Pennsylvania is known as a fisherman’s paradise with its abundance of lakes, rivers, and streams providing ample opportunities for fishing enthusiasts to cast their lines and reel in big catches. But when does fishing season start in PA? This question is on the mind of every angler looking to plan their fishing trip.
With a diverse mix of cold-water trout species, warm-water gamefish, and other aquatic creatures like catfish, carp, and muskellunge, Pennsylvania offers year-round freshwater fishing opportunities throughout the state. However, seasonal changes can affect the availability and accessibility of certain species, making it important to know about the opening dates for each type of fish.
In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into the fishing seasons and regulations in Pennsylvania, discussing everything you need to know about when and where to fish. So, whether you are an experienced angler or just starting your journey, let’s find out when fishing season starts in PA!
From learning about the different fish species to understanding how weather patterns impact their behavior, we will cover all the essential information that every angler should know before they set foot on a riverbank or launch their boat on a lake. So, stay tuned and get ready to make the most out of your next fishing trip.
Important Dates for PA Fishing Season
Opening Day of Trout Season
In Pennsylvania, the opening day of trout season varies depending on where you are fishing. In 2021, the regular statewide season opens on April 3rd at 8:00 am and runs through Labor Day. However, there is also a special regulation area in southeastern Pennsylvania that has its opening day set for March 27th.
If you plan to fish on opening day or any time during the regular season, there are a few things you need to know. First, you will need a valid Pennsylvania fishing license. You can purchase one online from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission website or from an approved vendor. Second, you should familiarize yourself with the regulations for the waterway you plan to fish. These regulations can vary depending on the location and species you are targeting.
Free Fishing Day
Every year, Pennsylvania designates two days as “Fish for Free” days. On these days, residents and non-residents alike can legally fish without a fishing license. This is a great opportunity for those who may not get the chance to fish often or who want to introduce new anglers to the sport.
In 2021, the first “Fish for Free” day falls on Sunday, May 30th. The second day is slated for Thursday, July 4th. Keep in mind that while you do not need a license on these days, all other fishing regulations still apply. Additionally, if you plan to fish for species that require a special permit, such as trout, you must still obtain that permit even on these free days.
Closure of Trout Season
The end of trout season is just as important as the beginning. In Pennsylvania, the trout season typically closes on Labor Day, which this year falls on September 6th. This means that you must stop targeting and keeping trout after this date.
There are some exceptions to this closure. Certain waters have extended seasons or other specific regulations that allow for fishing beyond Labor Day. Additionally, fall stocking programs provide an opportunity to continue catching trout in select areas following the traditional closure of the regular season. Be sure to check the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission website or with local authorities for more information on these options.
Special Regulation Waters Dates
In addition to the statewide opening day, special regulation areas often have their own designated dates for when fishing is permitted. These can include delayed harvest sections, catch-and-release-only zones, and others.
If you plan to fish in one of these areas, be sure to check the specific regulations before heading out. Some waters may have different open dates than others. In general, however, many of these areas’ opening dates coincide with the traditional statewide opener in early April.
“Fishing provides an opportunity to escape from the reality we live in.” -Brenden Kanieski
Knowing important dates for PA Fishing Season is crucial if you want to make the most out of your time on the water. Whether it’s getting ready for the opening day of trout season, taking advantage of free fishing days, or planning around the end of trout season, being aware of these key times will help you avoid missing out on opportunities to catch fish in Pennsylvania.
Regulations You Need to Know Before Fishing in PA
Size and Creel Limits
If you are planning on fishing in Pennsylvania, it is important to know the size and creel limits set by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission. These regulations vary depending on the species of fish you are targeting, so it is essential to identify the type of fish before casting your line.
- The daily limit for trout is five (5) fish per day with a minimum size of seven (7) inches. However, during certain times of the year, catch-and-release rules may apply.
- Bass has a more complex regulation scheme because there are three different types: largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and spotted bass. For example, the daily creel limit for Largemouth Bass on Lake Erie is two while it’s 6 everywhere else.
- Walleye also vary from lake to lake or river to river as some have no minimum length, but they all allow a daily limit o six walleyes per person.
It is crucial to review these regulations before heading out to avoid violating any laws that could result in fines and legal consequences.
Catch and Release Regulations
In addition to the creel and size limits, Pennsylvania has specific Catch-and-Release Regulations established for particular bodies of water and can change often. Violations can result in penalties such as license suspension or revocation, monetary fines, or even criminal charges.
