By 04/17/2014 Read More →

First Day of Trout Season at Cowans Gap

001Saturday, April 12th, was the first day of trout season at Cowans Gap State Park.  We have camped at the park in the summertime for many years and seven years ago we started camping for the first weekend of trout season.  Cowans Gap State Park is located in the Allens Valley of Fulton County in Pennsylvania.  It is a beautiful 1,085 acre park and features a 42 acre lake, a 201 site campground, and 11 miles of hiking trails.  Boats are allowed on the lake but only electric motors are allowed.  The lake is well stocked with trout for the first day of trout season.  Rainbow trout were stocked in December and brook trout were stocked in April.  Trout must be at least seven inches long and the daily limit is five.  The regular season for trout fishing begins at eight o'clock in the morning on the first day and afterwards you may fish twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week until the regular season ends on Labor Day.  Additional information on fishing in Pennsylvania may be found on the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission website,

Be Prepared

Camping in April in Pennsylvania is very different from camping in the summer months.  You must be prepared for the all types of weather in April.  Mother Nature does not play nice in the early spring, one day it can be nice and sunny and the next day it can be cold and snowing!  We pack our sleeping bags and extra blankets to be prepared for cold weather.  Check the heating system in your camper before heading to the campground to make sure that it is working properly.  We pack an electric heater as a back-up heat source to be prepared if the propane furnace in the camper would fail.  We pack warm clothes that can be worn in layers to be prepared for cold temperatures.  We pack rain gear to be prepared for the spring showers that Mother Nature may send our way in April.  Seasoned campers know that being prepared is the best way to go camping.  If camping is a new activity for you and your family, be sure to do some research on what to pack to be prepared before heading to the woods.  

Our Camping Adventure

We reserved two campsites for the first day of trout season at Cowans Gap State Park in February.  The first camping adventure of the year is always an exciting time for our family.  We camp in pop-up campers, we own one and our daughter owns one.  Our camper can accommodate eight people and Jess's camper can accommodate six people.  Two of my nephews, Drew and Matthew, and Matthew's friend, Robert, came along this year for our camping adventure.  Jess and her husband, Don, along with their three children, Kaden, Taylor, and Kinsley, stayed in their camper.  We arrived on Friday, the day before the first day of trout season.  It was cold and raining on Friday but the forecast for Saturday and Sunday looked sunny and warm.  We cooked hot dogs over the fire for dinner and went to bed around nine o'clock on Friday night.  We set our alarms to wake up at five o'clock in the morning.  Fishing begins at eight o'clock but you must get down to the lake early to get a good spot. 

Five Kids Fishing

We woke up on Saturday morning and it was cold!  I didn't want to crawl out of my sleeping bag!  I'm not sure what the temperature was but you could see your breath.  I quickly dressed in many layers of clothes in order to stay warm in the cold morning air.  The smell of coffee filled the air as we prepared to go fishing.  The kids ate donuts for breakfast and everyone got ready to go fishing.  We went down to the lake around seven o'clock to find a spot to fish.  The parking lots were filling up quickly as fishermen arrived at the lake.  People were lined up around the lake but we managed to find a spot big enough for our group.  We waited for the siren to sound at eight o'clock to cast the first lines of the day.  Everyone was excited and we were hoping to catch our limit of trout.

Matthew caught the first fishThe siren sounded and we all cast our lines into the lake.  It did not take long for lines to become tangled!  Our lines were tangled with each other and also with the fishermen to the right of us.  The fishermen were nice and helped get the mess untangled and we all tried to be more careful when casting our lines.  Ed and I put our rods down in order to give the kids more room to fish.  Matthew felt a bite and reeled in a trout along with two other lines.  They untangled the other lines from the fish and it was Matthew's hook in the lip of the rainbow trout.  He caught the first fish of the day!  Drew, Robert, Kaden, and Taylor were ready for action after seeing Matthew's catch.  Nine o'clock rolled around and there were no more fish caught.  No bites.  No fish.  Ten o'clock rolled around and there were no more fish caught.  I decided to go back to the campsite.  I planned on taking a nap, eating lunch, and then returning to the lake to fish after some of the people left.

