Notes from the Streams
illustrations by Ted Walke

Fish illustration

Real-life drama

I wish I had had a video camera while stocking trout in the Lehigh Canal at Weissport one day last April. We had just tossed a bucket of trout into the Canal when a huge chain pickerel flashed out of its hiding place and grabbed a trout. Minutes passed as we stood there witnessing the drama of life and death in the natural world. It seemed like we were watching a wildlife episode on The Discovery Channel, except that this was the real thing.
&shyp;WCO Sally Corl, Carbon County.


"Harrisburg is burning"

After a few years in the field, you would think you've heard every possible excuse for a violation of the Fish and Boat Code. Think again.

While on boat patrol of Blue Marsh Lake, DWCO Lyon and I stopped a watercraft for an operational violation. When DWCO Lyon asked the operator to produce his registration card (which must be carried at all times), the operator said he lost it. When I asked him if he called our Harrisburg headquarters to get a replacement, he said that he had called, but it burned down.
WCO John Sabaitis, Berks County.

Boat illustration

Innovative angler

When you think you've seen it all, come to Luzerne County. While on routine patrol, I noticed two individuals standing along the shore of Mud Pond. I thought I observed a rod tip above one individual's head and stopped to check fishing licenses. The rod tip turned out to be an antenna attached to an electronic control box for a homemade radio-controlled miniature ice boat. The gentleman explained to me that in hard-to-fish areas in the summer, he has a radio-controlled boat that carries the baited end of his line wherever he wants it to go, and then he throws a switch to release the line. The innovative angler has now turned his attention to fishing open parts of ponds and lakes that are partially frozen and unsafe to walk on. He has designed a radio-controlled ice boat that delivers the baited end of his line and releases it into the open water. The inventor was trying to work out the bugs in his new lure delivery system&shyp;control of a small 30-inch craft with skis attached that would not turn on the ice. The wind had blown it into open water where it had to be retrieved with&shyp;you guessed it&shyp;the aid of rod, reel, line and musky plugs. I wished the stout-hearted angler lots of luck with his innovative method of delivering his bait.
WCO David Corl, Luzerne County.

PWC illustration

Trying to be safe?

During boat patrol on a Friday afternoon this past summer, I noticed a group of people on personal watercraft jumping the wake of a large tow vessel, which was pushing several barges up the Ohio River.

One of these individuals was exceptionally close, so I signaled the operator of the PWC to stop his craft and I proceeded to conduct a boarding. When I explained to the operator what he did wrong, he seemed upset and made the following statement: "Honest officer, I was no more than 30 feet away from that barge, and I almost always try to avoid accidents."

At this point, I was having trouble keeping a straight face.
WCO Jay Redman, Western Allegheny County.

Military illustration


DWCO Jack Osborne and I observed two ice fishermen on a local lake some 50 yards offshore bury a number of fish in the snow. After a while, we decided to park our vehicle near their location and inspect the fish.

Jack stepped out of the vehicle, shut the door, and immediately disappeared. I jumped out of the vehicle and noticed the two fishermen running in my direction. I looked over an embankment and saw Jack sprawled out on the ice. He had lost his footing and rolled approximately 12 feet down the bank onto the ice.

The fishermen and I reached Jack at the same time. Not wanting to lose an opportunity to locate and check the fish, I walked past Jack and the fishermen toward the tip-ups. I uncovered and measured the fish (all legal size) and returned to shore.

Other than being snow-covered and wet, Jack was OK. The fishermen thought Jack intentionally fell down the bank as a diversion so I could reach the fish before they could react. We thanked the fishermen for their assistance and left.

I told Jack the diversion worked well and we should try it at a few more lakes. While picking snow out of his ear, Jack politely refused.
WCO Tom Qualters, Jr., Wayne County.

Pizza illustration

BUI perspective

I received a report this summer of a capsized boat on the Susquehanna River near the Danville Access. My investigation revealed that the accident was actually a swamping and there was a strong possibility that alcohol was involved. When I interviewed the passengers and boat operator, they all informed me that they had been drinking. The passengers stated that they knew they were too drunk to drive across the river, so they asked the owner of the boat to take them across so that they could get a pizza. Then they decided to go for a ride, and the next thing they knew the boat just sank.