Trophy-sized fish are generally caught and released, so it is vital to make sure that if you do release one that you follow best practices. For instance:
- Handle the fish as little as possible to reduce stress injury.
- Use barbless hooks or crush hook barbs to make for an easy release.
- Cut the line carefully when necessary and do not pull it out if swallowed.
Always Make sure that your equipment is in good shape and respect social distancing guidelines during Covid 19. Safe handling of fish helps preserve health, population levels, and species diversity. Avoid fishing areas with significant commercial or recreational activities until catch-and-release practices improve populations’ size and abundance.
Pennsylvania laws require anglers age sixteen (16) or older to have a valid state-issued Fishing License to participate in any fishing activity beside certain holidays where licenses are waived. Specific regulations apply to varieties of permits issued by the commission such as senior citizens and disabled residents.
If you are planning on fishing outside Pennsylvania, review other state requirements and purchase all necessary permits well ahead of time. Different states have different regulations, which may cause confusing or conflicting information regarding their license process, making it wise to double-check all information before going out to fish.
Fishing in private lands without permission constitutes trespassing, which is illegal in Pennsylvania. It’s crucial to know and read boundary signs around every new spot you intend to fish from. Moreover, guides should adhere to landowners’ privacy rights,’ said Jerome Hackman, Director of Landowner Relations at the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. “Don’t go through locked gates or ignore No Trespassing Posted Signs, use public access sites, and always ask permission.”
“Our programs are clear about respecting property rights, and rightly so because we believe people deserve safety while enjoying their pastime,”he says.
Penalties can include fines or imprisonment. It is always polite to ask the property owner first if you may fish on their land and obtain permission in writing whenever possible.
Where to Find the Best Fishing Spots in Pennsylvania
Rivers and Streams
Pennsylvania has over 85,000 miles of rivers and streams that are home to a wide variety of fish. The most popular species found in these waterways include trout, smallmouth bass, and musky.
If you’re looking for some great river fishing spots, consider heading out to one of the following destinations:
- The Delaware River – this river runs through more than 200 miles of Pennsylvania and is known for its excellent smallmouth bass and walleye fishing.
- The Susquehanna River – another popular destination for smallmouth bass anglers, this river offers plenty of opportunities for catching trophy-sized fish.
- The Lehigh River – if you’re looking for trout fishing, this river is an excellent option. It’s also perfect for beginners due to its easy wading conditions.
For those who prefer fly fishing, the Yellow Breeches Creek near Boiling Springs is widely considered one of the best fly-fishing streams in Pennsylvania.
Lakes and Reservoirs
Pennsylvania is home to many beautiful lakes and reservoirs where fishermen can catch everything from panfish to large game fish like striped bass or northern pike. Here are some of the top choices for lake and reservoir fishing in the state:
- Lake Erie – as one of the “Great Lakes,” Lake Erie is an angler’s paradise with numerous fishing opportunities for trout, walleye, smallmouth bass, and even steelhead.
- Lake Arthur – located in Moraine State Park, this lake features largemouth bass, crappie, and bluegill fishing along with boating and swimming.
- Foster Joseph Sayers Lake – found in Bald Eagle State Park, this lake is known for its excellent walleye fishing opportunities. It’s also an excellent place to launch your boat or kayak.
State Parks and Forests
Pennsylvania has over 120 state parks and forests that offer a variety of outdoor activities, including fishing. Many stocked trout streams run through these areas, so anglers can take advantage of exploring new spots while enjoying the natural beauty of Pennsylvania. Here are some great options:
- Bushkill Falls – located in the Pocono Mountains, this park features eight waterfalls and several hiking trails alongside prime trout fishing spots.
- Ralph Stover State Park – situated on Tohickon Creek, this park offers boulder hopping and wading opportunities to catch smallmouth bass, sunfish, and catfish.
- Cook Forest State Park – famous for old-growth trees, bird watching, and wildflower displays, Cook Forest provides visitors with numerous opportunities to fish in clear mountain streams full of brook and brown trout.
“In Pennsylvania, recreational anglers generate $1.4 billion in spending annually and support more than 15,000 jobs.” -PA Fish & Boat CommissionWhatever type of fishing you enjoy, Pennsylvania has plenty of diverse locations to visit throughout the year. Always remember to obtain necessary licenses before heading out and respect both the fish and fellow fishermen when hitting the rivers, lakes, and streams. Happy fishing!
What Equipment Do You Need for Fishing in PA?
Rods and Reels
If you plan on fishing in Pennsylvania, the first thing you need is a good quality rod and reel. The type of equipment you use can make all the difference when it comes to catching fish in this region.
