Something Different for the First Day

Lake Perez at Sunrise

Last year was the first year Lake Perez at Stone Valley was filled with water and stocked with trout. Stone Valley is a short drive from State College, PA. The lake was out of commission for six years due to repairs that had to be made to the breast of the dam. The stocking report this year indicated that the lake would be stocked April 14th.

A few weeks ago, I decided to dock my Sports Pal Canoe at Stone Valley. It helps not to have to tie it up and transport it on top of the SUV for every float- and- fish outing. It also saves money on a roof rack that attaches to the existing one so the rack can actually be used!


One Brook Trout

I figured that my Brother and I could get to the lake early and launch the boat to try lake fishing for the First Day. That we did. In fact, we were first on the water. But of course that changed around 7:30. There were about 30 boats on the lake just before 8:00 with most of them trolling the length of the lake back and forth using electric motors. No gas motors are permitted. The day was perfect. No clouds and no wind. The lake was glass smooth with late morning temperatures around 69/72. It was great to be out early and watching a few swirls in the water caused by trout coming up for an early hatch. It always helps to see that kind of activity. It fuels the excitement and anticipation of catching the limit of five.

We fished for about 4 hours using just about everything except Power Bait and minnows. Bottom line? Nothing. Not even a bite! It appeared that some trout were caught by the trollers, but not many. Pretty odd first day. But after we docked the boat around 12:00, I traveled a short distance to Whipple Dam and caught one brook trout around nine inches. You could actually see trout swimming in the water there just a few feet from shore but most were not interested in what I had to offer.

At least the boat is docked at a very scenic place, Lake Perez, that’s stocked with fish acclimating to their new environment and available to be caught another day.


Brother and the Boat

Written by: Frank Koe Categories: Fishing


Hunting for Natives

As the heat of summer yields to cooler fall days, it’s always a great time to hike through the woods to visit a remote mountain stream in the hopes of catching a large native brook or brown trout. The word ‘large’ here is quite relative. Catching a native measuring eight inches or more would be quite impressive.


A likely native trout stream hole

The experience is more like hunting than actually fishing in the more traditional sense. Native streams are usually narrow and fairly shallow. A ‘good hole’ might be only two feet deep or less. Stream widths can range from about three to ten feet. The water is almost always crystal clear and by casting your shadow across the surface, telegraphs an immediate signal to all trout and instantly they scatter under rocks and roots. Being stealthy, very stealthy is the only way to improve your luck. If you can see the trout there is an excellent chance they’ve already seen you and will consequently not bite. Sometimes there is a more flat, calm area of water several feet downstream from the hole you want to try. That calm, wide area usually has a few two, three, or four inchers standing as guards while keeping an eye out for a snack floating by. If you spook those fish they often race upstream and sound the alarm to any fish in the pool. Before your garden worm hits the surface of the water, all of the fish have been alerted.

On a recent trip to Tipton Run, Blair County, PA I carefully made my way down stream. It was rough going because of all the laurel, trees, and brush overhanging the water. If you bump against a tree branch and its shadow moves over the stream, the fish are gone. And, of course there is the challenge of keeping the line from becoming tangled in limbs on shore or over water as well as trying to prevent a snag in the water that would disrupt the hole.


About four inches

I felt I was doing a good job of delicately dunking the small worm in several good spots but nothing was happening. No bites. I’ve found that just because the stream is known to have native trout does not mean that the entire stream is populated. When I start to fish, I sometimes walk abruptly up to the edge of the water to see if any small trout disperse. This way I know there are fish in that portion of the stream. I’ve been known to have spent many hours fishing in small mountain streams only to realize that there were simply no fish at home! But I’ve also fished in streams where there were no fish in a 75 yard portion of a stream but then a few feet farther magically ‘showed up.’

Eventually, several three or four inch brook trout held onto my worm long enough to be lifted a foot or so out of the water but dropped back in. There were no keepers this day.

The next several weeks are a great time to be in the woods hunting for native trout. And even if you don’t catch a prize you will not be disappointed by the fall colors or the aroma of the fall air.

