Saturday, March 24, kicks off the Mentored Youth Trout Days whereby youngsters under age 16 can join a mentor (adult) with a valid fishing license and trout stamp to fish stocked waters within 18 southeastern regional counties prior to the opening of trout season. This opportunity gives the kids a chance to catch a trout before the crush of anglers on opening day, March 31 in 18 southeastern counties of Adams, Berks, Bucks, Chester, Cumberland, Dauphin, Delaware, Franklin, Juniata, Lancaster, Lebanon, Lehigh, Montgomery, Northampton, Perry, Philadelphia, Schuylkill and York.
A second Mentored Youth Day will be held on April 7, the Saturday before the April 14 regular opening day of the statewide trout season.
Youth anglers must obtain a Mentored Youth Fishing Permit or Voluntary Youth Fishing License. Both are obtainable at GoneFishingPA.com or from any of the 900 licensing agents across the state.
The Voluntary Youth Permit is free whereas the Voluntary Youth License is $2.90 ($1 cost plus $1.90 agent/transaction fee).
The reason the PF&BC charges for this Voluntary License is because the agency receives $5 back in funding through federal reimbursement. The agency says these funds are then used for youth outreach and education programs. However, the agency receives no federal reimbursement for Mentored Youth Permits.
Mentored youth may harvest up to two trout with a minimum of 7 inches in length, and of any species.
In my experience as a father of a son who now has a son of his own, my son gained his love of fishing because when he was 4, I took him to a local farm ponds to catch panfish and bass. And catch he did. Catching something was better than catching nothing. And back then there was no Mentored Youth Days. So as long as there is a tug on the line, it maintains a kids’ interest and keeps a smile on their faces. If they don’t catch anything, they get bored and quickly lose interest.
Today, my son out fishes me because he learned patience and a lifelong sport at an early age. And that’s what the commission is promoting through their mentored program.
To get a youngster started if you don’t have downsized equipment, get one of those Zebco push button reels and short rods for them. But refrain from buying the colorful kids’ combo’s as they’re cheap and inferior. Step up a model or two and get a better one preferably with the release handle under the reel. Then buy a separate rod that can be used later with a conventional spinning reel as they get older and more dexterous. And if the reel is already spooled with line, strip it as it’s usually spooled with 10-12-pound test line making it tougher to cast. Instead, spool on some 4-pound test mono line as it’ll cast farther and come off the spool easier with less effort. And you may want to have the youngster practice casting with a plastic bobber on the end of the line, before hitting the stream or pond. It builds confidence in their ability.
Then on opening day, tie on no larger than a #10 hook. I’ve seen kids fishing with #4 and #6 hooks and they are too large for trout. And the poor kids rarely catch anything. Add some spit-shot (not a sinker) and bait of choice (preferably a worm, butterworm or minnow as they stay on the hook better) and let them heave it out. Or, cast it out for them until they get the knack of it. Then wait for a bite.
Nick Hromiak has been an outdoors and automotive writer for over 30 years. He's been published in numerous national and state-wide outdoor magazines and newspapers.