In the original post about the best brook trout streams in Pennsylvania I covered an issue I uncovered with the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission’s “Best Fishing Waters” map tool. In part 2, I want to go over every stream on the list and explain in greater detail the issue with the map.
The map can be found at this LINK. For this post I’ll go through the list in alphabetical order the way the state has them listed
at the second link (since I posted this the page with the list of streams has been removed). The page originally had the “best fishing waters” listed in alphabetical order, so that’s the order I’ve listed them on this post.
Before getting into the streams themselves, some background on how the state classifies stream sections is required. Below are the guidelines for whether a stream is listed as “Class A Brook Trout,” “Class A Brown Trout,” “Class A Rainbow Trout,” or “Class A Mixed.”
- Wild Brook Trout Fisheries – Total Brook Trout biomass ≥30 kg/ha (26.7 lbs/acre)
- Wild Brown Trout Fisheries – Total Brown Trout biomass ≥ 40 kg/ha (35.6 lbs/acre)
- Wild Rainbow Trout Fisheries – Total biomass of Rainbow Trout < 15 cm (5.9 inches) ≥ 2.0 kg/ha (1.78 lbs/acre)
- Mixed Wild Trout Fisheries – Combined trout biomass ≥ 40 kg/ha (35.6 lbs/acre) – One species of trout’s biomass must comprise < 75% of the total trout biomass
As you’ll see below, while a few streams are listed as the best brook trout streams in Pennsylvania, they’re really not brook trout streams. Most are actually Class A brown trout streams, and the few that aren’t are classified as “Mixed Brook/Brown” which, as the name implies, means they’re a mix of brook trout and brown trout. I’ve fished the mixed streams, and I wouldn’t even call them mixed populations. I would say they’re brown trout streams where you have a chance to catch a brook trout or two. Hardly qualifying as “the best brook trout streams in Pennsylvania.”
Big Spring Creek
Note that the sections are mislabeled on the map.
As you can see in the screenshot below, Big Spring Creek Section 1 is listed for wild rainbow trout.
Big Spring creek at one time was one of the best brook trout streams on the east coast. The stream was written about in sporting journals in England. I covered the issues with Big Spring in several posts on this site. Notably, this one. Unfortunately, I have to agree that Big Spring Creek section 1 is a wild rainbow trout fishery. There are brook trout here, but you’re far more likely to encounter rainbow trout than brook trout.
Note that the sections are mislabeled on the map.
Section 2 on Big Spring should be the next section downstream. This section is stocked by the state with brook trout, but as with section 1, you’re far more likely to catch rainbow trout here, and that’s why the state (correctly) labels this stream as one of the best streams in the state for wild rainbow trout.
Black Creek, section 2 in Carbon County is listed as one of the best wild brook trout streams in Pennsylvania. Oddly, this stream is listed as “Class A Brown Trout” on the state’s interactive trout stream map. To qualify for Class A with a specific species (as opposed to “mixed”) the stream has to be comprised of primarily that species. So that Black Creek is listed as “Class A Brown Trout” which suggests that the primary species found in the stream is brown trout, not brook trout.
As you can see in the screenshot below, Black Creek is listed as “Class A Brown Trout.” I have no first-hand experience with Black Creek, but based on the trend I’ve seen in the best fishing waters map listings, I suspect the reason it’s listed as one of the best brook trout streams is that there are likely brook trout in the stream. I don’t believe that qualifies a stream as being listed as one of the best brook trout streams in the state though. Especially when brook trout are not the dominant species in the stream.
Cedar Run in Lycoming County is listed as one of the best brook trout streams in Pennsylvania. I’ve fished Cedar Run a few times and every time I fished it I primarily caught brown trout. I would put the odds at about 10:1 brown trout to brook trout in the sections I fished. There are brook trout in Cedar Run, however, I’d expect that most anglers will encounter wild brown trout instead of wild brook trout.
In the map screenshot below, you can see that the lower section of Cedar Run (the majority of the stream) is classified as Class A brown trout.
In the map screenshot below you can see that even the upper section of Cedar Run is listed as “Mixed” meaning that neither species exceeds 75% of the biomass in the stream. Again, it’s likely you will encounter more wild brown trout here than wild brook trout, which makes identifying the stream as one of Pennsylvania’s Best Brook Trout Streams somewhat misleading.
Clover Creek in Blair County is listed on the best fishing waters map for wild brown trout. This is correct as brown trout are by far the most common species here. It’s worth noting that a significant portion of Clover Creek is on private property, and a “club” has large portions posted for private club members and stocks the stream for their members.
