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Keystone Select Trout Waters, Seven Years Later

Ralph holding a freshly caught trout
Seven years ago this spring, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) implemented the first Keystone Select Trout Waters program. At the time, it was a novel idea: stock an abundance of above-average trout in 8 of the state’s most popular streams.

The “original 8” streams were Neshannock Creek, Loyalhanna Creek, Laurel Hill Creek, First Fork Sinnemahoning Creek, Wiconisco Creek, Loyalsock Creek, South Branch Tunkhannock Creek, and Middle Branch White Clay Creek.

Starting with the preseason stocking, 3,200 trout 14-20 inches would be stocked among these 8 streams. This was a rate of approximately 250 trout per mile of water, on par with some of Pennsylvania’s best wild trout waters.

2016 – The First Year for Keystone Select Trout Waters

I remember the first year of the program. Along with 50-60 other people, I waited for the stocking truck on a chilly March day when they were scheduled to stock the First Fork Delayed Harvest Artificial Lures Only section. We all wanted to witness these brooder fish getting dumped into our favorite stream, and we were not disappointed. At every stop, in every bucket carried and dumped into the stream, were scores of huge, fat rainbows and browns. It seemed almost gluttonous, but also exciting!

The first year or two of the Keystone Select Trout Waters program was pure madness along some streams. I remember reading reports from Loyalhanna Creek of landowners filing complaints about the amount of angler traffic around their properties. If the goal of the PFBC was to increase angler interest, then I’d say the Keystone Select Trout Waters program was an absolute success. If another goal was to provide more anglers with the thrill of latching onto trophy-sized trout, then I’d say that was a success, too.

In fact, it’s hard to argue against Keystone Select Trout Waters. At first, the main question that came to my mind was: could it last? Would the PFBC be able to continue stocking these larger-than-average trout in all of these streams, year after year, while maintaining quality. They responded by adding more streams to the Keystone Select Trout Waters program.

In 2017, the PFBC added 6 more streams to the list: Tulpehocken Creek, Chest Creek, Big Cove Creek, Harveys Creek, Kinzua Creek, and Oil Creek. Today, there are a total of 24 streams across Pennsylvania in this program. 

And yes, the quality of fish each of these streams receive is tremendous.

How were the First Keystone Select Trout Waters Determined?

The first Keystone Select Trout Waters met certain criteria. These included:

  1. Widely distributed across the state so that there was at least one in each of the eight Commissioner districts.
  2. The water had to be 100% open to the public.
  3. Regulations had to be conducive to catch and release, which is why all of them except one are also Delayed Harvest Artificial Lures Only sections. (The exception is the section on Bald Eagle Creek in Centre County, which was designated an All-Tackle Keystone Select Trout Waters in 2021 and managed under the “Miscellaneous Special Regulations.”)
  4. Water temperatures would stay cool enough to support trout until at least mid-June.
  5. Streams were at least 45 feet wide.
  6. No presence of wild trout in the sections that were to receive these stocked fish.

What is a Triploid Trout?

The huge trout usually stocked into Keystone Select Trout Waters are often referred to as Triploid Trout. They have three sets of chromosomes compared to the standard two, therefore making them infertile. And since they have no desire to spawn, they spend most of their time and energy feeding, which is why they can reach a large size very quickly.

A post on the website FishUntamed.com explains Triploid Trout like this: “Triploid fish (and other triploid critters) are not genetically-modified organisms (GMOs). In GMOs, genetic material has actually been altered, often by introducing desired traits from other organisms’ DNA. In the case of triploids, no genetic material has been engineered. There is simply an extra set of the existing genetic material, causing infertility.”

Complete List of Keystone Select Trout Waters

Below is a chart with every stream currently enlisted in the Keystone Select Trout Waters program. I’ve also included the upper boundary and lower boundary for each section as well as the total length of each section.

Not all of these started out at the length they are now. For instance, the Delayed Harvest Artificial Lures Only section on First Fork Sinnemahoning Creek was originally approximately 3 miles long; in 2021 it was extended considerably upstream and is now 4.44 miles long. Kinzua Creek is another stream that has seen its DHALO increase in length. In a world where sportsmen seem to lose more opportunities than we gain, it’s nice to see the Keystone Select Waters Program still going strong.

Complete List of Keystone Select Trout Waters

Did You Enjoy Reading About The Keystone Select Waters Program?

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