BELL TOWNSHIP â€” With license sales up 11 percent from last year, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) expects the stateâ€™s most popular bass fishing spots to see a surge in use as the season kicks off today.
According to Rick Vlazak, Jefferson County waterways conservation officer, as of midnight Friday, it became legal to catch and keep largemouth and smallmouth bass in Pennsylvania, as long as they are 12 inches long, unlike trout season.
â€śThe only time we do stocking for bass is when we have a draw down of a lake or reservoir, such as Cloe Lake when we rehabilitated the dam or spillway,â€ť he said.
Once the fingerling bass are stocked, the population is self-sustaining with natural reproduction.
Vlazak said there is a closed period when bass fishing is only catch and release.
â€śThat means if you catch a bass while trout fishing, you have to immediately release the fish back into the water,â€ť he said.
Largemouth bass are traditionally found in lakes such as Cloe and Kyle, with the smallmouth bass found mostly in creeks and rivers including Mahoning Creek, he said.
Vlazak said largemouth are more prevalent in a lake where they can hang out in the tall weeds and grass.
Smallmouth bass like a more rocky structure, such as those found in streams, creeks and rivers.
â€śIâ€™ve seen a few people in recent years who have been fishing for bass in Mahoning Creek in Punxsy; upstream is where we stock fingerling trout in the creek,â€ť which used to have a poor reputation due to problems with sewage coming downstream, Vlazak said.
The fingerling trout are stocked in the area above Punxsy in Bell Township because that area of the creek is colder than down below.
He said PFBC has an ongoing study regarding the survival rate of the fingerling trout that have been stocked in Mahoning Creek.
â€śAny fish that are caught in the Punxsutawney area of Mahoning Creek are safe to eat,â€ť thanks to the sewage projects upstream in Sykesville and Big Run, Vlazak said.
â€śA nice fishing area is down below Hamilton where Rails-to-Trails provides a lot of access for anglers to the creek from the trail,â€ť he said.
He said the average size of a smallmouth bass is 12 to 14 inches and up.
He said anglers are able to keep any bass that is 12 inches, and six combined species per day.
For more information, check the PFBC Web site at www.fishandboat.com.
Through June 4, anglers had purchased 683,031 licenses, an increase of 67,389 from the same time last year.
A 2012 resident license costs $22.70 and can be purchased at more than 900 retail locations across the state.