The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission officers and truck drivers may be a bit hurried when they stop to stock trout in area lakes and streams this stream.
And for good reason.
This year, the agency no longer has an agricultural exemption from commercial drivers license regulations, meaning the agency's drivers can only be on the road for a limited time.
Because the trout have to be stocked quickly so the drivers can keep moving, the meeting times for each stocking have been moved up and angler help will be more important than ever as the preseason stockings begin to take place.
Waterways conservation officer John Cummings, whose district covers parts of Luzerne and Columbia counties, felt the impact of the new restrictions as he stocked a stretch of Wapwallopen Creek in Hollenback Township on Friday.
"We had the driver, his assistant and myself, and 300 fish to stock," Cummings said. "Combined with the other places we had to get to, it made for a long day."
Cummings did receive some valuable help at one stocking point on the Wapwallopen in Wright Township. When the truck pulled up, Crestwood High School teacher Fran Gough and six students from the Crestwood Watershed Team were ready to help.
The students brought along a float stocking barrel that they made earlier in the year. The barrel was loaded with five buckets of trout – approximately 150 fish, and Cummings and the stocking trout were able to head out to the next stop while Gough and the students waded into the stream. The barrel was floated along a 200-yard stretch of the stream, and along the way the students netted rainbow trout out of the barrel and released them at various points.
"It really allows you to spread the fish out and it speeds up the stocking process," Gough said.
Student Garrit Williams said the float stocking method will benefit both the trout and anglers who fish the stream on the April 14 opening day.
"Because the trout are spread out more and they're not released in just one location, it prevents one spot on the stream from getting fished really hard," he said.
Cummings agreed and said float stocking is definitely the preferred method, as long as there is enough help and the waterway is safe to wade through. In his previous district of Cumberland County, Cummings said 80 percent of the trout were released via float stocking. The Nanticoke Conservation Club uses float boxes to help stock Harveys Creek, Cummings said, and he'd like to see it done in more places throughout his district.
"There's definitely a value in it and it's really advantageous for the in-season stockings," he said. "You have places like Harveys Creek that if you dump the fish in one hole, everyone's going to want to fish there, which doesn't help the quality of the angling experience. Float stocking really opens things up and gives everyone more elbow room."
Wapwallopen Creek and Lake Frances were the first two waterways in Luzerne County to receive a preseason stocking of trout on Friday. Next up is Frances Slocum Lake on March 9, continuing a hectic time of year for WCOs and PFBC staff leading up to the first day of trout season.
"We're busy year-round but now the focus changes from the planning and preparation to actually getting in the field and putting the fish out there," said Walt Dietz, outreach and education coordinator for the PFBC's Northeast Region.
Preseason stocking schedule for Luzerne County:
Frances Slocum Lake – March 9 – rainbow trout; Meet at Frances Slocum State Park Office at 11:45 a.m.
Francis E. Walter Reservoir – March 27 – brook trout; Meet at Exit 273 White Haven interchange of I-80 and SR 940 at 11:15 a.m.
Harveys Creek – March 31 – brown and rainbow trout; Meet at the PFBC Harris Pond parking lot at 11:30 a.m.
Harveys Lake – April 10 – brown trout; Meet at the PFBC boat launch at 11:45 a.m.
Kitchen Creek – April 10 – brook trout; Meet at the PFBC access at the lake at 11:45 a.m.
Lake Frances – March 2 – brook trout
Lake Irena – April 9 – brook trout; Meet at the lake at 11:15 a.m.
Lake Took-A-While – April 5 – rainbow trout; Meet at the lake at 11:30 a.m.
Lehigh River (downstream border of SGL 127) – April 11 – brook and brown trout; Meet at the Gouldsboro Truck Stop on Rt. 507 at 12:15 p.m.
Lehigh River (Walter Dam Outlet) – March 27 – brook and brown trout; Meet at Exit 273 White Haven interchange of I-80 and SR 940 at 11:15 a.m.
Lily Lake – April 5 – rainbow trout; Meet at the lake at 11:30 a.m.
Moon Lake (tentative) – April 5 – rainbow trout; Meet at Lake Took-A-While at 11:30 a.m.
Nescopeck Creek (Upstream boundary of SGL 187 and the park) – April 5 – brook and brown trout; Meet at Lily Lake at noon.
Nescopeck Creek (Old bridge south of Lake Francis) – April 6 – brook and brown trout; Meet at Lake Francis parking lot at 11:15 a.m.
Nescopeck Creek (Private bridge at Honey Hole) – April 6 – brook and brown trout; Meet at Lake Francis parking lot at 11:15 a.m.
Pine Creek – April 10 – brook and brown trout; Meet at PFBC access area at the lake at 11:45 a.m.
Wright Creek – April 6 – brook and brown trout; Meet at Lake Francis parking lot at 11:15 a.m.
Fran Gough and his watershed team hope to build and donate more float barrels to the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission. Materials for each float barrel cost $86. For information on how to donate funds or materials, call Gough at 474-6782, ext. 423.