Written by: Frank Koe Categories: Fishing


Time for a Change-up

It’s June and that means water conditions have changed from April. New hatches are coming off for those who use flies and new tactics are required for bait fishermen interested in catching trout.

During April, it seemed that spinners and almost anything that flashed in the higher water was a really a good choice. Although it’s still possible to catch trout with spinner bait using lures like a Rooster Tails, other choices may be better. Some trout stocking continues, but trout hold-over’s from March stockings have grown familiar with their home outside the hatchery and are a bit more particular about what they ingest. This means, in general, that scent is more important to trout than flickering metal.


Two Rainbows

Pink salmon eggs that leave a small ‘oil slick’ on the surface, night crawlers and garden worms are filled with scent and attract fish. The five I eventually caught were all landed on garden worms. Of course I rolled a few and one managed to land on a high bank.  Unable to use a net, it tumbled back in! Frustrating for sure but patience prevailed and I left with my limit. Four rainbows around 11 inches and one brown about 10.

This is a great time of year to get into the woods and experience nature. It’s not uncommon to see fawns, small ducklings and other animals that form a new generation of wildlife. And the early summer aromas are special. Take time to smell thoughtfully.

As noted in an earlier post, preventing yourself from being infected by deer ticks is extremely important. Personally, I’m a bit paranoid about Lyme disease considering a few friends contracted it with debilitating effects. Deer ticks are very small but young deer ticks are even smaller. It’s always a good idea to spray cloths with Permethrin before you go stream-side then take a hot, soapy shower upon returning. Also good to know that ticks can remain on your cloths after you take them off. Be aware…


Can you see the Blue Heron?


Barn with ivy

Written by: Frank Koe Categories: Fishing


First Day of 2015!

We’re back!

FullSizeRender3The weather around Orbisonia in Southern PA where I usually go for the first day was pretty amazing Saturday the 18th. 77 degrees! Almost too hot with water levels about 6 to 8 inches low. But the fish were biting for some of us. I was able to catch five (lost two) the first day on spinners and five the next day on a combination of lures and bait. All rainbows. But there were some Albino’s in the stream that I could see. Two were caught and one was quite large. Around 23 inches! My largest was 13 inches.


It was great on the second day to slowly move down Shade Creek at around 6:30 am without anyone on the stream. Nice and cool too. It’s sort of amazing how many people fish only where it’s convenient and easy to access a stream. If you’re patient and willing to navigate through some briars and brush, you’d be surprised what you can discover downstream. Fish do move around especially if there’s a period of high water. It’s always a thrill to catch a nice trout when and where you may least expect it. Have to be a little stealthy however and remember to wear camo or colors that are not bright. Also, spray your cloths the day before with any product that contains Permethrin. You do not want a tiny deer tick to get to your nervous system. It takes only 24 hours or less for a tic to get where it wants to be--under your skin. And keep Permethrin off your skin! Spray cloths only. If you find a tic on you, use tweezers or tissue to take it out. Do not touch it with your bare hands. Remove head first and be sure to get it all out while attempting to keep the tick in one piece. I’ve personally known two people who were infected with Lyme disease and it’s not good.

FullSizeRender2Since Lake Perez has finally opened, I’m anxious to see what’s happening there. The lake at Stone Valley, outside of State College, has been closed for dam repair for years. Trout and bass are now stocked in the lake.

Over the two days, I discovered that you can get a non-powered boat license at a local sporting goods store where available for considerably less than what it would cost if you filled out a much more detailed form and sent it into the state. The form is simple and you’re not required to know your hull number. You can get a license for one or two years.

Get out there and catch a few!

Written by: Frank Koe Categories: Fishing


Still Biting

It’s really hard to believe that it’s the middle of September! The past six months have shot by! The weather has cooled down now and that’s not a bad thing for trout. Ideally, Rainbow trout like water in the 55 to 60 degree temperature range and are highly sensitive to changes in water temperature. So as the hot days of summer wane, the water temperature drops making the trout a bit feisty.

