Notes from the Streams

Off duty?

One thing I have discovered since becoming a WCO is that it's difficult to enjoy yourself when spending some private time fishing along a Commonwealth waterway, especially one in your own patrol district. For example, I was asked by a state trooper friend of mine to go trout fishing on the Yellow Breeches Creek one late May morning. Because it was the end of my busy trout stocking season, it was the first opportunity I had to enjoy the resource we work so hard to protect. We decided to pick an area that would have less pressure.

When we arrived at our spot, we were disappointed to see several fishermen already working the stream. Because we had driven so far, we decided that we could tolerate the company of a few other anglers and would try our luck at this spot anyway. As we entered the stream, I noticed that the angler fishing below me kept looking up toward me as if he were going to say something. Slowly he worked his way closer to me and hollered, "Aren't you the fish warden?" With every angler on the stream now looking at me, I asked him why he wanted to know. He said that a fisherman had already caught his limit of trout and took them home, returned, and was fishing again upstream.

As I was getting a description of the suspect, I explained to the informant that although I was not on duty and was trying to enjoy some fishing myself, I would check the angler when he returned to his vehicle, which was parked nearby. A few minutes later the suspect angler returned to his vehicle carrying three trout. As I approached him and asked how he did (as one angler would ask another), he immediately said, "I know who you are and I did not already catch my limit as that guy told you" (pointing to the informant standing in the water). The informant then rushed out of the water toward the suspect and began yelling at him about seeing him already take a limit home and that he should not be pointing his finger at him. The suspect began yelling back, and quickly they were nose to nose. Concerned about a physical confrontation, I had to separate the two and warned that they not do anything that would make the situation worse for both of them. I anticipating the arrival and help of my fellow officer who was still fishing 100 yards downstream and was unaware that anything was going on. After a few minutes of negotiating, I was able to calm the two anglers and determined that the suspect probably did not catch more than the limit of fish.

My hopes for a relaxing day of fishing had been cut short because of this incident. I might as well have gone to work!--WCO Craig A. Garman, Cumberland County.

Stocking made easy

Every spring an amazing thing happens here in Wyoming County and across the state. Millions of trout are stocked, and it would never happen if it were not for the generous landowners who allow us to put fish on their properties and who allow the public to fish these waters. Thank you so much! The second part of the stocking equation is the helpers. The Fish & Boat Commission could not even begin to stock all these fish if we were not helped by the dedicated sportsmen who carry buckets and nets of fish. In Wyoming County, I thank Ray Goeringer, Joe Connors, John and Leslie Rhodes, Rich White and Terry Huff.--WCO Larry L. Bundy, Jr., Wyoming/Eastern Sullivan Counties.

"I'll never fish again!"

Deputy Bob McFadden came across a gentleman fishing in the Allegheny River who discarded a beverage container along the bank. When confronted by DWCO McFadden for the littering violation, the man cursed, stomped and hollered, and threw his fishing pole down the riverbank, vowing never to fish again if he were cited. DWCO McFadden retrieved the rod for the man, and told him he was, indeed, going to be ticketed. The man swore he did not want the fishing rod back, and advised that it should be given to a child because he would no longer be fishing.

He should have taken his own advise, because about a month or so later, DWCO Greg Pochron apprehended the same individual for possessing a short smallmouth bass, which he filleted on the spot and tried to conceal.--WCO Thomas Tarkowski, Venango County.

Another legal requirement?

While instructing a group in boating safety at the Berks County Youth Field Day with DWCO Carl Warner, I went through a detailed list of equipment required on watercraft to be safe and legal. I demonstrated each item of equipment, and especially stressed the need for life jackets, their use and proper fit. Deputy Warner expertly followed with a course on water safety, self-rescue and how to use a throw bag. Quite proud of ourselves for a job well done, I asked the group, "What is the most important thing you can have on your boat?" A youngster looked me straight in the eye and replied, "Food!"--WCO John Sabaitis, Berks County.

Just one more cast!

Who says you can't work and have fun at the same time! Last summer I spent a weekend with a bunch of Brownies and Girl Scouts at Camp Louise. On Saturday, we reviewed some basic water and boating safety topics, modeled a variety of personal flotation devices, practiced the H.E.L.P. and huddle positions and discussed "Reach, Throw, Row and Go." But by far, the highlight of the weekend was the Sunday fishing clinic. The girls were catching bluegills right and left with an occasional yellow perch. We didn't have real fancy equipment, but the girls and the fish didn't seem to notice. The only complaint was that we had to quit too soon. The girls learned how to prolong the fun just a little while longer. "Please, just let me have one more cast!"--WCO Sally A. Corl, Carbon County.

