The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission voted on a proposal during the annual fall meeting, October 1 and 2, which will remove several lakes from the Early Season Trout Stocked Waters Program. One on this list is Chapman Dam. Organizers of the annual Warren County Winterfest are concerned that this will hurt the ice fishing contest which has been part of Winterfest.
The public comment period ended Tuesday, Sept. 25, so there is not much now that anglers can do to affect the change.
The Early Season Trout Stocked Waters Program allowed trout fishing through the month of March, and fish have been stocked in anticipation of this season. Some of the lakes on the list of 45 lakes will be placed on the list of Approved Trout Waters Open to Year-Round Fishing. Chapman Dam, however, is not one of these.
Other area lakes included in the proposal are Bradford Reservoir No. 3, also called Marilla Reservoir, which is in McKean County and Two Mile Run Reservoir, also called Justus Lake, which is in Venango County. Also, in Erie County, Lake Pleasant, Upper Gravel Pit, East Basin Pond and West Basin Pond.
Among those lakes, only Two Mile Run Reservoir will be added to the list of Approved Trout Waters Open to Year-Round Fishing.
During the past several years when Chapman Dam was open to trout fishing during March there were a few times when the lake was ice-free. That provided some great trolling for trout. One year the brook trout which were stocked for this program were exceptionally big. Most we caught were in the range of 14 inches to 16 inches. That winter I also caught and released a rainbow trout that probably weighed more than 6 pounds. I was baffled because that big trout had none of the worn fins that are characteristic of brood stock released from hatchery raceways.
I got hooked on that March, open water trout fishing. But it is hard to argue with the decision to remove lakes from the Early Season Trout Stocked Waters Program. Seldom were more than two, or three, boats on the lake on any day in March, unless it were an unusually nice day. Not many more trout anglers could be seen along the shore. So the program probably could not be justified, which does nothing to make me miss it any less, assuming the proposal passes.
This whole thing is probably a good sign that the Fish and Boat Commission has been keeping a good watch on the program. Closing it, then, is a good sign that the Fish and Boat commission is using its money wisely.
Stay on top of the steelhead situation
The fishing patterns we see now at the Lake Erie tributaries are very exciting. We have a variety of things we can do to catch steelhead.
Water flows in the Lake Erie tributaries are very low. Some Erie local are saying this is the lowest they have ever seen creek slows at this time of the year. One result of low flows is that there are no open channels connecting smaller creeks to the lake. All of the water leeches through gravel. There is no way for steelhead to get into those creeks, so they congregate in the lake just off the creek mouths where they can be caught by anglers who cast from shore.
Just as it is in the creeks, the better fishing generally happens mornings and evenings. Light may have something to do with this pattern, but another contributing factor is anglers who wade as far into the lake as they can get. Sometimes anglers can see steelhead swimming all around them. But more often, wading scares steelhead away from the creek mouths.
This is exactly the same thing that happens in the creeks, except that instead of swimming away from the creek mouths, they just quit hitting. I think everyone would catch more steelhead, a lot more steelhead, if wading were not allowed except at specified stream crossings.
Spoons, spinners and stick baits all might be effective for casting to steelhead at the creek mouths. If you choose a spinner, use two ball bearing swivels, one at the spinner, the other about 20 inches up the line.
Stick baits can be used at most creek mouths because they do not run very deep.
Your spoon choices should take the bottom configuration into consideration. If the water gets fairly deep, at least 5 feet, fairly close to shore then standard spoons like the Little Cleo are good. But off some creek mouths the water does not get much more than 3 feet deep within casting distance. Kastmasters are good there because, although they are heavy enough for long casts, they rise toward the surface when they are retrieved.
Editor's note: According to information from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission on Oct. 4, "This change will not impact the Winterfest festival."