Psst! Right now, the hottest place to legally fish for trout in southwestern Pennsylvania is North Park Lake.
Most local anglers know the three-year, $21 million rehabilitation of Allegheny County's largest lake was completed last year. Many are aware that rainbow trout have been pouring into the impoundment -- unofficially more than 10,000 trout were imported in more than 11 Fish and Boat Commission stockings since April 2012. Additional stockings are scheduled for April 20 and May 9.
But few anglers are familiar with the new designation, Approved Trout Waters Open to Year-Round Fishing, which replaced the Early Season Trout-stocked Waters Program. Under the new regs, trout fishing is catch-and-release only with a license and trout stamp through April 12; inland size and creel limits apply April 13-Sept. 2.
North Park Lake is on that list, and those who know it have had the lake -- and the trout -- to themselves.
"There are not many guys out there fishing, but those who are, are catching so many they're tired of catching trout," said Dwight Yingling, owner of North Park Sports Shop (897 East Ingomar Road, Allison Park). Yingling said just about every bait is working: crawlers, red worms, butter worms, small live minnows, paste baits, artificials, etc.
"Last week, a girl caught her first fish -- a 24-inch golden rainbow," he said. "I got reports that a guy caught a 22-inch rainbow and didn't want to put it back until the people around him made him do it."
Following the removal of nearly 300,000 cubic yards of sediment, adding total acreage and increasing depth to 22 feet at the gate valve, hundreds of fish habitat structures were built on the lake bed, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers left intact stumps and logs dating to the impoundment's 1927 creation.
While some 30 varieties of ground vegetation were planted to improve bank stability, no aquatic vegetation, reptiles, amphibians, insects or baitfish were introduced. As expected, they are replenishing themselves from Pine Creek, North Branch Pine Creek, Irwin Run and the many springs that flow into the lake.
Stockings of warm-water species including largemouth bass, bluegills, black crappies and channel catfish began in 2011. The invasive gizzard shad, which had overpopulated and seriously reduced fishing quality, are gone. Fish and Boat officials urge anglers to help keep North Park Lake healthy by not dumping minnow buckets into the lake or its tributaries.
Catch-and-release trout fishing is open under the new regulations at additional southwestern Pennsylvania waters including lakes at Bradys Run, Harbar Acres, Canonsburg, Donegal, Keystone, Mammoth, Northmoreland, Twin Lakes and waters in Washington, Fayette, Somerset and Indiana counties.