Discovering wild trout

3,600-plus on protected list; 86 waters in county

By Tom Venesky
Sports Reporter

Bow Creek is a deceiving stream.

Trees bordering Bow Creek in Mountain Top provide adequate shade to keep the water cool enough to sustain a population of wild trout.

S. John Wilkin/the times leader

Brothers Edward and Joseph Leyshon of Falls fishing Harveys Creek in West Nanticoke recently. While portions of Harveys Creek are stocked with trout, others aren’t because they hold reproducing populations of wild trout.

For more information:

To see the statewide list of wild trout waters, visit

Flowing through numerous housing developments and a large industrial park in Wright Township, Bow Creek isn’t in the perfect location to provide a home to a naturally reproducing wild trout population.

But it is.

And so are 85 others in Luzerne County.

For the last year, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission has been assessing streams throughout the state to determine if they hold populations of wild trout.

Dubbed the Unassessed Waters Initiative, the PFBC utilizes the manpower of local colleges, including King’s College, and conservation groups in assessing the nearly 45,000 waterways in the state that have never been studied for wild trout.

So far, naturally reproducing wild trout have been found in 3,650 waterways statewide, and 86 are in Luzerne County.

“I think it’s a great number for a county with a large urban area,” said Larry Bundy, regional supervisor for the PFBC’s Northeast Region.

The designation has regulatory significance because wetlands that are located in or along the floodplain of the reach of a wild trout stream are considered “exceptional value” by the state Department of Environmental Protection and are entitled to the highest level of protection by DEP.

The list is also the primary tool that the PFBC has to protect wild trout populations because the list must be consulted by agencies such as the DEP and the Susquehanna River Basin Commission when reviewing permit applications to do work in the area.

Last week the PFBC board voted unanimously to add 99 additional waters to the wild trout list. One – Reyburn Creek in Jonestown – was in Luzerne County.

Because the assessment is still ongoing, PFBC commissioner Norm Gavlick, who represents the northeast region, expects more streams to be added in the near future. The volunteers also reassess streams and in some cases waterways are removed from the list if they don’t meet the criteria for a naturally reproducing trout population.

“We haven’t undertaken anything of this magnitude before because we didn’t have the money or the manpower,” Gavlick said. “There’s no way we could do this without the help of other agencies and schools.”

As far as angling opportunities go, just because a stream is added to the wild trout list doesn’t mean it is open to public fishing. Bundy said many of the waterways are on privately owned property and anglers should ask permission.

Also, the wild trout waters are under the same regulations as approved trout waters from April 16 to Sept. 5, but between those dates the wild trout streams are catch-and-release only, according to Bundy.

Wild trout streams aren’t stocked, Bundy said, in order to protect the wild populations.

“What we found is the competition from the stocked trout was tough on the wild populations and actually pushed them out,” Bundy said. “Stocking ends up doing more harm than good.”

While it’s likely that many more streams will be added to the list as more assessments are completed, Gavlick wonders about those where wild trout populations were lost simply because no one knew they existed.

“It’s very possible had we been able to get more streams assessed and listed over the last 15 years, that perhaps some of those streams out there that had wild trout that are now gone may have still had those populations today,” he said. “These protections really do benefit wild trout, and I’m sure there’s a lot of trout swimming in our mountain streams that we don’t know about yet.”

And it’s the mountain streams in particular that are the reason why Luzerne County has 86 waterways on the list, according to PFBC NE regional outreach and education coordinator Walt Dietz.

“A lot of people think of Wilkes-Barre when they think of Luzerne County, but a lot of it is actually rural and mountainous,” Dietz said. “There’s a lot of places here with streams tucked back into forested areas where the water is cool and the quality is good enough to support wild trout.”


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