Notes from the Streams

Caught the same fish

Eight o'clock had come and gone, and I was the most ignored person on Stony Creek, deep in the heart of Norristown Borough. I walked along and heard loud voices. They did not sound like happy sounds, so I investigated. As I approached the voices, I noticed a large trout dancing on its tail in the middle of the creek. On opposite sides of the creek came the sounds of "It's mine!" As I approached, one of the anglers agreed to have the other pull this very talented trout into shore. He then put down his rod and walked across the stream. Now both anglers were holding the trout with one hand, peeking in its mouth, and pushing each other around. They apparently had caught the same fish. How they did so is anyone's guess. I stopped the argument, took possession of the talented trout and told the gentlemen to decide now who gets the fish, or it swims. One angler gave in, they promised to be good, and we all shook hands.--DWCO Fran Lauderback, Southern Montgomery County.

Other side of the fence

It's not uncommon sometimes for people to lose perspective. However, one day while on patrol I met a gentleman who could set things straight. This angler was fishing the Schuylkill River near Gladwyne. He spoke with an accent and told me he was born and raised in England. He took the time to explain that in his home country, fishing is a rich man's sport. Fees must be paid to gain access to streams, and more fees are required to keep fish. He was overjoyed that he could pay a small cost for a license and fish year-round. I wonder if those people who complain about the cost of a license know just how good they have it?--WCO Gerald B. Barton, Southern Montgomery County.

Illustration of groundhogHungry groundhog?

On routine patrol the night before the opening day of the trout season, DWCO Mike Strohl and I headed to Lizard Creek. We took a shortcut to the stream, which took us along some farm roads, where we passed an object in the road. At first glance it looked like a stuffed animal with something on its head. On further investigation (we backed up for a closer look), it turned out to be a live groundhog with a soup can completely covering its head. We pulled to the side of the road for a closer look. After observing this animal for a few minutes trying to remove the can in vain, we decided we had to do something or the groundhog would starve to death or get hit by a car. I put on a pair of gloves, picked up the groundhog and carried it to the side of the road. Mike held the groundhog while I tried to get the can off. It seemed the harder I tried, the tighter it got. And Mr. Groundhog was not happy with us or the can on its head. Finally, I tried pulling the can while pushing on the sides to expand it, because the can looked like it was crimped in the middle around its neck. First one ear appeared, then the other, and finally, pop, he was free. Mike and I backed away for a moment as the groundhog tried to figure out what had just happened to him. Mike then carried the dazed but otherwise unharmed animal into the field away from the road, and we continued on our way. How the can got there, who knows! I guess his head was bigger than his stomach!--DWCO Howard Morana, Carbon County.

Beginner's luck

On my first day of field training as a member of the 15th Waterways Conservation Officer Class, I encountered a situation only minutes after joining up with my FTO (field training officer). We had traveled only a few miles when we spotted a pickup truck parked on a trail closed to vehicular traffic. After we pulled in behind the truck, two men ascended the stream bank from a small tributary that runs adjacent to the trail. One of the men was carrying a white styrofoam minnow bucket that contained some 30 minnows. During our questioning of the two individuals, one of them admitted to trapping the minnows from the tributary in preparation for the upcoming trout season. After explaining that you are required to have a fishing license to do that, and after his stating that he did not have one, I issued the first citation of my career. It never hurts to have a little bit of luck on your side sometimes.--Cadet Thomas J. Crist, 15th WCO Class.

To arrest or not to arrest

While practicing vehicle operations with a boat trailer in the parking lot of the Stackhouse Training School, my classmates and I observed two fishermen trying their luck on Spring Creek. The school is located directly in front of the creek's Heritage Angling waters and offers a terrific view of the water as well as the dyed-in-the-wool fly fishermen who frequent this waterway. The curious thing about these fishermen was their equipment and method of fishing. Spinning reels, artificial lures and wading in the water is prohibited in this special-regulation area, and these two "sportsmen" were having a blast violating the rules right in front of 15 uniformed officers! Needless to say, we were eager to get to the bottom of it and had planned to take swift action. In the midst of issuing citations to these would-be violators, we realized that they were Commission officers employed by our supervisor to test our newly acquired enforcement skills. We learned much from our training officer's trickery, but I still think we should have given a ticket to someone. I wonder if "sneakiness" is against the law.--Cadet Jonathan R. Kay, 15th WCO Class.

