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Q & A
History of Opening Day of Trout Season
Question
When was the opening day for trout established as the 1st Saturday after April 11? What was it before that?
Answer
Under current Commission regulations, the statewide trout season opens at 8 a.m. on the first Saturday after April 11. Regular trout season can open as early as April 12 or as late as April 18.

The "regional" trout season for southeastern Pennsylvania counties opens at 8 a.m. on the first Saturday after March 28. The earlier regional opening day was introduced in 2007. To see which counties are regional visit our Fast Facts about the PA Trout Season page.

Regulations established a trout opening day beginning in 1950, having been legislated under the Fish Law of 1949 (Act 65). The Act prohibited fishing of any kind in all waters of the Commonwealth, between March 14 and 5 a.m., April 15 in any year, except in rivers, ponds and lakes not stocked with trout by the Commission. The new law prohibits fishing in trout streams which are stocked by the state for a month prior to the opening of the legal season on trout. Note the opening day did not have to occur on a Saturday.

Section 20 of the Fish Law of 1959 listed opening day as 5 a.m. on April 12 (if a Saturday), or the first Saturday thereafter. This became effective in 1960. Section 251 of the same law authorized the Commission to change opening days by regulation. The wording in Section 20 of the Fish Law of 1959 was not changed until enactment of the Fish and Boat Code of 1980, but the Commission adjusted the opening days periodically after 1959 using the regulatory authority set forth in Section 251.

Sometime after 1959 opening day was "changed" to the Saturday closest to April 15. Regardless of the wording used, it works out to be the same Saturday as the original 1959 law and the current definition (1st Saturday after April 11).

The Fish and Boat Code of 1980 (30 Pa.C.S. 2102(b)) provides that the Commission establishes seasons, sizes and creel limits by regulation. The Commission has followed a standard approach of having opening day on the first Saturday after April 11 for many years, but it could adjust opening days by regulation if it chose to do so.

That leaves the starting time, which was 5 a.m. in both the 1949 and 1959 legislations. It stayed that way until 1969, when the April 12 opening day started at 8 a.m. According to the April 1969 Pennsylvania Angler magazine, "The new opening hour was set by the Commission when numerous complaints were filed by property owners after fishermen camped, built fires, and littered private grounds throughout the night as they awaited the 5 a.m. opening last year. It is hoped the later starting hour will discourage overnight waits along the waterways by fishermen - and ultimately keep some of that ground open to public use which, with another pre-opener night of abuse, might be closed."

Sadly, changing the start time to 8 a.m. has not resolved this problem completely. Littering and other abuses by some fishermen continue to cause private lands to be closed to public fishing.

The mid-April date is based on several factors. First, experience has shown that weather and water conditions are usually conducive to trout fishing by mid-April. Second, the opening day in mid-April allows the Commission about six weeks to stock trout in approved trout waters during the closed season, which extends from March 1 to opening day. This time is needed to complete the pre-season stocking of the millions of adult legal-size trout in Pennsylvania waters.

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Related topics
Trout
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Fast facts about the PA trout season
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PFBC Chronology
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Frequently asked questions
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What if the trout opener falls on Easter weekend?
The Commission does not adjust the date for opening day based on the date of Easter weekend.

The date of Easter is established using a formula related to the spring equinox and the full moon. Some churches observe Easter on a different date than others.   

Whenever opening day of trout season falls on Easter weekend, the Commission usually receives a handful of inquiries about this situation. Most are negative, but some are positive.

There is no evidence that participation in fishing is affected one way or another by this coincidence. The Commission does not believe it would be appropriate to try to adjust opening day on an annual basis to avoid Easter weekend.

 
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