What changes are coming to trout season because of coronavirus? Can I still fish during the pandemic?
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission has made several changes to the 2020 trout season because of the coronavirus pandemic, in an effort to protect the safety of the public and staff, while “preserving the opportunity to enjoy the fun and recreational health benefits of fishing,” according to a press release.
These changes include consolidating the 2020 trout season schedule into a single, statewide schedule for all Pennsylvania counties; accelerating trout stocking operations and limiting volunteer participation; and adding more ways to purchase fishing licenses online and display proof of a fishing license and boating documents on a digital device.
"Thank you to the anglers and boaters of Pennsylvania for their understanding as we all experience these changes together," said Tim Schaeffer, PFBC executive director. "While our calendars may start to look a little different, one thing we can count on is that there will be a trout season and there will still be plenty of fish out there to enjoy. Working under unprecedented circumstances, our staff is committed to providing the quality fishing experience that we all expect."
The PFBC also said that fishing is still allowed in general as long as social distancing guidelines are followed.
The PFBC will operate under a consolidated statewide schedule for all counties during the 2020 trout season. Under this revised plan, a single Mentored Youth Trout Day is scheduled for Saturday, April 11, and a Statewide Opening Day of trout season will take place on Saturday, April 18.
As a result of these changes, separate, earlier regional mentored youth and opening days will no longer occur in the 18 counties: Adams, Berks, Bucks, Chester, Cumberland, Dauphin, Delaware, Franklin, Juniata, Lancaster, Lebanon, Lehigh, Montgomery, Northampton, Perry, Philadelphia, Schuylkill and York.
These changes, made by the PFBC under direction provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Pennsylvania Department of Health, are intended to reduce large gatherings of people and the number of anglers traveling into the regional area, which is already heavily affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.
Trout stocking will be conducted on an accelerated schedule, and volunteers will not be permitted to assist with stocking activities.
"We realize that many of our stocking volunteers look forward to helping us, but we must take these necessary precautions to ensure public safety during this vital period," Schaeffer said. "Just as we've counted on our volunteers for decades to help us stock trout, we're counting on them now to play it safe and stay home. We appreciate their service throughout the years, and we hope that we can invite them back to join us again very soon."
To complete trout stocking operations without the assistance of the public, the PFBC will modify stocking methods for this year. Many PFBC staff are being reassigned from their normal work duties to assist with stocking fish into lakes and streams. In some cases, preseason and in-season allocations of trout will be combined into single stocking events to increase the efficiency of stocking trips. Initially, stockings will be prioritized to deliver trout to regions that are predicted to be affected most severely by COVID-19 that could result in restrictions on travel.
The change in stocking procedures will not result in any reduction in the approximately 3.2 million trout scheduled to be stocked statewide in 2020, and stocking will occur seven days a week until further notice.
"This change in our stocking approach is necessary to fulfill a critical mission of our agency and our obligation to anglers," said Rick Kauffman, PFBC District 8 commissioner. "We're trying to get as many fish in the water as possible as quickly as possible while we still have the best access to waterways and available staff. While our methods may be different this season, people will have the same opportunity to get outdoors and fish, which has proven benefits to our physical and mental health."
Licenses and permits
To reduce unnecessary travel and social contact amid health concerns, anglers and boaters will be able to display their fishing license, launch permit, or boat registration renewal digitally on a phone or other mobile device as proof of possession.
Purchases can be made using the FishBoatPA app or computer through The Outdoor Shop (www.pa.wildlifelicense.com.) and not have to possess a printed copy of the document. Upon purchase of a fishing license, a .pdf file containing an image of your license is provided and can be saved to a mobile device or computer. Similarly, with each boating related transaction, customers will receive a digital receipt that serves a temporary permit or registration valid for immediate use. Eventually, customers will receive validation decals and registration cards in the mail from the PFBC, which can take several weeks.
If approached by a waterways conservation officer in the field, the angler or boater would only have to produce the digital image of the license, permit or registration on their phone or mobile device. A digital copy of the .pdf, photo, or screenshot of your fishing license, launch permit or boat registration on your phone or mobile device will all be accepted as proof of possession.