When selecting a fishing rod, consider the species of fish you plan on targeting. For instance, if you’re going after trout or panfish, a light to medium-light action rod should suffice. On the other hand, if you plan on fishing for large bass or musky, then a heavier action rod will be more appropriate.
In addition to your rod, you’ll also want to select a high-quality fishing reel that’s capable of handling the size and weight of the fish you expect to catch. Remember, choosing the right equipment can mean the difference between reeling in a trophy-size fish and heading home empty-handed.
Bait and Lures
Regardless of what kind of fish you are trying to catch, having the right bait or lure is essential. Fortunately, there are plenty of options available regardless of where you plan on fishing in Pennsylvania.
Live bait such as worms, minnows, and leeches are great for anglers who prefer traditional methods. Alternatively, artificial lures can often mimic live bait without the hassle or cost of traditional live bait. Some popular lures include spinners, jigs, and crankbaits.
The key to successful bait and lure selection is to choose an option that is appropriate for the specific species of fish you intend to target. Certain types of fish may be attracted to particular colors, shapes, or movements; therefore, it’s important to have multiple options available and experiment until you find something that works.
Fishing Line and Leaders
After selecting the appropriate rod, reel, and bait or lure, choosing the right fishing line is essential. The type of line you use can affect casting distance, sensitivity, strength, and more.
Common types of fishing lines include monofilament, fluorocarbon, and braided. Choosing the appropriate line typically depends on the size of fish you plan to catch, as well as the water conditions and environment in which you’ll be fishing.
In addition to selecting the correct fishing line, some anglers also choose to use leaders – small lengths of heavier line connected to the end of their main line. Leaders are often useful for preventing break-offs caused by sharp rocks or other hazards that may cut through your line.
Aside from basic equipment such as rods, reels, bait, and line, there are a variety of additional accessories that may prove beneficial when fishing in Pennsylvania.
Sunglasses, hats, sunscreen, and insect repellent are all essential items to bring along with you. These items will help keep you protected from the sun’s harmful rays, pesky bugs, and other elements that could make your fishing trip uncomfortable.
A tackle box filled with necessary gear such as scissors, pliers, hooks, weights, and swivels can save time during your fishing trip. Additionally, a digital scale and fish measuring tape can be helpful when keeping track of catches.
“Fishing provides that connection with the whole living world. It gives you the opportunity of being totally immersed, turning back into yourself in a good way. A form of meditation, some form of communion with levels of yourself that are deeper than the ordinary self.” -Ted HughesIn summary, successfully fishing in PA takes more than just showing up at the water’s edge with a fishing pole. Instead, anglers must be prepared with appropriate gear and accessories to increase their chances of catching fish. Understanding which rods, reels, bait or lures, fishing line, leaders, and other equipment is necessary for your target species will ensure that you make the most of your time on the water.
Fishing Licenses: How to Get Them and How Much They Cost
If you’re planning to go fishing in Pennsylvania, you may be wondering when does fishing season start in PA. It varies depending on the type of fish you want to catch, but typically, trout season starts in April, while bass season begins in June. But before hitting the water, one must obtain a fishing license from the state.
Online License Purchase
One of the easiest ways to get your fishing license is through an online purchase. You can visit the Pennsylvania Fish, Boat Commission website and follow the steps necessary to buy your permit. Before purchasing online, make sure you have all the required information handy, such as your driver’s license number and contact details. Once complete, the site will guide you through payment options via PayPal or credit card. Within minutes, you’ll receive a printable PDF copy that you should carry with you when you are fishing.
“I love buying licenses online because I don’t need to wait for hours in line. Plus, it saves time, and I no longer lose my paper permit.” – John T., avid angler
Retailer License Purchase
If you prefer not to buy online, you can opt to purchase your license at any authorized retailer across the state. These locations include tackle shops, sporting goods stores, and some Walmart locations. Be prepared to provide your personal information, such as name, address, phone number, and proof of identification. Once your application is complete, they will print your license on-site and give it to you immediately. Keep in mind that prices vary slightly between retailers, so it’s best to check beforehand to find the best deal available.
“When I was new to fishing, I preferred getting my license at Walmart since it’s the nearest retailer for me. The staff is courteous and knowledgeable, so they helped me get the perfect license I needed.” – Maria C., beginner angler
No matter where you choose to buy your fishing license in Pennsylvania, remember that prices may change every year. Some factors that affect how much you’ll pay include whether you’re a resident or non-resident of the state, how long you want your permit to last, and the type of fish you plan on catching.
