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Pa. clubs help fish survive, thrive

January 23, 1999|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - In September, Rouzerville Fish and Game Club members sloshed through the mud left by the draining of the Red Run Park lake to rescue hundreds of fish stranded by the receding water.

They took out dozens of bass, carp and pan fish, and a handful of trout, put them in containers and brought them to their fish nursery off Amsterdam Road. They were kept there until the sludge in the lake bed was bulldozed off and the lake was refilled.

The one-acre lake at the north end of Red Run Park on Pa. 16 in Washington Township, Pa., is drained, cleaned of silt and refilled about every 10 years.

Koons said about 200 fish were returned to the lake in the first weekend of the year.

"I remember that it was a very cold day," he said. "We had to break through the ice to get the fish back in. They just swam away."

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The club raises about 7,000 rainbow, brown, brook and golden or palomino trout every year to release in area streams.

It's one of six sportsmen clubs in Franklin County that raises and releases trout under a special program sponsored by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.

The commission has 13 hatcheries that raise and stock more than 5.5 million trout into 107 lakes and 780 streams around the state.

In addition, it supplies more 1 million fingerling trout to 181 fish and game clubs around the state each year. The clubs raise the fish to about 12 inches and release them into streams and lakes in their locales before and during trout fishing season, said Cecil Houser, director of the commission's cooperative release program. Houser's office is in Bellefonte, Pa., in Centre County.

The state gives the fingerlings to the clubs free, Houser said.

He said the program teaches sportsmen how the state raises and stocks trout and gets high-quality fish into streams the state would not normally stock.

Size and flow determine which streams the state stocks, he said. In Franklin County, they would include Falling Spring, Antietam and Conococheague creeks.

Pennsylvania also designates Class A wilderness streams that can support wild trout that find enough food and habitat to reproduce. Such streams are not stocked, Houser said.

They are not overfished because wild trout are smaller than stocked fish. Most fishermen want bigger fish, Houser said.

It takes 18 months to raise a trout from egg to catchable size, about 12 inches, he said.

The state stocks from early March through mid-June. Trout season opens April 17 this year, he said.

In addition to local streams, Rouzerville Fish and Game members keep the Red Run Park lake stocked with trout all summer, including the 1,000 it puts in every Mother's Day weekend for the annual fishing rodeo, Koons said.

Other Franklin County clubs stock for similar events, he said.

The clubs also release a few thousand trout of each species each year that have been held over in their nurseries and allowed to grow to lunker size. These trout reach 20 inches or more and weigh 4 to 5 pounds, Koons said.

Houser said other Franklin County clubs participating in the cooperative release program include Chambersburg Rod and Gun Club, Greencastle Sportsmen Association, Letterkenny Rod and Gun, Mercersburg Sportsmen Association, and Waynesboro Fish and Game Association.

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