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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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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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Drops the Dime on Dad
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One of the various duties of a Waterways Conservation Officer is to present information & education programs to the public, civic groups, sportsmen clubs and including presenting school programs. Each year, a local school in the district presents a Career Day for their students. The Career Day provides the students with the opportunity to learn about different careers and to interact with the speakers.

While presenting a program about the duties of a Waterways Conservation Officer to the students, I had asked them if they went fishing or boating which a number of them raised their hand and indicated that they did. Some of the students stated that they went fishing at Mauch Chunk Lake and related that they did well catching fish. I explained to the students that it would not be uncommon to see me or other Officers on patrol if they went to Mauch Chunk Lake, Beltzville Lake or some of the other waterways in the district.

Upon hearing my comment, a young girl immediately raised her hand and proudly said she had seen me numerous times patrolling at Mauch Chunk Lake. She went on to further say that one time while fishing with her father; I had caught him taking short Bass and gave him a ticket. Somewhat caught off guard, and all the eyes in the classroom now focusing on her, I quickly explained to the class that unfortunately sometimes a citation is issued for certain violations and I believed this was probably the best time to explain why rules and regulations especially relating to seasons, sizes and creel limits are established, and the importance to read the fishing summary booklet.

I would not have been surprised to learn that when she went home for the day, she related to her family about the career speakers she met in school and also told her father why rules and regulations are established, and the importance to abide by them.

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— WCO Scott J. Christman, Southern Carbon / Southwest Monroe Counties
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Required Reading
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After issuing a citation to a boater for not wearing a personal flotation device during the “cold weather period” I offered him a copy of the of the Pennsylvania Boating Handbook. He declined my offer and told me that he had a current copy in his pocket, but had neglected to read the section regarding the cold weather rule.

Anglers and boaters should remember that although the fishing and boating rules and regulations rarely are changed in major ways reading the fishing and boating summaries in their entirety is always a good idea.

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— Sgt. David R. Keller, Asst. Supervisor South Central Region
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Illegal Fishing
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One night while checking a group of anglers on the Susquehanna River with SGT. Bendock I observed a man fishing on the opposite shore. We finished our conversations and SGT. Bendock made note of the litter produced by this group (which ultimately lead to a citation). We drove to the other side and split up looking for the angler.

SGT. Bendock found the angler and requested his license before I got there. It was pretty clear to me that not only did he not have a fishing license he also was not able to produce valid identification. So without positive identification we handcuffed the man and transported him to the State Police Barracks for fingerprinting.

The man’s information returned and to my surprise he had a warrant for his arrest out of Bucks County. The catch is that Bucks County does not drive to Bradford County at 10:00 on Friday night. So we then transported the man to Bradford County jail where he stayed until Monday. Before parting ways I issued the man a citation for fishing without a license.

Moral of the story here is to always buy your fishing license and if you happen to forget it make sure you have proper identification. Breaking the law with a warrant for you arrest probably is not advisable either.

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— WCO Chad McKenrick, Bradford County
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Not the Sound You Want to Hear
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Recently while on boat patrol on Lake Wallenpaupack WCO Curt Tereschak and I stopped a pontoon boat for displaying an expired registration sticker. After clearing up this matter (confirming with the Wayne County Communications Center that the boat was currently registered) we went through our standard boating equipment safety check.

The operator / owner was able to produce all the required equipment but in shifting from handling one of the personal flotation devices (PFD) to obtain the fire extinguisher he let the PFD fall to the deck . The older orange “horse collar“ type hit with a responding ‘thud’. Hearing this, WCO Tereschak asked to examine the PFD in closer detail.

It turned out this particular one was quite dated and used kapok inside a heavy plastic bag for flotation. This type of PFD construction has not been used for decades. The problem with this system is that once the plastic is compromised water can permanently seep inside and render the device useless. Once the water saturates the kapok, it can harden. Without a boat owner closely examining PFD’s (or any other safety equipment on board) it gives a false sense of security. This operator, after scrutinizing all the PFD’s more closely did, in fact, have enough serviceable devices on board for all his passengers.

