, luxurious trout fishing experience. Located next to the prime trout fishing stream of Meadow Run, you’ll first be transported via Jeep to the private location by a skilled guide. Once there, a half-mile of Meadow Run is for your exclusive use, to fly-fish on your own or with guidance from Nemacolin’s Orvis Endorsed Fly-Fishing School. Afterwards, relax on the beautiful screened porch overlooking the stream. Starting at roughly $1,500 per night, you also can arrange for an in-house chef, a private butler, a personal photographer, and a myriad of other guided outdoor experiences.
Laurel Highlands anglers seeking simpler and more affordable accommodations might love the nine rustic cabins of Linn Run State Park. Many of these cabins were originally built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), and offer stream-front overnight experiences.
A fancy way to fish Spruce Creek would be to purchase a day membership to one of the private clubs along its banks, such as the Member-for-a-Day Package at the HomeWaters Club. It includes a night of lodging and eight hours of guided fishing, starting at about $500 per person.
Casting flies and telling lies.
Some of the best fishing trips are those that include more than just fishing.
As in much of Pennsylvania, trout season at Kinzua Creek in the heart of the Allegheny National Forest is a very big deal. A decades-long tradition involves booking a room and enjoying a delicious meal at the rustic Westline Inn, which once had a tank of live trout in its dining room! The fish remain as an occasional “catch of the day” menu item.
A sign at the bar sums up the atmosphere: “Casting flies and telling lies.”
Anglers will have to wait to visit later when the Inn re-opens and guests will once again be able to walk out the door and try their hand at catching their own brown and rainbow trout along Kinzua Creek.
Having a local Straub beer there after a day of trout fishing is part of the experience, says Mike Pascarella, a McKean County native whose family runs the inn. With the Kinzua Creek Brown Trout Club, he helps raise money to put approximately 400 big browns into the creek every fall.
“Kinzua Creek is unique in that, with the exception of two-tenths of a mile, you’re only going to see trees, woods, animals and maybe a few people,” he says. “You’re not in someone’s backyard.”
He loves the solitude, but he also looks forward to bumping into other anglers in a typical spring, which may be the only time he sees them all year. “You’re returning to a place you like; they’re returning to a place they like. It’s just sorta neat.”
Some of that is on hold. But, in the meantime, the Kinzua still flows. Eventually, the Straub will, too.
Resources to help you explore Pennsylvania’s trout fishing season or plan your visit for later:
The source for all the rules, including COVID-19 requirements, as well as printable licenses and launch permits, is the online home of the state Fish and Boat Commission.
To learn about additional fishing spots in Pennsylvania, check out the visitPA website. Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more PA inspiration. Don’t forget to sign up for our monthly Happy Thoughts e-newsletter so you never miss an update.