Sunday, April 13, 2014

Pennsylvania knows how to raise trout and the ire of anglers

SANDY LAKE, PA – The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission’s failure to warn the public it couldn’t stock trout along a long stretch of Sandy Creek proved a costly mistake for anglers.

After all it was the several dozen or so anglers up and down Sandy Creek who had bought fishing licenses (adult resident, senior citizen resident and adult nonresident) in the belief they were going to return home with fresh-caught trout.

The eagerness was understandable, too, since all of the fishers were participating in Pennsylvania’s annual trout opener, this latest seasonal launch happening Saturday, April 12.

Given that the Commission will ultimately stock its Commonwealth streams, lakes and ponds with 4.2 million brook, rainbow and brown trout for the year – and with many of these fish released in anticipation of the season opener – an expectation of luring a daily creel limit of five trout was reasonable.

Yet reason was crushed by the bumbling failure of the Commission to notify anyone that a lengthy portion of Sandy Creek upstream from the Utica Bridge to near Sandy Lake Village was not stocked.

None of the Sandy Creek anglers who spent the first 90 minutes fishing for the proverbial whale in a bucket disagreed with the Commission’s logic, of course.

Hammered hard by the 2014 Winter that Would Not Die, the Commission found itself against the calendar.

Consequently the agency’s trout-full stocking truck was stymied by too much snow lingering on the access road that parallels Sandy Creek. That was March 11; one month and one day before Pennsylvania’s trout season opener.

Instead, said the Commission’s waterways patrol officer who made his entry along this trout-starved section of Sandy Creek, he had the truck’s crew pour the vehicle’s fishy contents into the creek at the Utica Bridge. That dumping was worth 2,000 trout, the fish warden said.

Stunned, the angler standing next to me noted in a telling understatement, “no wonder we’re not catching fish.”

Well, not entirely, since just an hour shy into the season I caught one 14-inch rainbow, either a fish washed downstream from a genuine stocking point or else a trout that was curious Marco Polo and had made its way upstream from the Utica Bridge. It was the only fish taken by anyone within eyeshot of the Furnace Run dead- end angling terminal

No doubt, had the officer stuck around just a few minutes longer he’d have heard  language take on a decided deep blue color for all of the  salty “that dirty so-and-so” tints directed at him as well as the entire Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.

“Why didn’t it get the word out; call the media, bait stores that Sandy Creek wasn’t stocked?” queried more than one angler as he (and she) began packing up to leave.

Other anglers opined upon their exit that at the very least the printing of signage saying something like: “Due to heavy snow cover on the access road the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission was unable to stock this portion of Sandy Creek. We regret any inconvenience.”

However, inconvenienced were the dues-paying tout anglers, though their regrets were not directed at the previous month’s uncharitable for stocking weather.

Instead, the anglers’ collective regret was in trusting the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission would have done the right thing. That being, of course, the Commission going not just the mile but the extra mile in a genuine effort to alert prospective Sandy Creek trout anglers to make alternative plans for opening day.

Problem is such a thought process requires a heartfelt belief that the customer comes first, last and always.

Given that government bureaucracy is a monopoly it makes sense in some twisted way that the Commission would dump 2,000 trout at one location. And followed by pretty much keeping the news to itself instead of directing the agency’s  sign shop to print informative posters that could be stapled to the oaks, sycamores, maples and other tree species that line Sandy Creek.

 - Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

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