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Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Director Talks Trout Stocking and COVID-19

From The Bradford Era

Written by Charlie Burchfield, Era Outdoors Columnist

April 1, 2020

It's going to be a different kind of fishing season this year for Pennsylvania anglers.

Tim Schaeffer, executive director of the PA Fish & Boat Commission, in a telephone conference hosted by the PA Outdoor Writers Association, spoke with its members regarding the 2020 trout opener.

This year, volunteers were not permitted to participate in the stocking of fish.

The adjustment was made in the interest of staff and volunteer safety,” Schaeffer noted. “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.”

An accelerated stocking schedule began March 16, and we put in over 130,000 fish per day, which was done on a 7-day a week schedule. Absolutely there will be no

change in the number of fish to be stocked this year.”

Schaeffer also noted that the PA Fish & Boat

Commission combined the preseason and in- season stocking numbers of fish due to the accelerated stocking program. Schaeffer added, “We anticipate that we will get them all out. We’re on track to stock 3.2 million trout as planned.”

The robust stocking of fish contributed to adjusting the opening days for fishing season.

A listing of all streams that are stocked will be published prior to the mentored youth fishing day.

That date is set for one-day statewide on April 11. Opening day statewide will begin April 18.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Shaffer stressed, “We need to be mindful of the Department of Health’s best practices guidelines when fishing.”

A good rule of thumb is that you should be able to hold a 6-foot rod at your waist, then rotate 360 degrees and not hit anyone.”

No more elbow to elbow, at least for this year.

For anglers, if you can turn your rod perpendicular on all sides of you without hitting anyone, then you are at a safe distance.

Be mindful of others. If fishing with children, advise them to not wander into the personal space of other anglers.

Schaeffer also added that while the offices of the PA Boat and Fish Commission are closed, a poaching hotline has been set up. The number to report such cases is 1-855-347-4545.

Other tips before hitting the water in the coming weeks…

When traveling, refrain from carpooling. Sharing a vehicle with others could put you at risk. Avoid crowds. If you arrive at your fishing spot and it’s crowded, find another location.

When it comes to fishing gear, avoid sharing with anyone. Each angler should have their own fishing gear (bait, bait container, waders, gloves, hand towels, clippers, pliers, or other personal items).

Remember to avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth, and to clean your gear well after using it, and to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water after fishing.

If you are fishing at a state or local park, the restrooms may be closed to protect staff and visitors. Use the bathroom before you visit or dispose of waste properly.

Practice the “leaving no trace concept.” Carry out any trash, since there are limited staff at these facilities.

For those who have yet to purchase a fishing license online, buy online by going to

For additional information regarding stocked streams, be sure to check the PA Fish & Boat Commission’s website and their Facebook page.

Outdoor pursuits are permissible and to be enjoyed. There is a lot to see and do, provided the current health guidelines are adhered to when you are out and about.

In my case, additional time has been spent outdoors walking remoted hollows where boots haven’t been for a while. Time spent 180 degrees from the 24 hours news cycle has been refreshing. Not that I am naïve of the current world situation, however, the natural world offers a change of pace I enjoy.

For many, fishing is a social activity. Families and groups of individuals freely share the angling opportunity. Camps and seasonal homes that hosted hunters would normally become fishing camps as trout season rolls around. If this is a situation you find yourself in, do so with caution.

“Fishing camp members should follow the same recommendations and decide how to handle opening weekend on a case-by-case basis based on travel restrictions, the number of people, size of the space, and other considerations,” Schaeffer noted. “These are circumstances we’ve never had before. This will be a different year.”

Already a number of camps have changed the manner in which they will conduct themselves with regards to fishing.

After all, bringing together a group of individuals, especially in light of the current COVID-19 pandemic, should be avoided. Err on the side of caution. There will be plenty of time to enjoy each other’s company later.

Recently I’ve noticed more folks are out and about, walking, talking, and hopefully returning to nature. Enjoy.

Charlie Burchfield is an active member and past president of the Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association, an active member of the Professional Outdoor Media Association, Outdoor Writers Assoc. of America and the Mason-Dixon Outdoor Writers. Gateway Outdoors e-mail is

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