Not everyone worried about PCBs in Pa. trout

April 14, 2000|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Thousands of Franklin County anglers are anxiously awaiting the opening of trout season Saturday, regardless of a consumption advisory for trout raised at two Pennsylvania state hatcheries.

The state says some of the trout may be contaminated with low levels of PCBs, carcinogenic chemicals that were banned about 20 years ago.

"I keep what I catch the first day and eat them. The rest I catch and release," said Jamie Heckman, the gun shop manager at Shoemaker's Sporting Goods in Chambersburg. He said the daily limit is five this year, down from eight in 1999.

Heckman guessed most of his customers eat at least some of their catch, but license sales were running ahead of last year with more than 450 as of Thursday.


"We'll sell that many more again" today, Heckman said about the rush for licenses on the eve of trout season.

In 1999, when the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission first issued the advisory, 12,659 county licenses were sold, down from 13,159 in 1998, according to Commission Press Secretary Dan Tredinnick. Statewide sales fell about 25,000 to 978,000, he said.

Tredinnick said 11,170 of those who bought county licenses also purchased trout stamps.

"Almost everybody who buys a fishing license buys a trout stamp," said Joy Heinbaugh, a clerk in the County Treasurer's Office. Licenses are also sold at sporting goods and many department stores.

Tredinnick said the advisory is for PCB contamination in trout raised at two of the state's nine hatcheries, Huntsdale and Big Spring in Cumberland County. All the stocked trout in 13 county streams come from Huntsdale, which had the higher levels of PCBs.

"The levels we're talking about ... are really infinitesimal," Tredinnick said. PCBs in Huntsdale fish averaged 0.2 parts per million. "The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) says for foodstuffs we buy in supermarkets and grocery stores, less than 2 parts per million is fine," he said.

The advisory recommends limiting Huntsdale trout to one meal a month and is primarily aimed at children, pregnant women and women of child-bearing age, he said. A meal is the equivalent of about two fish, he said.

"There's nothing magic about that number," Tredinnick said. Eating two or three meals in a month is not dangerous, but prolonged consumption is a concern to health officials, he said.

"Most of my fish consumption comes from restaurants," said avid angler Terry Ward of Chambersburg. "I do keep an occasional one to eat, but my wife is quite leery of this."

A Trout Unlimited member, Ward said the advisory may have a positive effect for fishermen more interested in the catching than the eating. "We hope it's going to leave a lot more fish in the streams so we can have more fun," he said.

Ward offered a clue to tell if a trout comes from a hatchery or is native to a stream. "If you catch a trout with real brilliant colors, that's more likely to be a stream-bred trout," he said.

"Our philosophy is to preserve, protect and enhance the nation's cold-water fisheries," said Trout Unlimited Falling Spring Chapter President Rod Cross of Chambersburg.

That includes the Falling Spring, a stream with Heritage Trout Angling and Delayed Harvest areas limiting the take and types of lures that can be used.

Cross won't be among the anglers bumping elbows along creeks and streams Saturday, but that's not because of the consumption advisory.

"I haven't been out on opening day madness in over 20 years," he said. "Two weeks from now you'll see the people who really like to fish."

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