A common concern of many of our co-op trout nurseries is missing fish. They received this amount of fingerlings to raise and only have half that number left for stocking the following year. There are many reasons for the missing trout. Diseases take their toll. Some fish escape. Poachers are also active in some areas and can really frustrate the hard-working folks trying to raise some nice trout for public stocking.
Sometimes these poachers have four legs, sometimes two. Some of the most effective ones have wings, and we had an opportunity to witness their skill this past October. The Fish and Boat Commission's truck, with 2,000 trout on board, arrived at noon at the meeting place, the Queen City Co-op Nursery in Allentown. Several stocking helpers were waiting at the parking lot next to the nursery, and as we stood there we noticed five ospreys circling overhead, somewhat like vultures. During the next 10 minutes, we watched these dive bombers take five fingerling trout including a golden rainbow, and miss several more. We had to leave, so we were unable to observe their total take for that afternoon. They must have enjoyed a few more snacks before retiring for the day. We hope by now they have moved south, but with the easy pickings provided by the nursery, they might become year-round residents.--Fred Mussel, Southeast Assistant Regional Supervisor.
On a recent boat patrol my deputies and I were checking shore fishermen. We were on the Ohio River back channel of Neville Island when we saw several fishermen near the dam. We boated as close as possible, beached the boat, and a deputy and I went ashore to check the fishermen. As I was working my way along the bank, I noticed that the angler farthest away had begun scurrying across the rocks. My first reaction was, "Oh great, this guy is going to run on me," but then I realized that if he was running away, he was making a big mistake because he was coming right at me! As he came close I recognized him as someone I had apprehended just the week before for fishing without a license. In his hand was a brand new fishing license, which he showed me with pride. After I inspected it, he said, "Come on, I want to show you something else." We traversed the rocks until we arrived at the spot where he was fishing. He lifted up his stringer and on the end of it was a 31-inch, 8-pound, 4-ounce walleye! He then looked at me with quizzical eyes and asked, "It is in season, isn't it?" It was, but I just laughed--WCO Jay C. Redman, Western Allegheny County.
Walt Dietrich, Shillington, told me that he was fishing at about 6:30 a.m. in his 12-foot boat in the no-wake arm of Blue Marsh Lake when he saw a large wake heading toward him. To his amazement, a musky at least 4 1/2 feet long swam head-first into the side of his boat. Walt said there were no dents in his boat, and the fish looked fine.--WCO John Sabaitis, Berks County.
I recently received a warrant to arrest a man who had been secretly baiting his hook with bread in a Fly-Fishing-Only area. When I served the warrant, he asked to read it. After a moment, he announced that he didn't think the warrant was correct. When I asked why, he replied, "Because I generally use corn as bait in a Fly-Fishing-Only area!"--WCO K. Derek Pritts, Northern Lancaster County.
While working the Fish and Boat Commission's display at the Eastern Outdoor Show, I had the pleasure of speaking with a gentleman and his wife who had obviously spent their day shopping. The husband had looked over our display items and asked many questions before selecting the book Guide to Public Fishing Waters and Boating Access, a $3 item. The gentleman fumbled through a handful of mixed up ones, fives, tens and twenties looking for three ones. The wife, impatiently standing beside him, felt it took him too long to find the bills and suggested in a sarcastic voice, "Put them in alphabetical order, they would be easier to find." Instantly other patrons laughed at her suggestion. "Oops," she said in a compromising tone, "I meant in numerical order." Apparently it had been a long day for her and he probably spent more money than she felt was necessary.--WCO Ben Leamer (retired), Perry County.
Last December I was patrolling my district and stopped at Stevenson Reservoir. Most of the lake was frozen except for a very small area around the mouth of Brooks Run. I watched the open area as trout were jumping. One fish became too acrobatic and leaped from the open water onto the ice. I watched as it flopped around the ice for about a minute until it finally reached the open water. I think we can assume that the trout determined life was better in the water than on the ice.--WCO Walter Buckman, Cameron County.
