Centre County’s Wild Trout Treasure

– by Mark Nale

I slowly retrieved my gold spinning lure past a small boulder and through a deeper pocket on the small Centre County stream. My retrieve was pleasantly interrupted by a strike from an eager trout. After a brief battle, I brought the colorful trout to my boots and admired its chocolate and cherry spots.

Centre County wild trout stream 2049 ps NALE

- Photo taken by Mark Nale

I quickly measured and released it back into the clear, cold water. The eleven-inch wild brown trout was my fourth trout of the morning, and although all but my closest friends might find it hard to believe, by the time my first 15 minutes of fishing was up, I had landed eight beautiful naturally reproduced trout and missed several others.

This small stream is one of many that anglers drive past on their way to fish stocked trout waters or other more-famous streams. In fact, this stream is a tributary to a stocked trout stream. Me, I favor these smaller less-fished waters, and I often find that they are full of cooperative wild trout.

Spring Creek, the Logan Branch, Penns Creek, Elk Creek and Bald Eagle Creek (from Milesburg downstream to Bald Eagle State Park) are the well-known county wild trout streams. However, Centre County is just full of smaller, lesser known – and often rarely fished – wild trout waters.

Unlike 20 years ago, you don’t need to be a biologist to locate these streams or spend a lot of time through trial and error. If you visit the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission’s website (www.fishandboat.com) -- on the top right click on “Locate,” and from the pull-down menu, select “Trout Streams.” A map of the state will pop up and you can zoom in on areas that you might want to investigate. Then you can check the filters, or “layers,” as they call them, to select stream classifications.

Releasing 11 inch Wild Brown Trout 1833 ps c NALE

Many wild trout are small, but they can grow to over 20 inches long in a good habitat

- Photo taken by Mark Nale

Class A Trout Streams have the greatest numbers of wild trout and show up as green lines. Centre County has well over 30 Class A streams.

Natural Reproduction Trout Streams (these are the lower-biomass wild trout streams) show up as blue. If you check that layer you will see that the map has blue lines from one end of Centre County to the other. Click on a blue line to see stream name and details.

Wilderness Trout Streams are also Class A or Natural Reproduction, but if you check that box they show up in purple. Wilderness Trout Streams are often more difficult to access and provide an away-from-the road fishing experience. Centre County has fewer than 10 Wilderness streams and most are in the northern third of the county.

The interactive map is also nice because it shows which streams are on public property, such as Little Fishing Creek, which is mostly in the Bald Eagle State Forest; Tomtit Run on State Game Lands 33; or Benner Run in the Moshannon State Forest. By knowing where the public land is, you know ahead of time that you will not run into a wall of no trespassing signs or purple-painted tree trunks when you arrive at the new stream. If you click on the stream itself, more information pops up, such as the type of trout, stream length, or the percent of the stream in public ownership.

Wild Brown Trout 2492 ps PAW NALE

Naturally reproduced trout are usually very colorful, have perfect fins and larger eyes compared to their head size.

- Photo taken by Mark Nale

The stream mentioned at the beginning was a blue line, and I was actually heading to another stream, but this one looked good, so I stopped. It was time well spent and I had fantastic action for over two hours.

This was the third area wild trout stream that I have fished during the past two weeks and I caught naturally-reproduced trout during each outing – sometimes many trout. Naturally reproduced trout in some streams tend to run small, but I have caught one 16-incher and a good number of wild fish over 12 inches. On the outing described at the beginning paragraphs, over two thirds of my trout measured eight inches or longer.

I will fish other “blue lines” during the coming months, as I do every year. I will test a few new waters and visit old friends. Look at the Fish and Boat Commission map and you will see that there are plenty to choose from. If you only looked at Centre and the surrounding counties, you could visit one different Natural Reproduction trout stream a day and not cover them all before Christmas. Centre County is blessed with a wealth of wild trout water for all to enjoy.

The Happy Valley Adventure Bureau publishes up-to-date event information at HappyValley.com/events