If you are just starting out, you might wish to purchase a basic license, which allows an individual to fish in most areas across the Commonwealth. However, if you prefer trout or salmon fishing, then you might need a specialist Permit called a “Trout/Salmon Stamp”. These additional licenses required would add up to the price of your permits.
“I always suggest getting a stamp along with the regular fishing license whenever you intend on going trout fishing in Pennsylvania –it will save you time and money.”- Kevin M, Seasoned Angler
Taking onto account all these details can be informative while answering when does fishing season start in PA as fishing licenses are necessary gear to any angler in Pennsylvania intending to engage in Fishing throughout Pennsylvania water rivers.
Tips for Catching Your Limit During PA Fishing Season
Check Weather and Water Conditions
In Pennsylvania, fishing season starts on the opening day of trout season in April and runs through Labor Day. However, it is important to note that different types of fish have different seasons, so be sure to check the specific regulations for each species.
To increase your chances of catching fish during fishing season, it is crucial to check the weather and water conditions before heading out. Rainy days can often be great for fishing, as the rain will bring down insects and baitfish from their hiding places and get larger game fish excited about feeding. On the other hand, hot and sunny days can make it more difficult to catch fish, as they tend to retreat to cooler, deeper waters.
Similarly, water conditions play a big role in whether or not you will catch fish. If the water is murky or moving too quickly, this can make it harder for fish to see your lures or bait. Aim to fish when the water is clear and calm for optimal results.
Use the Right Bait and Lures
The type of bait or lure you use can make all the difference between a successful fishing trip and coming home empty-handed. Different fish species prefer different kinds of bait, so do some research before heading out. Popular baits for freshwater fish include worms, minnows, and powerbait, while artificial lures like spinners and jigs can also work well.
One tip to keep in mind is to match your bait choice to the natural diet of the fish you are targeting. For example, if you know there are crayfish in the body of water you plan to fish, using a lure that resembles a crawdad could be effective.
It is also important to consider the water conditions and season when choosing your bait or lures. During colder months, fish tend to feed less aggressively and may prefer smaller baits that move slowly. In warmer weather or when the water is murky, using bright, flashy lures can help attract more attention from hungry fish.
Target the Right Species
As mentioned earlier, different species of fish have different seasons during which they can be legally caught. But even within each species, there are certain behaviors and habitats you should be aware of if you want to increase your chances of success.
For example, trout are often found in cool, clear streams with plenty of structure for them to hide in. Bass, on the other hand, like areas with lots of vegetation and will go after a variety of prey including frogs, crayfish, and small fish.
Before heading out to fish, research what types of fish are present in the body of water you plan to fish, as well as what time of day they usually feed. This information can help you choose the right bait and know where to cast your line.
Practice Proper Catch and Release Techniques
If you are planning to catch and release any fish during PA fishing season, it is crucial to do so properly to ensure their survival. The first step is to use proper gear that minimizes harm to the fish, such as barbless hooks or pliers to remove hooks quickly and safely.
When releasing the fish, avoid handling them excessively and keep them in the water as much as possible to reduce stress. Hold the fish gently and upright, supporting its weight with one hand under the belly and another around the base of the tail. Avoid squeezing or putting pressure on the fish’s internal organs.
Lastly, make sure the fish has fully recovered before releasing it back into the water. Hold it gently in the water and wait for it to swim away on its own before heading back out to catch more.
“Fishing provides that connection with the whole living world. It gives you the opportunity of being totally immersed, turning back into yourself in a good way. A form of meditation, some form of communion with levels of yourself that are deeper than the ordinary self.” -Ted Hughes
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the official start date for fishing season in Pennsylvania?
The official start date for fishing season in Pennsylvania is April 13th.
Are there any restrictions or regulations on fishing during the season?
Yes, there are restrictions and regulations on fishing during the Pennsylvania fishing season. Some of these include catch limits, size restrictions, and specific gear requirements.
What types of fish can be caught during the Pennsylvania fishing season?
During the Pennsylvania fishing season, you can catch a variety of fish including trout, bass, catfish, and panfish.
Do I need a special license to fish during the season in Pennsylvania?
Yes, you need a valid Pennsylvania fishing license to fish during the season. There are also special permits required for certain types of fishing such as trout fishing.
What are some popular fishing spots in Pennsylvania during the season?
Some popular fishing spots in Pennsylvania during the season include the Delaware River, Lake Erie, and the Susquehanna River. There are also many smaller lakes and streams throughout the state that offer great fishing opportunities.