Cowans Gap State ParkI woke up from my nap and they told me that Drew caught three trout while I was sleeping.  They cooked them and ate them while I was napping so I did not get a picture of Drew's fish.  I grabbed a sandwich for lunch and then asked if anybody was interested in going down to the lake to fish.  Drew, Robert, and Matthew wanted to go along so we headed back down to the lake.  Mother Nature was being kind and it was a beautiful warm and sunny day.  The croud cleared out and it was much easier to find a place to fish.  Matthew and Robert went one way and Drew and I headed another way, all of us had high hopes of catching some fish!  I tried four different types of power bait, meal worms, and night crawlers.  No bites.  No fish.  We moved to a different spot.  No bites.  No fish.  Matthew caught two more fish, bringing our first day total to six trout.  Our camping adventure was turing out to be unsuccessful as far as fishing went, but we were having fun in the outdoors even though the fish were not biting.  We had hamburgers for supper and sat around the campfire telling stories about hunting and fishing.  The kids were tired and one by one, they disappeared into the campers to dream about the fish that they would try to catch on Sunday morning.

Our youngest fishermanWe woke up on Sunday morning around seven o'clock.  Jess and Don cooked breakfast for everybody and served up pancakes and bacon.  We ate breakfast and prepared to head to the lake with high hopes of catching a pile of trout!  We arrived at the lake and it was not as crowded as it was on Saturday.  Matthew found a good spot and we lined up and cast our lines into the lake for another day of fishing.  Kinsley, our youngest fishman, had fun trying to catch a fish.  She also had a lot of fun playing with the night crawlers.  Time was passing quickly and we did not catch any fish.  I tried different types of power bait and did not have any luck.  No bites.  No fish.  I was determined to catch a trout on our first camping adventure of the year!  I tried using meal worms and night crawlers.  No bites.  No fish.  A fisherman to the right of me caught a rainbow trout.  I changed my bait again.  No bites.  No fish.  The boys were not having any luck either.  My brother was coming to pick up Drew, Matthew, and Robert because they had to go home for baseball practice.  We were determined to catch some trout before they had to leave.  

Jess caught a rainbow troutJess moved to the area where we were fishing on Saturday morning.  She put a night crawler on her line and cast it into the lake.  BOOM!  She caught a nice rainbow trout!  I thought about moving but decided to stay in my spot.  Jess put another night crawler on and cast her line again.  BOOM!  She caught another rainbow trout!  She had the right idea when she moved to that spot!  Time passed quickly and I still did not catch any fish.  I had fun watching the geese and ducks on the lake though!  Robert managed to catch one trout before the boys had to leave for baseball practice.  I finally gave up and went back to camp to start packing up to go home.  No fish.  No bites.  Our camping adventure may not have been filled with catching fish, but it was filled with many good memories of spending time in the outdoors with family and friends.

If you have never went camping or fishing for trout, remember, you are never too old to learn something new!  Stay tuned for future stories as I continue to try to catch my first trout of the year!        





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Amy Sward

About the Author:

Hello, my name is Amy and I have lived in Central Pennsylvania all of my life. I was born into a family of outdoorsmen, hunting and fishing have always been part of my life. My dad started taking me hunting with him when I was a little girl. He also taught me how to fish for trout in local creeks. The first day of deer season and the first day of trout season were like holidays in our household. My grandfather enjoyed trapping and as a teenager I often went along with him to check the traps. Raccoons, red fox, and grey fox were harvested from the traps in the woods and muskrats were harvested from the traps by the Juniata River. I have many fond memories of trapping with my grandfather. I have enjoyed hunting small game and hunting whitetail deer in rifle season over the years. This year I am branching out and trying some new things. I went duck hunting in January and enjoyed it very much. I went spring gobbler hunting in May and loved it! I purchased a crossbow and will be entering the woods for white-tailed deer during archery season for the first time in October. I enjoy sharing my love of the outdoors with my family. Camping and kayaking are popular activities. I love to hunt and fish with my three nephews and my grandson. My two granddaughters enjoy fishing and hopefully they will show interest in hunting in the future. They love to go spotlighting for deer, and hopefully someday they will love to go hunting for them also.
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