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Notes from the Streams banner
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Notes and observations from around Pennsylvania
from Commission Waterways Conservation Officers
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Persistence Pays Off
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During an in-season trout stocking at Levittown Lake in Lower Bucks County, I had the usual large crowd for a sunny day of trout fishing. It was windy and quite cool, but with the sun was shining and no rain in sight, trout anglers turned out in good numbers.

I was accompanied by Sgt Moyer, who had WCO Trainee Cadet Jeremy Ney along for the day on a field training assignment. After the trout stocking was complete, Sgt Moyer and Cadet Ney then escorted the truck down to the Pennypack Creek.

I stayed at Levittown Lake and watched an angler quickly catch his limit of trout. The angler then caught another trout, and as he tried to place the fish on a stringer, his friend motioned to him to let it go, so the angler released the fish. It seemed to me that the angler wanted to continue fishing as I watched him pack up his gear.

I strongly suspected that this angler was going to go over his daily limit for trout. I then texted to the other WCO’s in the area with the angler’s appearance and vehicle description. I resumed my normal trout season patrols.

About 3 hours later I was back at Levittown Lake, and as you may have guessed by now, my suspicions were confirmed. Here was the same angler fishing at the same lake he had already taken a limit of trout from earlier in the day! Only this time, the angler had changed his appearance by wearing a totally different outfit, waders and hat! He even parked in a different location than he did during his first outing.

Not wanting Cadet Ney to miss out on the opportunity, I phoned Sgt Moyer and he and Cadet Ney were in the area. Cadet Ney issued the appropriate citation and handled the situation well. The defendant pled guilty and paid his fines and hopefully learned a lesson.

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— WCO Brendan J. Ryan, N. Bucks County
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The End Result
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The 21st WCO class began training in July 2015. Since this time, we have driven many miles week after week from our homes across Pennsylvania to the North West Training Center in Meadville, Pa. We have spent long hours in the classroom to reach the Act 120 Certification for Municipal Police Officer and many days away from our families.

During our days training, many rounds were expended from our firearms on the range, a lot of cones were bumped into during drivers training, and new friendships were made.

After completing this training, it was off to H. R. Stackhouse School of Fisheries Conservation and Watercraft Safety. Here we spent long winter days learning, reading, and studying all of the laws and regulations we need to know to become Waterway Conservation officers. In these long days, we got to swim in frozen lakes for ice water rescue, safely handle rattle snakes, and identify every fish, amphibian and reptile PA has to offer.

With spring near and field training right around the corner, the 18 hardworking members of the 21st WCO class are ready to get out of the classroom and into the field to utilize the knowledge and skills we have gained over the past months. They say hard work pays off. The miles driven, training hours logged, and time spent away from our families will be well worth it in the end.

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— WCOT Travis Miller
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Don't Forget the Niceties
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As DWCO Mason and I were patrolling along the Lackawaxen River on the opening day of trout, it was around 1100 hours and some of the fishermen were starting to take a break for lunch. As we came around a bend in the road there was a large pull off where we decided to stop and talk to the anglers to see how their day was going.

As I approached their vehicle we noticed that they had a card table set up with a table cloth on it, along with items to make some lunch and of all things there was a vase of fresh cut flowers in the middle of the table.

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— WCO Robert A. Plumb, Northern Wallenpaupack District (Pike County)
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Start em' young
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Every year during trout stocking season one or two of the regulars will stop showing up for one reason or another. The flip side of that coin means that we usually gain a few stocking assistants. Many are recent retirees looking for a way to fill a void and keep active. Friendships are forged, fishing partners are united.

One new stocking assistant is Parker Smoyer. He is in his fourth year of coming along. The first few years he helped sparingly mostly just taking it all in. It’s not really surprising, his Grandfather Bill Smoyer is a retired fish culturist and his dad Doug Smoyer is currently a fish culturist in Pleasant Mount.

This year Parker is finally dumping buckets on his own, the thing is that he recently turned four years old.

Parker Parker
Parker
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— WCO Dave Kaneski, Northern Wayne County
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Mentored Youth & Memories
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This past Saturday, March 26, 2016, was Mentored Youth Day in my district. It would also have been my father’s 79th birthday.

In my part of Schuylkill County this was the most successful of these events since its inception. The weather, while cool in the morning, warmed up nicely and the fish were biting. As I observed and made contact with the many participants throughout the day I received overwhelmingly positive feedback about the program, and especially the current iteration where only the youth were allowed to keep fish and the accompanying mentors were required to practice catch and release. I observed the majority of mentors concentrating on the youth with relatively few fishing themselves.