While patrolling Yellow Breeches Creek one March afternoon with DWCO Erik Tack, a call came across the county dispatch for a Game Commission unit to assist a Lower Allen Township police officer with a reported "bobcat" in the garage of a residence. Believing that the "bobcat" would turn out to be a large house cat, I was reluctant to offer my assistance. This, too, was the belief of the Game Commission dispatcher as he instructed county dispatch to have the police officer open the garage door and the cat would eventually leave on its own. This was not an inappropriate request because most reported wildcat sightings turn out to be large house cats. In addition, the location was a housing development in an urban area, making the possibility of a bobcat even more unbelievable.
The police officer, believing that the animal was a bobcat, refused to release the cat in fear that it may harm someone. Because I was in the township and no Game Commission officers could be contacted, I offered my assistance to the police officer in identifying the animal and possibly removing it from the residence. On the way to the location, I radioed the Game Commission dispatch, informing them that I would get a positive identification on the cat instead of having Wildlife CO Tim Grenoble drive across the county on his day off.
Arriving at the location, we were greeted by Lower Allen Township Police Officer Anthony and a crowd of curious neighbors. DWCO Tack and I entered the closed garage believing that we would emerge with a harmless house cat in our arms. On the contrary and to our disbelief, we were greeted by the largest, most real bobcat I have ever seen, sitting on a bookshelf about six feet off the floor. Quickly leaving the garage to the crowd anxiously awaiting our determination, I said, "That's as close to a bobcat as you can get." Their response was a lot of "I told you so's" and "I knew it."
Because Officer Anthony did not want the cat released, we had no alternative but to notify Game Commission dispatch to have WCO Grenoble go to the location with the proper equipment to remove the animal. An hour later, WCO Grenoble arrived on the scene. After a few failed attempts to administer a tranquilizer with a jab stick, the large cat had to be lassoed and wrestled to the ground by WCO Grenoble, DWCO Tack, and me. We then placed it in a cage for transport.
The large male bobcat weighed 28 pounds. It was identified as a wild cat that was believed to have been pushed out of its territory by a younger, stronger male. The cat was then turned over to Wildlife CO Jim Binder, who released the animal unharmed in the Michaux State Forest that same evening.
Much time and effort was spent in the capture and removal of "one of Pennsylvania's most elusive wild creatures," and to release it unharmed to its proper habitat was a rewarding experience. This effort, among similar experiences, makes a conservation officer realize that people have benefitted from our efforts, and that we make a difference.
Two days later, the bobcat was struck and killed by a vehicle on I-81 several miles from where it was released.--WCO Craig A. Garman, Cumberland County.
Recently, I spent the week before and the opening weekend of trout season in southern Luzerne County on field training. During this time, WCO Dave Corl and I spent the week watching the trout streams in an attempt to foil would-be poachers. It was during this time that we stopped two gentlemen who were fishing in the lower Lehigh (approved trout water). The one gentleman told us that they were not doing anything wrong and that he had the seasons and limits page out of the summary book to prove it. He then retrieved the page from his license holder and said, "See? We have one more day before the season closes March 15." With this, WCO Corl and I looked at each other in amazement. The gentleman was much more surprised when we told him that the date was April 14, and that he was fishing in closed water. Having that page with the license was a good idea, but it helps to have a calender, too.--WCO T. Corey Britcher, Training School.
Our jobs keep us on the roadways along many different waterways throughout the year, and I am disturbed by the number of road-killed turtles I see early in the summer. Motorists should realize that when a turtle is on the move at this time of year, it is likely to be a female on her way to deposit eggs. Turtle shells are tough, but not tough enough to withstand being struck by a car. I would like to encourage our readers to take whatever action is safely possible to avoid needlessly killing turtles on the roadways, and even suggest giving them a "lift" across the road, if possible. In this way, we can all help preserve these interesting creatures for future generations.--WCO Thomas J. Tarkowski, Venango County.
