Moving to protect wild trout beset by high water temperatures and low stream levels, The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and Fish and Boat Commission Thursday temporarily posted two sections of Penns Creek to prevent fishing and disturbance of massed fish by passersby.
"The prolonged combination of little rainfall and steadily climbing water temperatures has left wild trout massing at two locations in Bald Eagle State Forest where mountain streams are supplying needed oxygen and cooler water," said State Forester Dan Devlin. "The goal is to prevent additional stress by limiting angling pressure and the chances of others needlessly spooking them."
Both located in Mifflin County, not far from the Union-Centre County line, the posted areas affording trout thermal protection are along Penns Creek at the mouths of the Panther Run and Swift Run tributaries.
As temperatures soared and stream levels dropped, trout have increasingly sought out these tributaries' cooler waters.
"In an effort to gain support and protect this valuable resource we sought cooperation from the Fish and Boat Commission, and its bureaus of law enforcement and fisheries responded rapidly," Devlin said, "clearing the way for a joint effort that will limit disturbance to fish in these areas. This limited and temporary closure is based solely on the need to provide areas of thermal refuge."
This is not the first time the premier trout stream, harboring a unique, wild trout fishery that draws anglers from around the world, has been taxed by severe weather conditions. In 1999, trout were forced to congregate by the hundreds in coldwater tributary mouths along Penns Creek, and reports of harassment surfaced.
The Mifflin County postings, to be enforced by DCNR Rangers and PFBC Waterways Conservation Officers, will remain in effect until Penns Creek water conditions improve -- and that may take some time.
The Department of Environmental Protection early this week issued a drought-watch declaration for 34 Pennsylvania counties, including Mifflin, Union and Centre counties. All are reporting low stream flows, declining groundwater levels and below-normal precipitation.
Rainfall deficits of as much as 6.0 inches have been noted over the past 90 days.More details and updates can be obtained by contacting the Bald Eagle State Forest District, 18865 Old Turnpike Road, Milmont or call 570-922-3344.