East Branch Tunungwant Creek
East Branch Tunungwant Creek is listed in all 3 sections for Wild Brown Trout.
Falling Spring Branch
Falling Spring Branch is listed for wild brown trout.
Fishing Creek is another stream that is erroneously listed as one of the best brook trout streams in Pennsylvania. The stream is broken up in 3 sections for the best fishing waters map, and all 3 sections are listed for brook trout. The listing of Fishing Creek for brook trout is bizarre. On the interactive trout stream map, all sections of Fishing Creek are listed as Class A brown trout. So even if brook trout are present, they don’t account for enough biomass for the stream to be listed as “Mixed.” Having fished Fishing Creek multiple times, I can say that I’ve never caught a brook trout in Fishing Creek. I have friends who have, and I’ve heard plenty of people say they’ve caught brook trout in Fishing Creek, but I guess I’ve just been unlucky.
Regardless, even if there are some brook trout in certain areas of the stream, anyone traveling to the stream expecting to catch brook trout would be very disappointed. An angler is far more likely to encounter brown trout here. Under no circumstances would I direct an out of state angler to fish Fishing Creek for brook trout specifically, nor would I identify Fishing Creek as one of the best brook trout streams in the state.
The screenshot below is from one of the sections of Fishing Creek, but all of the sections are listed the same way. Class A brown trout.
Hickory Run in Carbon County is listed as one of the best brown trout streams in the state. This makes sense since it’s a Class A brown trout stream. Oddly, this stream is just south of Black Creek mentioned earlier, and is similar in size and characteristics.
The Lackawanna River is listed as one of the state’s best brown trout streams. I have no experience with this stream, but it’s listed as a Class A brown trout stream, so I suspect the listing is correct.
Letort Spring Run
The Letort should need no introduction or explanation. It’s a world famous brown trout stream. It’s listed, of course, as one of Pennsylvania’s best brown trout streams.
Little Juniata River
The Little Juniata River is another world-famous Pennsylvania brown trout stream. Interestingly, there are still some brook trout in some of the tributaries to the LJR, and I’ve had friends say they’ve caught brook trout in the river. I’ve fished the LJR extensively and never caught a brook trout anywhere in the river. Regardless, it’s correctly listed as one of PA’s best brown trout streams.
Little Lehigh Creek
I have no experience at all with the Little Lehigh, but I suspect it’s correctly identified as one of PA’s best brown trout streams.
Penns Creek is another stream listed as one of Pennsylvania’s best “brook trout” streams. This makes no sense whatsoever. I’ve fished Penns Creek extensively, and while I have caught brook trout IN Penns Creek, I would put the odds of hooking a brook trout here at about 50:1 brown trout to brook trout. Listing Penns Creek as one of PA’s best brook trout streams is very misleading. I can just imagine someone coming to PA from another state with no familiarity with the river and expecting to catch brook trout based on this “best fishing waters map” and catching nothing but brown trout.
Piney Creek is right next door to Clover Creek and is listed for brown trout. I’ve fished this little stream quite a bit, and while it’s a good brown trout stream, I wouldn’t put it in the “top” list in the state. The stream is predominantly small fish.
Pohopoco Creek is a wild brown trout stream and is listed as such. No argument here.
Roaring Brook is another stream that is listed for brook trout, but is listed as a Class A wild brown trout stream on the stream classification list. I really don’t understand the idea here. If someone wanted to target brook trout and they go to a stream that is a Class A brown trout stream, what do we think is going to happen? They’re going to catch brown trout and scratch their head as to why this stream is listed as one of Pennsylvania’s best brook trout streams.
Even above (south) the second reservoir the stream is classified as “Mixed” brook trout and brown trout. The section shown on the “best fishing waters map” is the section between the two lakes though, and that is classified as Class A Brown Trout.
Saucon Creek is listed for brown trout, and I suspect it’s correct.
Slate Run is yet another one of these streams that is listed as one of Pennsylvana’s best brook trout streams, but any angler headed there to target brook trout is going to be seriously disappointed. I’ve fished Slate Run quite a few times, and from Pine Creek upstream to the very headwaters is dominated by brown trout. Slate Run is featured in THIS post, and over the course of several days fishing the stream, I only caught a handful of brook trout to the dozens of brown trout I caught. I hiked a lengthy stretch of inaccessible water on one day and only caught one brook trout.