While on field training in Lehigh County with WCO Fred Mussel, we were scheduled to participate in a youth field day. The event included the rotation to different stations of groups of young people to whom we were to introduce a variety of fishing equipment and some of the techniques used for catching fish. The program called for a 15-minute lecture and then 15 minutes of practical use. Things seemed to be going fairly well. We were using fly rods, spinning rods, baitcasting rods, worms, spinners, jigs, crankbaits, and just about anything else that might fool a fish. Then WCO Mussel handed me the baitcasting rod to demonstrate a cast. He didn't know that I had never used a baitcasting outfit before. As I swung the rod back and went forward to cast, I heard a loud plunk in the water just in front of me. Not only did the young crowd get a chuckle, they also got a first-hand look at the worst "bird's nest" I have ever encountered. WCO Mussel did the baitcasting from then on.--WCO David G. Kaneski, Northeast Region.
As most anglers know, we invite the public to our preseason stockings. Imagine my surprise when I found out I had along a couple from Leipzig, Germany, Renate and Joachim Groebner, who were visiting their daughter in Ringtown. They really enjoyed carrying buckets of trout and stocking them in the streams we stocked that day. They told me that this kind of activity was not done in Germany, and to see any wildlife, one had to go to a park.--WCO Gary L. Slutter, Schuylkill County.
Last May, while on patrol at Raccoon Lake State Park, I was talking to a fisherman when a short way down the shore a young boy called out that he got one. All attention shifted to this boy as he began to reel in his line. As he pulled the fish to within four feet of the shore, it got off the hook. The boy then lifted his line out of the water. He was using a minnow as bait, and as the bait came out of the water, so did a musky following the minnow. The head of the fish came out of the water at least 18 inches. The boy jumped back yelling and threw his rod in the air. His mother who was sitting in a chair next to him reeled back and almost fell out of the chair. I guessed that the musky was close to 30 inches long. I assured the boy that he was OK, and that the big old fish would not get him. After a while, his eyes returned to normal size and he warily returned to fishing.--WCO Raymond J. Borkowski, Northern Washington/ Southern Beaver Counties.
I was recently called to assist a West Goshen Township Police officer who was at a relatively new housing development with a two-foot-long snapping turtle. The "trespassing" turtle was out looking for a suitable place to lay eggs, and apparently it caused a large disturbance in the quiet neighborhood. When I arrived, the police were gone and the turtle was contained in a garbage can. I gave about 20 youngsters a quick snapping turtle biology lesson while I picked up the aggravated snapper by the tail. One of the parents told me that the turtle snapped at the police officer and he used his pepper spray on it with no effect. My thought was that, had snapping turtle season been open, this one was already peppered and ready for soup. Instead, I transported the turtle to a public lake that I know is used by snapping turtle fishermen.--WCO Don Lauver, Northern Chester County.
WCOs Redman and Tereschak and I were in our patrol boat on the Ohio River and we had just finished boarding a boat. We were about ready to resume patrol, when a man on a personal watercraft rode by us. He yelled, "I hear the governor is trying to make us put brakes on these things." I told him it was pretty hard to put brakes on PWCs. The operator turned toward our patrol boat and headed straight for us. I realized he was going too fast and was going to hit the patrol boat. The PWC struck the patrol boat dead center on the port side. The PWC bounced off, and the operator applied full power and turned away from the patrol boat. This action created a large "rooster tail," which came into the boat. WCO Redman yelled for the operator to come back to our boat. Once again, he headed straight for the side of the patrol boat and again struck the side of the boat hard. WCO Redman reached out and grabbed the PWC before it bounced away. I looked at the operator and said, "If anyone ever needed brakes on his PWC, it's you."--WCO Gregory A. Jacobs, Northern Beaver County.
Routine patrol is never routine. Started morning with a waterskiing violation before we could get away from the dock. Returned to gas dock to gas up. Heard a scream and saw a three- or four-year-old floating in the water behind a boat. Quickly untied boat, cinched up PFD and jettisoned duty belt, and jumped into patrol boat, jamming my thumb. Before getting to child, father dived off boat and rescued child. Another boat got hold of now vacant boat.
Mid-afternoon in heavy traffic, a youngster on a kneeboard falls in traffic. We control traffic until tow boat can make pickup.
