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Without warning, Pennsylvania trout season opened this morning, with youth day canceled

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The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission abruptly opened the 2020 statewide trout season at 8 a.m. Tuesday.

It also canceled Mentored Youth Trout Day, which was scheduled for Saturday. The PFBC will honor all Voluntary Youth Fishing Licenses purchased in 2020 for all mentored youth fishing opportunities during the 2021 season.

The PFBC had previously consolidated the 2020 trout season schedule into a single, statewide schedule for all Pennsylvania counties; accelerated trout stocking operations and limited volunteer participation; and added more ways to purchase fishing licenses online and display proof of a fishing license and boating documents on a digital device.

Previous to Tuesday’s announcement, Mentored Youth Trout Day was scheduled for Saturday, April 11, and the statewide opening day of trout season was to be April 18.

Anglers and boaters must abide by social distancing guidelines, according to the PFBC.  

“We realize that this announcement is another disruption to tradition, but it is in the best interest of public health and safety,” said Tim Schaeffer, PFBC executive director.

The decision to open trout season immediately is intended to discourage concentrated gatherings of people that may have occurred on the traditional opening day, to minimize intrastate and interstate travel, and to reduce the threat of illegal poaching in waters that have already been stocked, according to a press release Tuesday on the PFBC website.

Anglers and boaters should limit travel by fishing close to home, cover their faces with a mask or other cloth covering, keep a distance of at least 6 feet from others (the length of arm with an outstretched fishing rod is a good guide), only go fishing with members of their families living in the same household, and never share fishing gear with others, the commission’s press release stated. If another angler is in an area you intended to fish, move on to another spot.

PFBC staff will continue to stock trout throughout the spring, but not all waters have been stocked at this time. To further discourage group gatherings, a stocking schedule and list of waters that have been stocked will not be provided to the public this season, the commission said.

Fishing and boating is permitted in Pennsylvania state parks and state forests, when social distancing guidelines are followed. The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation & Natural Resources is encouraging people to fish and conduct other outdoor recreation within 15 minutes of their homes.

State park facilities, including restrooms, might be closed.

“Outdoor recreational activities, including fishing, lift our spirits and help relieve stress, but they need to be done with attention to social distancing guidelines to help protect ourselves and others, and slow the spread of COVID-19,” DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn said. “That means practicing physical distancing of 6 feet, avoiding crowds and staying close to home, and being prepared with a mask and hand sanitizer.”

Regardless of fishing location, anglers should bring a bag with them and carry out their trash.