Slate Run is listed as “Mixed Brook/Brown” in the interactive trout stream map, and I’m sure when they surveyed the stream they found more brook trout than you would typically catch while fly fishing. That brings up an important issue though. Electro-fishing for trout is not the same as fly fishing for trout. The biomass of the two species may meet some criteria for being listed a certain way, but that isn’t necessarily what you’ll encounter when fishing. Regardless, the fact that the stream is classified as Mixed and then listed as one of the best brook trout streams in Pennsylvania is an issue.
This one is really bizarre. Spring Creek in Centre County is listed as one of the state’s best brook trout streams. I simply can’t understand this at all. In all the years (over 30 years of flyfishing) I’ve fished Spring Creek, I have never caught a brook trout there. In fact, the state even says that brook trout were displaced by introduced brown trout in Spring Creek long ago.
There are 4 sections of Spring Creek listed on the best fishing waters page. Section 2 is listed as one of Pennsylvania’s best brook trout streams, but this section is Class A brown trout, and I seriously doubt there are any brook trout left in this area. Supposedly some brook trout exist far up in the headwaters of Spring Creek, but that’s not Spring Creek Section 2, and it’s not even Spring Creek.
Spruce creek is a world-renowned brown trout stream. There are only two very small sections that aren’t private property posted by private fishing clubs that charge insane fees to fish the stream. Regardless, it’s a brown trout stream, and of no interest to this site.
Toms Creek on the PA/NJ border is a wild brown trout stream.
West Branch Delaware
The West Branch of the Delaware doesn’t have a stream line on the best fishing waters map, but I assume based on my knowledge of the river that it’s either listed for wild brown trout or wild rainbow trout.
That’s it. None of these streams are actually brook trout streams. Not in the sense that brook trout are the primary species in the stream. The sad fact of the matter is, we don’t have any notable brook trout streams. The state has spent so much time and energy propagating, promoting, and protecting brown trout, that they’ve spread them to every single corner of the state to the point that it’s extremely rare in Pennsylvania today to find a brook trout stream that doesn’t have brown trout in it.
According to the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission,
“In Pennsylvania streams, wild brook trout often occur in combination with wild brownhttps://www.fishandboat.com/Fish/Fisheries/TroutPlan/Documents/strategies.pdf
trout (596 sections, 1,984 miles) and to a much lesser degree in combination with wild
rainbow trout populations (22 sections, 61.61 miles).”
The state also puts the number of miles of streams that support brook trout at 5,044.3, and goes on to say:
Of the 5,044.3 miles of stream thathttps://www.fishandboat.com/Fish/Fisheries/TroutPlan/Documents/strategies.pdf
support some level of brook trout reproduction, a total of 299 sections and 1,268.65 miles
are also stocked with hatchery trout.
They also identify one of the major problems in Pennsylvania:
Although Pennsylvania supports a considerable wild brook trout resource, much of thishttps://www.fishandboat.com/Fish/Fisheries/TroutPlan/Documents/strategies.pdf
resource is fragmented and primarily exists in first and second order headwater streams.
All of this points to the unfortunate truth that Pennsylvania has ignored brook trout for so long that we don’t have any notable brook trout streams left. I suspect this reality is why they chose to promote mixed populations as brook trout populations because if they create a “best fishing waters map” and exclude the state fish (the brook trout), that wouldn’t be a very good look. Maybe someone from the outside looking in might think that we have more brook trout resources than we really do.
While it’s not the point of this post, to anyone who might have made it this far, if you’re interested in fishing for brook trout (specifically) in Pennsylvania, I suggest trying to find a small headwater stream above a dam that doesn’t have any stocking listed on the interactive trout stream map. Unfortunately, even then it’s no guarantee that someone hasn’t moved brown trout above the lake, or they’re still there from when they were stocked years ago, and now a reproducing population has taken hold. I’ve seen lake draw-downs to repair the dams where the state has gone in and collected brown trout out of the lakes and relocated them below the dams.
The bottom line is, you have to go to great lengths in Pennsylvania to avoid wild brown trout. I have fished a great deal of Pennsylvania over the past 30 years, and I’m only aware of a very small handful of streams in the state that are devoid of nonnative trout. With a state fishery agency who is obviously opposed to nonnative trout removal or any kind of regulations to protect brook trout specifically, I believe it will stay this way for quite a long time.
For any serious brook trout anglers who may have read this far, I honestly would not waste time in Pennsylvania if brook trout fishing is your passion. Our neighboring states have far better brook trout streams and lakes worth focusing on. Don’t come to Pennsylvania expecting to have a world-class brook trout fishing experience.