Dispelling a myth

Training at the H.R. Stackhouse School of Fisheries Conservation and Watercraft Safety consisted of trout stocking 101. Having heard horror stories of chaos as the masses followed the stocking trucks, I mentally prepared myself. The volumes of greedy, selfish people would certainly fill this day with heartache and disappointment. After arriving at the stocking point, I searched out the district WCO. Hidden by a group of people, he answered various questions. He appeared very busy, but alert to my presence. I managed to introduce myself between various inquiries.

Shortly thereafter, he gathered everyone and introduced himself. He stated his objectives, requested that all be safe, and then, surprisingly, introduced me. I was then flooded with a barrage of hellos, welcomes and handshakes. Everyone seemed genuinely interested. The day passed, all fish were stocked, and on the drive home I thought about the day. Where were the greedy and selfish people, and where was the chaos? Instead, I witnessed one of the greatest traditions of all time. I saw many great things, but greatest of all is where I would be without them. I know all days cannot be like this one, but after today, I look for these kinds of days.--Cadet Joshua Roland, 15th WCO Class.

Illustration of anglerLove of the sport

Many anglers profess their love of the sport, but last November I met one of the most ardent sportsmen. This Erie resident parked at the upper lot at the Elk Creek Access and walked to the creek mouth through three feet of freshly fallen lake-effect snow. Once there, he caught and released more than 20 steelhead in a matter of hours. While crossing a sandbar that had formed at the mouth, he slipped and was carried by the current 100 yards into the cold Lake Erie water. As his head went underwater, he thought, "My life is over, but at least I had a good day of fishing." Eventually he surfaced and swam to a floating tree limb, to which he hung on precariously for an hour in the 50-degree water. Rescuers from the Lake City Fire Company reached him about an hour later and were surprised when he handed them his fishing rod first. The victim said, "That rod is my baby...and there ain't no way I'm losing that." After the rescue, I met with the victim and his wife to review the incident. He was going back to the same spot to go fishing. His wife said, "My husband is not a well man. He didn't have to worry about the cold water numbing his brain. It was numb before he ever fell in!"--WCO John W. Bowser, Erie County.

Tribute to Dad, alias "River Rat Ray"

This is a tribute to my Dad, Raymond L. Nace, or as we affectionately referred to him, "River Rat Ray." Dad passed away last January. He will always be remembered as a great husband, father and grandpa. He was also an avid boater, fisherman and hunter. One of his favorite places was the Susquehanna River in Harrisburg. Every time the grandkids pass the Susquehanna, they yell, "There's Pap Pap's River!" He boated there for over 50 years and knew where every rock stood­and hit a lot of them, too.

Fishing was his favorite pastime. I still get blamed for messing up the 1962 trout season when I was born on the opening day. Dad loved to fish, especially with his Dad years ago. Nothing tasted better to him than the native brook trout he used to catch. He knew all the good fishing holes from here to Potter County­never let us know exactly where. All good fishermen keep such secrets.

Dad was always tinkering with his boats. He developed his own prop guard that many boaters admired. He even put a steering wheel on his fishing boat so it would drive better, and he installed a table umbrella on his runabout to keep him out of the sun. He was always proud of his latest boat customization.

His family will miss his fishing and hunting stories. They were like a good wine that got better with age. The fish got bigger and the hunting more challenging.

He was one of the few remaining true hardcore anglers, a special breed, a World War II veteran and a friend to all. He was always the type willing to lend a fellow sportsman a hand. His family will miss him greatly and so will you. Even though you don't know him, if he was out on the water and you needed help, he was there. He was a quiet hero on the river. He rescued countless people and retrieved many belongings of those who were in trouble. He towed people in, fixed their engines, retrieved items from capsizes, and even saved a life or two. Sometimes he was thanked and sometimes he wasn't, but it didn't matter. He was just glad to help.

He was all these things and more. I'll miss him, his stories, and the sparkle in his eyes when he was with his grandchildren. I like to think he's now fishing in the best spot there is.

Don't worry, Dad­your children will keep the home fires burning and take good care of Mom. You just enjoy the fishing with Grandpa until we meet again. We will always love you.--Linda Covage, Bureau of Boating & Education.

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November/December 2000 Angler & Boater

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