I mentioned in the introduction that it would have been my father’s birthday on this day. That is because what I observed put him forefront in my memory all day. My father was an avid fisherman (primarily a fly fisherman until he was unable to walk the streams) and is the primary reason I have the job I have today. What I saw brought back memories of many opening days of trout when I was a young boy (lo those many years ago) when my father would take me and as many as three of my siblings fishing on that day. He would spend the morning baiting hooks, untangling lines, often looking after cold, wet, complaining children, passing out sandwiches, and doing everything he could to make sure we had a good time. Never did he take a rod for himself, or even consider doing so.

He loved to tell the story of an opening day when I was 8 or 9 years old and fell in the stream from which he plucked me crying and accusing him of pushing me in until I realized that there was a trout on the end of my line. I saw a lot of this reflected this past mentored youth day bringing forth these fond memories of my youth and warming my heart.

My father would have been very supportive of a program such as this. My father died shortly after his 61st birthday. Fortunately, he had some opportunity to share his love of fishing with his grandchildren as he shared it with me before he passed. I encourage everyone who has the opportunity to participate in the Mentored Youth Trout Fishing program. When done properly it will provide the mentor with a great deal of satisfaction and a lifetime of memories for the child you take fishing.

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— WCO Mark Pisko, Western Schuylkill / Northern Berks County
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There’s an App for that?
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Recently while attending a regular meeting of the New Milford Rifle/Pistol Club (of which I am a member), John Ord, President of the Club and also President of the Pa. Federation of Sportsman’s Clubs, was giving a report on the latest news from the Pa, Fish and Boat Commission. I like these opportunities since I’m not in the spotlight for describing what’s going on and it allows me to watch people’s reactions, especially those who do not know what I do for a living.

John had recently been at a statewide Federation of Sportsman’s Clubs function where someone from the PFBC was touting the virtues of the FishBoatPa App.

He started by saying it a free App then went into some of its features:

“Of course it has when the trout are going to be stocked in whatever water you might be interested in fishing in“

“It has all the rules and regulations that are in the summary book”

“You can even use it to help identify a fish you might have caught“

“And it has this neat feature called ‘Near Me’ if you allow it to use your smartphone’s GPS location. The Near Me feature ….“

Before John had a chance to explain this, a hand shot up from the back of room. Acknowledging the member with a question John paused.

The inquisitive listener sincerely asked “…. It will let me find out if a Warden is near me?“

The room erupted in laughter.

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— Sgt Bryan C. Bendock, NE Region
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Shake, Rattle & Whoa!
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Recently, during a venomous snake handling course here at the HR Stackhouse School of Fisheries Conservation and Watercraft Safety, each Cadet had the opportunity to handle a live Eastern Timber Rattlesnake! Out of 18 nervous Cadet’s and 1 snake, I think the poor snake was the most nervous of us all!

As Cadet Colian was preparing to snake-hook the poor little guy, I noticed his tail raised up at a funny sort of an angle I hadn’t seen before. With none of us knowing enough to foresee what was about to happen, Cadet Colian moved toward the slithering, rattling little fella (tail still raised up at that funny angle), and slid his snake hook gently under the snake’s belly. Then, as Cadet Colian reached down, wrapping his bare hand around the snake’s posterior to acquire the proper grip for handling, the snake’s jittery nerves finally got the best of him and he let loose a flow of “snake doo” the likes of which I have never before imagined and hope to never see again!

The smell was awful, which was only made worse by the requisite deep breathing inevitably accompanying heavy laughter, but Cadet Colian handled it like a real old-time snake handling pro! Heroically, Cadet Colian pointed the still flowing putrid spray away from bystanders, somehow maintaining his composure throughout the whole mess in a way I’m not so sure I could have. Great job Cadet Colian…great job indeed.

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— Cadet Nathan Hancock, 21st WCO Cadet Class
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For Good Measure
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I received a call from our office that two men were stringing a fishnet across the entire width of a recently stocked trout stream. I recognized the site given by the calle, as a bridge scheduled for demolition. Minutes after I received the call I arrived at the location.

The only person at the site was a seasoned fly fisherman. We spoke for a minute then he explained he was the one who made the call to region. He was hesitant tell me what actually happened……then with an embarrassed, sheepish grin, he said the alleged net was a tape measure stretched across the stream by two engineers measuring the bridge. He was too ashamed to call the office back and admit his misidentification and hoped no one would follow-up on the call. Both he and I erupted into laughter. No harm done, thanks for the call.

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— WCO Mark Sweppenhiser, Northern Dauphin
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Day late and a dollar short
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Have you ever had an idea for an invention that was sure to make you a millionaire only to find out that it was already invented and on the market? A day late and a dollar short as the saying goes. One evening, while checking ice anglers on Lake Somerset, I had one such “light bulb moment.”

It was an unusually warm day for the end of January and there seemed to be more anglers staying on the ice after dark. I was talking to one such guy about the distance one should be from their tip up when the lightbulb went off. I should invent a tip up with a light I said to the man, his reply was, “it’s probably already out there”, though neither one of us had seen one.

