The statewide opening morning of trout season is quickly approaching. Soon the banks of every body of water stocked with trout will be lined with anglers of all ages hoping to land a few fish once 8 a.m. arrives.
While most trout fishermen participate in opening morning, I would like to see more of an effort made toward youngsters when it comes to opportunities in stocked water.
There are some ways that the Fish & Boat Commission - and other organizations - could easily provide more chances for kids to have a memorable outing while trout fishing. These changes could serve as a way to ensure that the children continue to fish as they grow up and eventually purchase fishing licenses, trout stamps and contribute to clubs. It would be good for public relations, experience and for income.
The first thing I would like to see is more kids-only sections. In fact, I believe that every stocked stream should have at least one of these special regulation areas. I would have little problem finding idea locations on most streams where I fish. This would need to be aided by landowners who supported the program and allowed access to youngsters.
Things to look for to start an ideal kids-only section would include easy access, nearby parking, the ability to fish on both sides of the stream and a lack of brush. Grassy banks without low-hanging limbs are the norm on the current youth trout areas.
Last year I took my two young children to a kids-only section in May and I was pleasantly surprised with the stream. A private group had completed a lot of good stream work to create both nice pools and fast-moving sections through placement of logs that made every part of the special section very pleasing for trout.
I am sure many groups such as sportsman's clubs and Trout Unlimited would volunteer time and funds to create great fishing opportunities for the local youth. Private groups often sponsor trout derbies. More derbies could be held in streams instead of the warm ponds that are not ideal to hold trout long after they are dumped in off a truck.
I would like stocking at kids-only sections to occur more often than that of most regular trout approved waters throughout the state. That way there are more opportunities to have nice days fishing besides the opener. This is the case at a few locations near where I camp in the Pine Creek Valley. It is nice to know your children have a chance to catch a fish throughout the spring and early summer.
The creel limit could be brought down to four, three or even two fish and that would not ruin an outing for kids. I think the problem with the first day is that many good holes that kid fish are ruined by selfish adults who are concerned with getting their limit of trout. Youngsters just want to catch some fish. They are not worried about trying to impress their friends with tales of dominating hatchery fish in the break room at work.
Another option could be to have an early youth day in specially marked areas. Instead of making a special regulation area throughout the year, a few could be named for one day in each stream. Those areas could be stocked with a few extra fish so the regulars who fish there on opening morning would not feel the kids caught all the fish. I know if sounds ridiculous, but there are adults who would be upset regarding kids fishing a spot before they did.
There is a mentored youth fishing day coming up on May 10. Originally two days, March 22 and April 5, were scheduled and eventually changed to the lone date in May.
When I first heard about the mentored days I was excited about the extra opportunities for kids. But once I read more about proposed regulations, I was less enthused and a little frustrated. I think any opportunity for children is a step in the right direction. However, I think his program will still need to make some changes to be a state-wide success.
Forty-one lakes, ponds and dams will be able to be fished during the 2014 mentored day. The closest locations from the Juniata Valley are near Newport, Mifflinburg and Clearfield. It would be nice if kids would not have to travel so far to be a part of the mentored program.
What I do not understand about the mentored youth fishing day is why adults are permitted to both fish and keep their catch. Obviously the program is a great idea for experienced trout fishermen to help show kids the ins and outs of fishing. However, I see no reason for those adults to fish in waters selected for the program that day.
I think the youth waterfowl hunt for kids in Pennsylvania is a great thing. It gives kids a chance to hunt ducks before the rest of the hunting community. However, I think that if the guys in the blinds with them could also shoot the wood ducks dropping into the decoys it would defeat the purpose of the day.
Everything the Fish & Boat Commission, private clubs and parents can do to help trout fishing become more enjoyable for children will do nothing but benefit the sport for the future. Special youth areas, derbies and any other opportunities should be put first during a fishing season that is easy to manipulate to help children through the placing of stocked fish.
Zach Knepp writes about the outdoors for The Sentinel.