Pennsylvania State Fish: What, Why, and Where to Catch It
Sep 26, 2019 | 3 minute read
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Pennsylvania is a paradise for freshwater anglers. With a staggering 86,000 miles of creeks, streams, and rivers, you’re never short of places to fish. And then there’s Lake Erie. In fact, angling in the Keystone State is so good that only something very special could be crowned state fish. So what is the Pennsylvania state fish, and where should you go to catch it? Read on to find out.

What is the state fish of Pennsylvania?

A Brook Trout being held by and angler over a small stream

With such an endless supply of streams, there could only be one candidate for state fish: Brook Trout. This is the only native Trout species in the state. It’s also a world-class game fish that you could spend your whole life chasing without ever getting bored. In short, it’s the obvious choice.

It’s not just Pennsylvania that thinks so, either. Maine, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia all count Brookies as their freshwater favorite. They’re actually the most common state fish in the country.

So, what makes Brook Trout special? For one thing, looks. Brookies can be easily distinguished from the other Trout of North America by the worm-like pattern on their back and the white trim along their lower fins. Throw in a bright red belly and some spots for good measure, and you get one seriously beautiful fish.

Fish don’t get much prettier than this.

Of course, it’s not just looks that win “Squaretails” the top spot. Brook Trout are wily, hard-fighting predators that are tough to trick and a riot to reel in. They also make a habit of living in the clean, cold streams far from urban pollution. They look cool, fight hard, and live among beautiful nature – what more could you ask for?

When and Where to Catch Brookies in PA

A small stream running through a beautiful forest in Pennsylvania

Want to get your hooks into the nation’s favorite freshwater fish? Who wouldn’t! Pennsylvania Trout season opens state-wide in mid-April. Head to the 18 Southeastern Counties, and you can start reeling in trophy Trout even earlier. There are even some streams where the season’s open year-round. Check out the Fish and Boat Commission’s fishing summary for full details.

The “when” is the easy bit. Picking where to fish is a lot tougher when there are so many streams to choose from. Even if you’re only interested in Pennsylvania’s “Class A Wild Trout Waters” (the best, most productive streams and creeks) there are almost 1,000 waterways to choose from. Where do you even start?

If we had to pick one place, it would be the Allegheny National Forest in the Pennsylvania Wilds, up near the border with New York. These untouched woodlands are riddled with streams full of big, wild Brookies. It’s also one of the most stunning places you’ll ever wet a line.

Pennsylvania’s Brook Trout Record

A large Brook Trout, the state fish of Pennsylvania, about to be released back into the water by an angler

With 1.6 million residents and countless out-of-staters fishing each year, you need to do something pretty special to land a record-breaker. Just ask Vonada Ranck, the inventive angler who caught a 7 lb monster in 1996. It was a huge fish, for sure. But that’s not the interesting part.

What made this catch special was the way he got it. Ranck noticed big fishing hitting something small and white on the surface. He couldn’t make out what it was, but it sure seemed to have caught their attention. He checked his tackle box for a matching fly. No luck. The only thing he had were his white socks.

“That’ll do!” he thought, and improvised a fly with a few threads and a bare hook. The fish started biting, and the rest, as they say, is history. It just goes to show how a little quick thinking can land you the catch of a lifetime. That, and to always pack a few spare colors if you’re heading out in search of the Keystone State’s signature species.

Have you ever fished for Brook Trout in Pennsylvania? What’s the state fish where you’re from? Ever catch a fish with your socks? Drop us your stories in the comments below!

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