River scheduled to close for ski show at four. Just get it closed when two PWCs flagrantly violate 100-foot no-wake rule at Commission access. Put assisting officer on shore to write tickets. I return to post to closed down traffic only to find a pontoon boat with many persons is severely listing in 20 feet of water. I take two women and seven children aboard. Escort pontoon to dock, have to use emergency light to clear dock. Offload and return to post.
Show's over. I agree to follow pontoon to his dock since his trailer keys are in Florida. While following pontoon, I review incident with the officer who I left on shore. We agree it was a negligently overloaded situation and a ticket would be proper.
There is a loud thump. Patrol boat is dead in the water. Pontoon goes out of sight. He'll not get a ticket after all. Ski exhibition boat rescues us as we drift and tows us until we encounter the Commission second boat. They finish tow.
Jockeying through the maze of boats at the dock, we finally get the broken patrol boat nearly tied up. Current and wakes are making it tough. I grab a line and begin to run toward the shoreline. A young spectator moves to get out of my way and I lose my balance, stepping off the end of the dock into water deeper than my knees and shallower than my duty belt.
The requirement that children wear PFDs probably saved a life or two that day. Other than that, it was just a routine patrol.--R.L. Steiner, Northwest Assistant Regional Supervisor.
This past summer, while assisting WCO Alan Robinson with a BUI investigation on Raystown Lake, DWCO John Horton, DWCO Tim Gracey, and I were asked to search and inventory items found on a vessel. During the search, we found several information pamphlets that the operator or his passenger had picked up at the Corps of Engineers office. Ironically, one of the pamphlets dealt with "Drinking, Boating, and the Law." Apparently, they had not taken the time to read this Fish & Boat Commission pamphlet. They probably wish they had.--WCO Walter A. Rosser, Blair County.
One of the many high points with working in the Delaware County district has been my association with the local sportsmen's groups. Recently, a local municipality had plans to draw down a three-acre impoundment so that repairs could be made to the dam superstructure. The question arose about the disposition of the resident fish population, which consisted of carp, catfish, and some bluegills and pumpkinseed sunnies. To some folks, these species don't occupy a very high rung on the ladder of importance. However, the sportsmen of Delaware County have a somewhat different grading system. When I asked for help to capture and relocate these fish to suitable waters, the response was overwhelmingly positive and on the day of the drawdown close to 1,000 fish were successfully transplanted. As what is left of the natural environment here in Delaware County is transformed to meet the desires of man, the local sportsmen remain ever vigilant and always ready to help keep the resource first.--WCO Terry Deibler, Delaware County.
During my career I have had the privilege of working with the Boy Scouts of America, and helping these young men in their efforts to earn their merit badges and the ultimate goal of becoming an Eagle Scout. One such individual, Ferris Webby Jr., of Slocum Township Troop 433, Mountain Top, was instrumental in building a fishing pier for persons with disabilities at Lily Lake for his project to secure his Eagle Scout award.
Once the idea was hatched, the real work began. The Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission enthusiastically endorsed his plan, and the materials needed were solicited from local businesses. Ferris started the construction of the pier and digging the walkway. He was ably assisted by Troop 433, relatives, and his Dad.
The pier was built and the concrete walkway will be ready for this upcoming season. I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to this young man, fellow Scouts, relatives, and the businesses that made this worthwhile project a reality. I'm sure that the people who will use this facility are also grateful.--WCO David T. Corl, Southern Luzerne County.
"A Turtle's Kiss"
Officer Vance came for dinner,
Before his turtle and snake show.
Our two-year-old girl was excited
And fussed over the small painted so.
She kept her fingers out of the way
And carried it just right.
She was not happy upon learning
That it wouldn't spend the night.
She was upset, quite distressed when
It was time for her new friend to go.
But she dismissed the pet when he stuck
Out his neck and nipped the tip of her nose!
--Poetry by Julie Mader, submitted by WCO R.F. Mader, McKean County.
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July/August 1999 Angler & Boater
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