It sometimes is very difficult for us older folks to accept rules or laws that have been implemented and regulate our flexible seasonal changes in the very popular sport of fishing. Yet we are, not only in Pennsylvania but in North America and the entire world, faced with regulations that we cannot kill and eat all we want, if we want a viable population for reproduction or to satisfy the rapidly expanding sport of fishing for enjoyment.
To understand the progressive and mushrooming changes that have been initiated successfully in our marginal trout and bass streams and the truly great trout waters, although completely different habitats, the tools for protecting prime waters are relatively the same.
In Pennsylvania, it really gets complicated because of the diversity of our thousands of miles of streams.
PHOTO COURTESY OF DON DAUGHENBAUGH
Young anglers who like to catch fish should visit one of the hundreds of ponds overpopulated with the popular bluegill. It is there they can fish safely, learn to bait a hook, remove a deeply swallowed worm with tongs, keep all they kill and learn how to clean their catch for a tasty meal.
Unfortunately, in Pennsylvania, we are not blessed with snowpacks in the mountains or 100 inches of annual rainfall to ensure ideal stream habitat. And, in its quest for good management tools, the state Fish and Boat commission understands those concepts.
In the 1960s, I began to see a change in Western government-regulated waters and on selected Pennsylvania waters. There was a slow but sure change in stream management.
In the that decade, the late Jack Anderson - then superintendent of Yellowstone National Park - declared a no-kill and no-bait regulation throughout the park.
In two years, the average length of native cutthroat rose from 12 inches to 18 inches. The anglers loved it.
Wyoming soon followed suit. They changed the law of 10 pounds or two fish - whichever comes first - to two fish or slot limits. The brook trout really took a hit when declared as too productive, and anglers were allow to kill as many as 16 per day because their overproduction resulted in the dominance of food. They were beginning to figure it out.
It soon was evident that each stream, particularly in Pennsylvania, and in the highly productive waters in the country had to be treated as different entities. The results were outstanding, and it appears we still are learning as we are accessing the progress of aquatic vertebrates and their requirements for viable populations.
And even though we old timers do not like the rules of stream management, it has to be done in a scientific approach. That's what the sport is all about.
Today, we see regulatory signs on almost every trout and bass water in Pennsylvania as part of a good management program.
Delayed harvest programs are especially popular. They allow fishing and protection through the summer months into early fall. As stream temperatures rise, anglers must realize that trout will seek suitable oxygen and temperatures levels almost immediately after being planted.
I have caught many rainbows well into October that found the cooler underground water temperatures in deeper pools to their liking.