Over the past several years, we have had two opening days of trout in Pennsylvania. It works out quite well, as the early season is for 18 southeastern counties, where some of the streams are marginal at best. Even the better streams there warm up far faster than the mountain streams in the northern tier.
This year the “southern” opener is March 30. The rest of the state opens two weeks later.
Sunbury is about 15 miles north of the early opener. The northern-most stream in the early open is the Mahantango Creek, which forms the border between Northumberland and Dauphin counties. Heading south from there, you will run into the following stocked trout streams, listed from north to south: Wiconisco Creek, Armstrong Creek, Powell’s Creek, Clark’s Creek and Stony Creek.
Head a mile or two south from Stony Creek and you are in downtown Harrisburg. Don’t let Stony Creek’s proximity to Harrisburg fool you. Stony Creek is a well-stocked gem, and if you hit it during the week and walk in to some of the stretches that are off the road a bit, you will think you are in the middle of Potter County. The Stoney Creek Valley is a beautiful piece of wild tucked next to the Harrisburg traffic jams.
On the west side of the river, the first stream open in the early season is also the Mahantango Creek. This was a conspiracy by early American Indians and local politicians to confuse anglers in 2013. There are two Mahantango creeks, and to further confuse anglers, both streams enter the Susquehanna in the same general area, one on the west side and one on the east side of the river.
Apparently the settlers temporarily ran out of names for streams, and since there were no bridges at the time, they figured, “who will ever know, we’ll name both of them the Mahantango, what’s the difference, they both flow into the river at about the same place.”
Anglers beware, though. The Mahantango on the west side of the river has two branches, and only the west branch of that Mahantango is included in the early opener. I wasn’t able to figure out from the regulation book if the mainstem of the “westside” Mahantango was included in the early opener, but I assume it is and you know what happens when we assume.
I grew up fishing the Mahantango on the east side. We call it the “Mok,” which is a lot easier to say than any of the myriad of variations that you hear. Some of the variations of “Mahantango” would be enough to make an English teacher such as my mentor, Mr. Yarolin, fall to his knees, clutch his chest and yell “take me Lord!”
I have heard it called: The Mongo-tongo, Ma-hango-tango, Mahango and more. The “Mok” is easy to say, and we can skip the guttural German/Indian interpretation of the “h” in Mahantango, which amounts to the sound of someone trying to get ready to spit.
Whew! It only gets worse when you head south. The next creek is the Wiconisco. If you are from Trevorton and east, it comes out as “WiS-conisco.” The “short” for Wiconisco is the “Wik.” The Wiconisco confuses tongues nearly to the degree of the Mahantango, and reduces the Yarolins of this world to quivering, whimpering heaps of flesh.
The Indians may be gone, but the streams and the Indian names live on. There is much to be said for the soothing qualities of a rushing stream, and very soon we can enjoy the warmth of spring once again.
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