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1. My buddy got a ticket from the railroad police for crossing tracks north of Harrisburg to get to his favorite fishing spot. What gives? We've been fishing there for years with no problems. We're always very safety conscious around railroad tracks.

The issue of fishing access across Norfolk Southern property usually becomes a hot issue in summer when bass anglers cross railroad tracks to access their favorite fishing spots. We usually receive a number of calls from anglers complaining about being issued warnings or citations for parking on Norfolk Southern property and/or crossing the railroad tracks.

Anglers in the Commonwealth rely on informal, as well as formal, access points to gain access to substantial stretches of water. We understand and appreciate the concerns that Norfolk Southern and other property owners have about permitting recreational access across their property. The PFBC recommends that anglers do NOT trespass to gain access to any river or other waters. At the same time, the PFBC wants the railroad to adopt a reasonable and tolerant approach that focuses on safety while permitting meaningful access.

The complaints and inquiries we receive are usually related to property by the Susquehanna and Juniata rivers in the Harrisburg area, most often the Perdix area of the Susquehanna River, but we suspect the problem is more widespread. These spots are very popular with bass anglers, and they've been used for years essentially with no problems. Every action sparks a reaction. As anglers have been driven from locations they've used safely and without problems for years, it has caused some reaction from landowners. We've gotten reports of landowners posting properties that have been open in the past.

The Fish and Boat Commission wants to work with all interested parties to fashion an approach that can clarify this situation. When a similar situation arose several years ago in the north-central part of the state, an informal approach was developed that has worked safely and satisfactorily.

2. Every morning there are massive amounts of foam floating down the Conodoguinet Creek. It looks like dirty Styrofoam, but it isn't that firm. Some are huge chunks. Apparently this starts up in Carlisle somewhere. It only occurs in the early morning hours. Are you aware of this and could you tell me what it might be from? Is it dangerous to children and animals in the water in these early hours?

The answer to your question is best answered by a water chemistry specialist and/or public health specialist. The water chemistry specialist can offer some description about the foam phenomenon, and public health specialist can provide advice about contact with surface water in your area. As a fisheries biologist I cannot advise you how to use or play in the water you describe, for more on the safe use of the water, you should contact the PA Department of Environmental Protection and/or PA Department of Health.

Some foam on streams is naturally occurring.

Generally, foam on natural waters is often caused by natural phenomenon unless it has a perfume smell typical of many soaps and detergents. Natural materials occurring in water (algae) or leached from the soil that reduce the surface tension of water have the ability to produce foam.

These explanations are very general based upon your descriptions without any water chemistry testing.

Robert M. Lorantas
Warmwater Unit Leader

3. A friend of mine recently found and gave me what appears to be an old badge or coin from the then Fish Commission, now PFBC. It is round and about 1.5 inches in diameter and apparently brass or bronze. The front of it has "SPECIAL FISH WARDEN" and "BOARD OF FISH COMMISSIONERS" stamped around the edges with what appears to be the state seal in the center. The back of the badge has the number "1188" and PENNA stamped into the metal. At the edges of the metal are two tiny holes that may have been used to attach the badge or coin to something.

Can you give me some background on the badge? I'd be interested to know when it would have been used. Thanks for your help.

The round brass or bronze badge was issued to officers of the Fish Commission who served as Special Fish Wardens (currently known as Deputy Waterways Conservation Officers). These round brass/bronze badges are not that uncommon, as the Fish Commission once had much less stringent requirements for persons who wished to serve as Special Fish Wardens, and I have heard stories of some counties in the state having literally dozens of persons serving as Special Fish Wardens back in the 1940's and 50's.

The number on the back is the badge number, just as a modern police officer's badge, and current Fish and Boat Commission badges, display a badge number, usually on the front.

The badge you have was actually used much more recently than most people would believe. These badges were in use until the 1960's, when a transition to a modern, shield style silver badge took place. Based on the number of these badges in circulation, I believe that officers were allowed to keep their old badge when they were issued the new shield style badge.

You will also find some of these round brass badges that are stamped "Pennsylvania Fish Commission" instead of "Board of Fish Commissioners," and you will sometimes find them with a chrome or nickel plated finish. You will also find some round metal badges from the 1930's and early 40's that have a removable paper center. The paper center will display the specific year it was valid for, along with a badge number.

Collectors will usually pay about $50 to $60 for one of the round brass badges.

-- Ray Bednarchik, Manager, Southeast Region