PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Surprise! It’s trout season across Pennsylvania. And it’s that element of surprise that will hopefully discourage the usual big gatherings that traditionally happen on opening day.

At 8 Tuesday morning, trout season officially kicked off, more than 10 days ahead of schedule.

At first it sounds contradictory for a state agency to encourage a popular outdoor activity amid the stay-at-home order, but KDKA’s Meghan Schiller found out this move is designed to do the opposite.

“Consider it a soft opening,” said Mike Parker, spokesman of the Pa. Fish and Boat Commission.

The commission made the announcement and didn’t give people time to plan that group outing, book the cabin overnight or make that trek to a watering hole more than an hour away. The decision hopefully spreads out the big rush, Parker said.

“We looked at several different scenarios from keeping the dates as they were, to cancelling trout season altogether. We determined the best approach would be to meet somewhere in the middle still give people the opportunity,” said Parker.

KDKA’s Meghan Schiller asked Dr. Rachel Levine, the state’s Secretary of Health, during her Tuesday press conference for her thoughts on the shift.

“Trout fishing is an outdoor activity, and as was described to me, the way that trout fishing goes usually, if by naturally, would have some social distancing and so that’s why trout season was allowed to start and will continue,” said Dr. Levine.

They’re asking for people to fish within 15 minutes of their homes, if possible, and to wear a mask. Remember to also keep at least a fishing pole distance between you and the person next to you.

Boaters and fishers must abide by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf’s stay-at-home order as well as the CDC’s social distancing guidelines.

Fishing and boating is permitted in Pennsylvania state parks and state forests, when social distancing guidelines are followed.

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission is recommending all anglers practice social distancing while fishing to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, practicing the following measures:

  • Stay home if you do not feel well
  • Cover your face with a mask or cloth covering.
  •  Practice social distancing by keeping at least 6 feet (the length of an outstretched standard fishing rod) between you and the nearest angler.
  • Avoid crowds. If you arrive at a fishing spot that is already occupied, find another location.
  • Keep children from wandering into the personal space of others.
  • Do not share fishing gear.
  • Do not carpool.

The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources is encouraging people to fish and conduct other outdoor recreation within 15 minutes of their homes.

Anglers should note that state park facilities, including restrooms may be closed.

To participate in trout fishing, anglers must have a Pennsylvania fishing license and Trout/Salmon Permit, both of which may be purchased online.

Meghan Schiller