Three TroutRainbow can live up to 11 years but that’s pretty rare in Central PA where fishing pressure can result in most stocked fish being caught in a matter of a few weeks! In natural habitat, however, Rainbow can grow to about one pound in four years. The two Rainbow I caught in Spring Creek (and one Brown) you see here were 13 and 12 inches respectively. I was fortunate enough to land these beauties well below the bridge in Milesburg, PA. Hard to tell if they were stocked earlier in the year but they were firm and very healthy. There is a possibility that they were native because there’s a lot of stream above where I fish that is zoned ‘catch and release.’

The amount of water that pours into Spring Creek from the Bellefonte Borough Big Spring, a groundwater source from the Gatesburg Aquifer, is tremendous and always produces a constant flow. The fish never experience water that’s too low or too warm. Even in the driest months, the fresh cold water rushes down stream to fill Sayers Dam a few miles away, providing the main attraction for Bald Eagle State Park. So there is never a chance of fish expiring due to unfavorable water conditions.

I caught these trout on night crawlers. Instead of using the whole worm, I cut off the head less than an inch down and used the soft part of the worm. This way the fish can smell the cut worm and can easily bite into the soft bottom portion, increasing the chances of hooking the fish. Fish have a better developed sense to smell (olfactory) than humans. Additionally, they can smell and taste with taste buds on their lips, tongue and throughout their mouth (gustatory system). Unfortunately, this ability to smell can be suppressed in polluted waters but this is not a problem in Spring Creek where the water has been judged the “best tasting water” in PA. Let’s hope it remains clean!

As fishing season gives way to hunting, I’ll still show up from time-to-time on area streams to enjoy the beauty of fall and winter in the hopes of having the thrill of catching a few trout. After all, during the months to come you can have most streams peacefully to yourself! But watch out for the poison ivy!

Bankside poison ivy

Bank Side Poison Ivy

Written by: Frank Koe Categories: Fishing


Over the Memorial Day Weekend


Fred-fishing-2-resizedOver Memorial Day weekend, I went fishing with Brother Fred and Andy who introduced me to Tuscarora Creek in Blairs Mills, PA. It’s a great little stream with quite a few trout still roaming about. The trout population may be higher at this time because many washed into the stream from a sportsman’s club pond due to a recently sustained downpour! But over the weekend the water was just about perfect--a little high and a bit murky. These conditions are especially good for small streams not much wider than 15 feet. As the summer heats up, these streams lose water due to evaporation and dry conditions, making the water clear and the fishing a real challenge. We all know if you can see the fish, the fish can see you. And if they see you, well, the chances of catching them are slim at best.

We were successful in catching several trout over the two days. Nothing big. Most were in the neighborhood of 10/11 inches with a mix of rainbow and browns. Andy used a combo of Power Bait and corn. Must say, I’ve never heard of such an odd mix but it proved tasty to trout! I used the spotted black Panther Martin most of the time but caught one trout on a piece of night crawler just long enough to cover a number 6 hook.

honeysuckle-2-resizedOne of the highlights of fishing woodsy streams has little to do with actually catching fish but experiencing nature. It seemed that everywhere I went, the banks were crammed with honeysuckle bushes in full bloom. The calm air was perfumed with an amazing aroma that seemed to increase in intensity as the temperature climbed into the high 70’s.

While standing in about a foot of water near the shore so I could improve my casting angle, I looked to my right and back to the shore. What popped up was a mink! It looked like s/he had a nut or something in his mouth. We stared at each other for a long minute as my peppy, semiaquatic visitor did not even bother to take a pause from munching. I slowly tried to retrieve my camera but as soon as I got it out of the case and started focusing, the mink slipped back in the water between the tight roots of an overhanging tree and was gone.

Next time out may be harder to catch fish unless I can be so fortunate to come upon a stream where a hard rain forces fish to flee yet another sportsman’s pond!

Fish on !

Written by: Frank Koe Categories: Fishing


How Did You Do?