As I started walking off in the direction I had come on, thinking of my million dollar invention, I noticed two tip ups that I felt were too far from sight for these light conditions. As I took a few more steps one of the tip up flags went up along with a red blinking light! There goes my million dollars.

When the angler came out to check his tip up I asked him about the light attached to the flag. He said they have a mercury sensor switch that goes on when the flag goes up, they attach to the flag rod and come with a solid or blinking light. I asked him how long he has had them. When he answered, about two years, I was surprised that this was the first time that I had seen one.

I guess I can chalk up another time that I have been a day late and a dollar short.

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— WCO Daniel McGuire, Southern Somerset
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New Snake Species?
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As a Conservation Officer, one of the frequent calls we respond to, are calls regarding conflicts between people and snakes.  Particularly when said snakes, enter the complainants home.
One such call I received last year, was from a woman who was literally frantic.  More so I believe, than anyone I have ever spoken to regarding a snake.

Most people call, and ask if we can respond and remove the snake.  This lady however was clearly in fear for her life.
Normally, such calls are referred to a pest control agent, if the snake is located inside the home.  However, this woman was having none of that.  She wanted that snake gone NOW!
Given the woman’s obvious fear and state of mind, I agreed to come out and try to remove the snake. The address was local, so I informed her I could be there in about a half hour.

Prior to ending the call, I asked how big the snake was, in order to ensure I had the appropriate equipment. Much to my surprise, the woman responded, “about four inches long, and that it must be some exotic species, because she had never seen such a snake before.”

I hung up the phone, and departed for the residence, fully expecting to find a nightcrawlers that had found its way into the house.  Or, possibly a juvenile water snake, since the woman said she lived next to the creek.

Upon my arrival, the woman was waiting for me in the driveway.  Upon seeing me, she could not thank me enough for responding to what was in her mind, a life threatening emergency.

We entered the house, and the woman stated it was in her bedroom, underneath the bed.  The door to the bedroom was closed, and a towel was placed below the door, to prevent the demon from escaping.

The following conversation went something like this.
Me-“Ma’am, it is not a snake”
Her-“Yes it is!”
Me-“No, it isn’t”
Her-“Are you sure?”
Me-“Pretty sure!”
Her-“How do you know”
Me-“Because the Fish and Boat Commission spent a lot of money teaching me what a snake looks like.”

I retrieved the alleged snake, and we both had a great laugh as I handed her the remains of a broken rubber band.

We spoke for a few minutes laughing, and her being obviously relieved.  She then stated her husband would be very upset with her.  Apparently, she had called him at work and demanded he come home immediately.  I just smiled, and informed the nice lady, that my report would read I responded to a snake call, resolved such issue and continued my duty.  It is unknown to me whether she ever told her husband what type of snake it was or not.

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— WCO Aaron B. Lupacchini, NE Region
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One Minor Detail
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This past spring I received a phone message from the regional office for a person wanting to install a barrier in a stream to prevent trout movement in a small stream stocked by a local cooperative trout nursery.  I called the person and explained that a permit would be required for that type of activity and would probably not be effective.

The person wanted me to stop by and look at the location and give my opinion on what could be done.  I told him I would stop and look at the section of stream but since it was the first week of trout season, I didn’t know exactly when I would get there. One Sunday afternoon I was in the area and stopped by the stream to take a better look at the stream section where he wanted to install the fish barrier.

As luck would have it, the person who had called was fishing there and when I stopped he put down his fishing rod and came up to my vehicle.  He explained what he wanted and I showed him the requirements in Title 30 for getting the permit.  We looked at the stream section he was talking about and discussed alternatives to installing a barrier.

When I was about to leave, I asked him to see his fishing license.  A word to the wise, if you are going to invite the WCO to stop by, make sure you take care of the little details like buying a fishing license first.

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— WCO Rick Valazak, NC Region
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New Type of Lure
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I was patrolling Lake Winola aboard a patrol boat on a week night this summer. There was very little boat traffic on the lake and I was focused on locating anglers fishing from docks without licenses, as is often the case when lake residents don’t think I will be on the lake. I noticed a man standing at the edge of a dock with a fishing pole in his hand, and he appeared as if making a sort of a snagging type motion. Thinking I had found a case, I began to approach the dock.

When the gentleman looked up and saw who I was, he exclaimed “this is not what it looks like.” I thought to myself “I can’t wait to hear this.” He explained that he had lost a drill bit while doing some work on his dock and was trying to retrieve the bit from the water. I looked at his fishing equipment and, sure enough, there was no hook or lure of any type. Just a small magnet. Knowing there are no steelhead in the lake, I assumed he was not trying to catch a fish with a magnet, and did not issue a citation.

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— WCO Kadin Thompson, NE Region
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