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Spring Creek in one Class A trout water

4/28/2005
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    BELLEFONTE, Pa. — The itch to fish is a terrible thing ... or a wonderful thing — take your pick.

    At this time of the year the itch usually comes over you slowly, and you can react to it in a couple of ways.

    Either you can look out your window and, seeing a lack of leaves on the trees, feel like the Punxsutawney groundhog and decide that six more weeks of winter are in order; or you can blast that silly rodent back to where he belongs and go out for some real angling.

    When it comes to the itch to fish for trout, I like to ignore Punxsutawney Phil and head to Spring Creek in Centre County.

    Spring Creek — even the name sounds inviting — is rife with trout and they happen to be wild brown trout, relatives of former stocked trout.

    Spring Creek

    Spring Creek is a limestone spring creek with lots of public access.

    The Pennsylvania Fish Commission purchased a major chunk of land on Spring Creek in the early 1990s and it was one of the greatest things the PFBC has ever done.

    About a 1-mile section of the stream from Route 550 upstream is open.

    In addition, Spring Creek contains the famous Fisherman's Paradise and while its flat, mostly grassy banks are not my idea of fishing paradise, it does offer even more accessible stream.

    "Paradise" is just a little bit of an exaggeration, don't you think?

    A large section of Spring Creek is classified as Class A Wild Trout water.

    Class A is the highest designation the PFBC can give a wild trout stream, and for brown trout that means the stream contains at least 40 kilograms of brown trout per hectare, or 300-meter section.

    Someone figured out that comes to about 36 pounds of brown trout per acre.

    The Class A sections of Spring Creek were most recently listed as being from the SR 3010 bridge downstream to Thorton Spring at the SR 0026 bridge; from Thorton Spring downstream to 2 kilometers below the T-376 bridge and from 2 kilometers below the T-376 bridge downstream to the upper limit of Fisherman's Paradise.

    Also from the downstream boundary of Fisherman's Paradise to the railroad trestle 100 yards above the dam in Bellefonte and the Lamb Street Bridge in Bellefonte downstream to the mouth.

    Regulation

    There are special regulations on Spring Creek but only on a small section.

    The one-mile stretch in Fisherman's Paradise, from the hatchery to near the Stackhouse School Pistol Range, is under Heritage Trout regulations.

    Under those rules you can only fish with artificial flies. Spinning and casting equipment are prohibited.

    In addition, you can not keep any trout here, but fishing is permitted year-round.

    Because the remainder of the stream is not an Approved Trout Water you can also fish it year-round but not in the park area where the monsters live.

    Spring Creek areas

    I have favorite areas on Spring Creek, so I'll tell you about those sections I like. SR 3004 comes down off a twisty hill to meet SR 3001 at the stream.

    If you turn left, you'll reach the parking area for Fisherman's Paradise.

    But if you turn right, you'll be heading toward the 1-mile land acquisition section. Guess which way I turn?

    It's about a ½-mile from the SR 3001 intersection to a big concrete bridge crossing the stream.

    At that point SR 3001 goes from being on the east side of Spring Creek to the west side.

    Before the bridge Spring Creek is about 70 feet at its widest and full of short, fast riffles and runs and a couple of deeper, longer pools.

    The pools are located closer to the SR 3001/3004 juncture, while the runs are nearer the bridge.

    In building this bridge the makers put a ton of large riprap down the highway face.

    It's not that pretty and it makes for some fast squeezed water. A farm and long sloping hill is on the far side of the stream.

    Don't neglect fishing that run or any of the shoals that stretch out from the flatter land.

    I'm a big fan of the upstream pools, particularly when there is a midge hatch, and midge hatches are very common on Spring Creek at this time of year.

    Downstream of the bridge, the trees get a lot closer to the center of the stream.

    That's one way of saying the creek narrows. From there downstream to Route 550, Spring Creek is quite crooked, lots of small twists and turns.

    You need to fish close to the banks, the undercut banks, because that's where a lot of trout will be hiding. This is a magnificent section of the stream.

    It will test your abilities while still being rewarding.

    I don't know a piece of water in the center of the state that I find more fascinating, more mentally invigorating than the open region from the SR 3001 bridge downstream to the Route 550 crossing.

    Across Route 550, Spring Creek runs straight for a bit with mostly shallow riffles then makes a hard right turn and runs fairly straight against a field before getting weird again outside Bellefonte.

    It's another great area, but not quite on the level of the piece upstream.

    Lessons from the feeding area

    Before you start fishing on Spring Creek, you may want to go into Bellefonte and visit the park. Walk over the bridge and stare down into the creek.

    Don't have a heart attack, but beneath the bridge you're going to see trout that are in the 2-foot range.

    You see it's a major pastime to feed these fish.

    In fact there are gumball machines set up in the park that spit out handfuls of hatchery pellets.

    Throw in a handful and watch the monsters go wild.

    However, I once learned an important lesson in trout behavior along this section of Spring Creek.

    I put in my money, got the pellets, tossed them at the trout and then hardly anything happened.

    One or two monsters moved slowly to a pellet or two but there was no big rush. They were overfed or just weren't hungry.

    A friend of mine who operates a cooperative nursery has told me that when feeding the trout in his care, the rainbows and brook trout are the first to the food, while the browns are often lackadaisical.

    For certain they don't feed as voraciously as the other two species.

    Those two aspects of fish behavior underline the need to be patient fishing Spring Creek's brown trout.


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