Frank first day of trout seasonFor the First Day of trout season I went to Shade Gap, PA and fished Shade Creek and the Blacklog. The water was about nine inches high but not a major problem. However, the number of fish caught over all was down a bit over past years. I was able to catch four the First Day. The illusive 5th trout was not to be landed. There were about four that got off though! One made the trip all the way in and even bumped into the frame of my out-stretched net but still managed to twist away before flopping in! I caught two on the Panther Martin yellow and gold and two on the Panther Martin black and gold. Needless to say, I tried just about everything from Butter Worms, to Red Worms to other lures.

You’ve heard of poached trout? The cooking process where you place trout in a large pan with seasonings, lemon slices wine then let it boil slightly in water? Well, sometimes I think poaching does not mean cooking but rather taking fish illegally just before the First Day! Many small streams in PA and other states meander through wooded lots, away from a highway. Some of these streams actually flow past camps or houses. Pretty easy fishing for someone who wants to grab a few (or more) before the appointed time. That’s why it’s a good practice to fish the First Day in a more open area where the stream may be close to a well-traveled road and where the parking area is also open. If someone can’t sneak behind trees and load fish in their car easily, there is a better chance of having fish where they’re supposed to be on opening day--in the stream--rather than in someone’s freezer!

Fortunately, the outside temperature was very comfortable, around 70 +degrees, so it made for a great day to be out with friends streamside!

Written by: Frank Koe Categories: Fishing


Stocking: Are Fish Where You Think They Are?

This year there will be nearly 4 million trout stocked in Pennsylvania streams and the stocking program is well under way. But this does not mean that all streams will have a plentiful amount of brook, rainbow and brown trout. From experience, I've discovered that it's always a good idea to do a little scouting before the First Day. It can be frustrating to fish a place that you thought for sure had trout but instead caught only a bunch of crabs and chubs that devoured your expensive bait!

Take a quick look at to determine what streams are to be stocked and when. Because a stream is listed, it is possible that only part of that stream is stocked. Then go on a "fishing expedition" to be sure the fish are swimming where you plan to fish, especially if you're going to a new stream location that may be unfamiliar to you. It's a fun ritual that many of us have to check out the fish population by tossing in small pieces of bread, corn or other fish food and watch the trout attack! It's also a good way to note the size of the trout. If the fish are too small for your liking, you may want to explore another part of the stream or lake. Keep in mind that there are over 8,500 "trophy" trout being stocked as part of the overall number. Trophy trout are considered Golden Rainbow that weigh at least 1.5 pounds and measure 14 inches long or longer.

Written by: Frank Koe Categories: Fishing


Preparing for the First Day of Fishing Season

Saturday, April 12th is the Regional Opening Day of Trout Season in Pennsylvania. And, as usual, the first cast time is 8:00 AM.

A resident license this year costs $22.70 for those aged 16 to 64 and the “trout permit” goes for $9.70. If you’re 65 or older, it will cost $11.70 or for a lifetime senior resident, $51.70. To renew a senior license each year you simply go to a store where they sell fishing licenses and they will issue you a new one for the current year at no additional cost. Three and five year licenses are also available. You can assess details at:

It’s a bit early to be thinking about the start of the 2014 season but I decided not to put it off until the last minute as I usually do. Certainly one advantage of getting ready early is that you have an excellent chance to find the lures in stock you may want to use. This year I’ll be picking up a few old favorite trout lures and a few new ones. I like the Roostertail, Size 2 Gold Blue Fox, Gold Kastmaster, Mepps Little Wolf, and the Panther Martin in black and gold as well as other colors. And for live bait: minnows and worms of various types work well. Butterworms are very good too but expensive and not available everywhere. And should I mention corn?? Just be sure it’s not Creamed-Style!

I also promise to oil my reels. It’s important not to lubricate with WD-40 or mineral oils. It’s best to use an oil especially designed for fishing reels or 3-In-One you may already have around the house. I also have to replace my line this year, buy fresh hooks, swivels, split-shot sinkers, and check the condition of my boots. If not properly hung, they can crack and split during the off-season. And of course I’ll slide a Stick-in-the-Mud® through my belt. It’s a pretty handy tool to use with your stringer when fishing from the shore!

Written by: Frank Koe Categories: Fishing

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