Brush up on the ID skills

I was on routine patrol during trout season in May on Roaring Creek, which forms the border between Columbia and Montour counties. I encountered two individuals fishing near the confluence of Roaring Creek and the Susquehanna River. I was surprised to find anyone in that area because Roaring Creek has not been stocked that far downstream in some time. I approached the individuals and could see that they had fish in their creels. They each had four fish, two smallmouth bass and two rock bass. They readily admitted that they were fishing for bass, and believing all of the fish to be smallmouths, they were apprehensive because two of the fish that they each had were each less than 12 inches. They breathed a sigh of relief when I informed them that the smaller fish were legal.

The relief was short-lived, however, when I asked them to tell me the season for smallmouth bass. Apparently these fishermen not only did not know what they had caught, but they had neglected to read the summary book issued to them with their fishing licenses. I cited the gentlemen for taking bass out of season and advised them to read the summary book and brush up on their fish identification skills before their next outing.--WCO Mark Pisko, Columbia, Montour, Northumberland and Sullivan Counties.

Power of partnerships

I wanted to relive one of the more pleasant aspects of the job, one that I had experienced several times during a previous assignment in another district­a children's fishing derby. Nothing can be more gratifying than to see the expressions of delight on the faces of kids having a good time taking part in these events.

A kid's derby is a great concept, I thought, but where do I start to look for answers to the who, what, where, when and how? The answer seemed insurmountable, especially if the event were to occur before the boating season.

Much to my astonishment, three short meetings and a few phone calls later, the flyers were mailed and things were rolling. Between the efforts of the Lebanon Parks and Recreation Department, the Indiantown Gap Fish and Game Conservation Club cooperative nursery and the Doc Fritchey Chapter of Trout Unlimited, all there was left to do was wait for the day to arrive.

The partnership engine has amazing power. All it takes is a little priming.--WCO Terry Deibler, Lebanon/Southern Dauphin Counties.

Herpetology lesson

In early June I participated in an aquatic insect identification workshop with the Habitat Management staff at the Commission's Field Station 22, along Penn's Creek. Expecting to have a course in entomology, it didn't take long to see that a lesson in herpetology would be waiting around every corner.

As we moved along the stream, the bank came alive with several watersnakes. A garter snake raced ahead of us on the grassy trail to the place where we would collect aquatic insects from the stream. A large, unusually placid watersnake basked on the broken-down steps near our outdoor "classroom." To top off our sightings for the day, a large, brilliantly colored yellow-phase timber rattlesnake surprised us as we hiked in the woods along the stream. My seasonal employee said it all: "This place is pretty snakey!"

Knowing that not everyone in our group was entirely comfortable with the slithery serpents, we caught each other carefully inspecting the trail ahead of us with each step. Then a dreaded high school math problem popped into mind: If five Habitat Management seasonal employees head into the woods where 12 watersnakes, one garter snake and one large timber rattlesnake live, how many employees will return?

Well, we all returned from our expedition into the woods, although some of us may have liked to return a little faster than others!--Laurel Garlicki, Aquatic Resources Program Specialist, Northcentral Region.

"Ohio radius"

Working a "border district" gives an officer his own set of somewhat amusing stories. Each WCO many times has to use discretion on just how far over the state line a non-resident can fish before changing the violation from a warning to a citation.

Recently I came across four non-residents fishing for steelhead at Crooked Creek. When approaching the first one and requesting to see his license, he responded that he was only 15 and did not require one. I agreed that he did not and engaged him in conversation, remarking how sharp the red sports car parked near the bridge was. He proudly said it was his and how the 4-speed really made it "move." When asked his date of birth, the year 1981 was given. A few more rapid-fire questions had the year go to 1982, then 1983, to a confession of being 18 years old.

Rounding up the other three anglers had another round of excuses, including the one in which they knew there was a "radius" that they could be over the state line and still fish legally with their Ohio licenses. I agreed that such a radius existed, and asked them to produce their Ohio licenses before we measured. Only one fisherman had a license and he was disgruntled to find that the radius reached into Pennsylvania only a matter of inches, not a distance of more than five miles.--WCO John W. Bowser, Western Erie County.


July/August 2000 Angler & Boater

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