Upon parting, Officer Tereschak reminded the owner to check over all the required equipment prior to each outing and that the sound a PFD should make is not “thunk “!

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— Sgt. Bryan C. Bendock , NE Region
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Displaying Proudly
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Mentored Youth Day seemed to be a very well received opportunity for youth and mentors to experience a great day to spend together fishing. One observation that I noticed was that a number of youth seemed proud to have and display their very own license.

While walking the streams talking to people I had at least 7 youth specifically go out of their way to point out and show me that they had their own license without me even asking to see it. I specifically had one youth about 5 years old, who had just pulled into an access area with his dad, hopped out and walked straight over to me.

He pulled out his wallet and took out his free Mentored Youth Fishing Permit to show me. He then pointed to something else in his wallet and stated that that was his ID and “you are not allowed to touch that.” I assured him that I wouldn’t touch his ID. He then proceeded to tell me all kinds of information about fishing, etc. etc. etc. His father just stood behind his son and looked at me and smiled about everything his son was saying.

After about five minutes OR MORE, the child advised me he needed to get started fishing now. I wished him good luck as he and his dad began a great day of fishing together.

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— WCO Terry Crecraft, Eastern Crawford/SW Warren Counties
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You Have an Awesome Job
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Since starting my career as a Waterways Conservation Officer (WCO) one of the most common comments I hear is “you have an awesome job.” I can’t argue with them that I do have an awesome job but there are times!

I usually tell them that while their enjoying themselves at Memorial Day, 4th of July or Labor Day Picnics I’ll be working. Another thing I express to them is that when their sitting in their 70-72 degree office year round I’m outside when it’s zero or 100 degrees and when it’s snowing, raining or when the sun is a blazing.

Another item that most boaters don’t realize is that when the season is over some just call the marina and tell them to pull their boat and they’ll see it again in the spring. As WCO’s we do a lot of our own maintenance when it comes to cleaning, washing, buffing and anything else that pops up.

This past fall I was asked to take another WCO’s boat to the canvas shop so that a new mooring cover could be made. The canvas shop we use is a very busy place so I called and made an appointment. The commission usually doesn’t pull boats until the last minute because anglers are still fishing and we also respond to emergencies. The appointment date was an entire month out so I just parked the boat at our office in the boat barn.

The second week on November I pulled the boat out on the day of the appointment to 6 inches of snow on the ground and gusty and blowing snow in the air. So here I’m towing a heavy boat on snow covered roads to get its new cover. Down the road from the office I get behind a snow plow and the next 10 miles was one of the funniest times I can remember on the job.

It was garbage day and in my area we have commercial garbage pickup and they give out those big square green can with wheels. The snow plow in front of me was throwing the snow to the berm and it knocked over every single garbage can in 10 miles like Domino’s! I still have an awesome job!

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— WCO Matt Visosky, Central Erie County
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Detour
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It is never a good thing when your patrol boat has maintenance issues in the middle of summer, but that was the case this year.  I needed to get the boat to the mechanic. For me, that means getting assistance from a neighboring officer, picking up the boat trailer and dropping the vehicle with trailer off at the boat launch. Then we have to drive to the marina, get on the boat, cruise over to the launch, load the boat onto the trailer and transport the boat and trailer to the mechanic. After that I have to drop the neighboring officer back off at the marina so he can get his vehicle. A little time consuming!

WCO Walsh and I were in the middle of this operation, he was pulling the boat onto the trailer and I was cranking the trailer winch. Then I noticed it, a bluebird had built a nest under the winch and of course there were 3 baby birds and 1 egg that was hatching in the nest. Now what? We could not just leave them there, they would surely die. So we carefully removed the birds and nest and placed them in a cup. Change of plans. We headed back to where the trailer was parked and made a nest site using a 55 gallon drum, a bucket and some rocks. It looked good to us; we just hoped that momma bird would find them.

Three days later I made a check on the nest. Momma bird had found the nest and was feeding the babies. Success! As Walsh can attest, every time we load my boat onto the trailer we have issues. There are incident reports to prove it!

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— WCO Jeremiah Allen, Southwest Region
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