I was inclined to find this story unbelievable, but I had insufficient evidence to pursue a boating-under-the-influence investigation. I happened to be on hand the following weekend when the boat was recovered from the bottom of the river. Imagine my surprise when upon examining the boat in an attempt to discern the cause of the accident, pepperoni pizza came floating out from under the bow decking. The "pizza pirates" story was at least partly true.

This is the second time I have heard someone say they were too drunk to drive a car, so they took a boat ride instead. The first time resulted in an arrest for boating under the influence. The second time was nearly tragic. The three persons involved in this incident nearly drowned.

The lesson to be learned here is that if you know you have had too much to drink to get behind the wheel of a car, you have no business at the controls of a boat. I am sure these individuals found this to be a sobering experience. I hope others learn by their example.
WCO Mark Pisko, Columbia/Montour/Northumberland counties.

Head illustrationMan illustration

Removing a fly

The Queen City Coop trout nursery in Allentown is located only a few yards away from a "Fly-Fishing-Only" section of the Little Lehigh Creek. The "hatch house" located there is a favorite daily gathering spot for some of the area's retired anglers. One of these men, Mr. Ed Haines, Sr., was recently standing near the stream, enjoying the day by watching some fly fishermen casting their imitations. One errant back cast resulted in the angler's line tangling around the head and shoulders of Mr. Haines. The angler apologized and began unraveling the line from Mr. Haines' body until he reached the end. Then he discovered that his fly was stuck in the top of Mr. Haines' bald head.

Being a good sport, he told the fly caster to just cut his line and he would remove the fly later. The fisherman was decent enough not to ask him to return the fly. Mr. Haines then went into the hatch house and mentioned to the other elderly gentleman there that he had a fly on his head and would he remove it. The other fellow, Paul Rohrbach, took a look and quickly swatted twice on top of Mr. Haines' shiny head. Then, thinking he had killed the fly, he attempted to pluck it off. Needless to say, it wasn't coming off easily, especially when Mr. Haines decided to hinder this attempt to help him by shouting and running away.

Finally, expert help arrived and the fly was removed along with just a small bit of scalp. Mr. Haines was spared some anguish by the fact that this area requires the use of barbless hooks and that Mr. Rohrbach didn't hit him with a shot of insect repellent.
WCO Fred Mussel, Lehigh County.

Squirrel illustration

A squirrelly rescue

While on boat patrol at Cross Creek Lake in Washington County, Deputy Waterways Conservation Officer John Bizzack and his partner observed a small creature swimming across the lake. They took a closer look. It turned out to be a squirrel. The squirrel did not seem to have much energy left, and the shoreline was a great distance away.

John extended a boat paddle down to the squirrel. The squirrel immediately climbed on, ran up the paddle to John's arm, across his shoulder and jumped down into the boat. The squirrel then proceeded to the bow of the boat. The squirrel, looking forward, remained on the bow of the boat. John drove the boat to shore. The squirrel jumped onto the shore, looked back at the boat, and then ran into the woods.
WCO Keith Small, Washington County.

Kids with whistles

Out of whistles

As WCOs, one thing we frequently inspect boats for are the required sound-producing devices. We also try to carry extras on board for those boaters who are in violation so that they can continue their fishing or boating with minimal delays. While patrolling Lake Arthur, Butler County, with WCO Houck, we came upon a pontoon boat whose engine had flooded. The pontoon boat was loaded with three stressed-out dads and a bunch of not so enthusiastic kids. All of the kids were wearing their required life jackets, even though it was a very hot day and they had been stuck for a while.

After we got the engine started, we wanted to reward the kids for their good behavior, so we handed out some extra whistles with the instructions that they not use them until they got home. Well, that suggestion didn't last very long and before we knew it, we had three "smiling" stressed-out dads and a boatload of kids who didn't care that it was hot and they hadn't caught any fish yet. I wanted to thank the dads for introducing a bunch of young kids to the joys of fishing and boating. I also invite others to do the same. For those who take me up on that offer, don't worry&shyp;I'm out of whistles.
WCO Joseph Waskin, Butler County.

July/August 1998 PA Angler & Boater

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