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Anglers, shops gearing for opening day of trout season in Pa.

April 16, 2004|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. - Douglas W. Herman is a pretty good judge, especially when it comes to fishing.

"I'll fish for anything that swims," the Franklin County Common Pleas court judge said Thursday. "If there's a puddle of water somewhere, I'll get into it."

Herman said he may not be dropping a line Saturday when trout season opens in Pennsylvania, but he will get to it sooner or later. He said recent heavy rains have left conditions somewhat less than ideal.

"I'm primarily a fly fisherman," said Herman, a member of Falling Spring Greenway, the Nature Conservancy and Trout Unlimited. Fly fishing is better in warmer weather, and Herman said he would use a light spinning outfit and artificial lures if he were going out Saturday.

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"The water should be high and muddy in the bigger streams like the Conococheague," said Jamie Heckman, one of the owners of Blue Mountain Sporting Goods in Chambersburg. "By this weekend, the smaller streams should be back to normal."

Across the region, thousands of anglers will be donning waders and crowding the banks of the Conococheague, Antietam, Conodoguinet, Aughwick, Falling Spring and other waterways in search of rainbow, brown, lake and brook trout.

Dan Tredinnick, press secretary for the Fish and Boat Commission, said sport fishing is big business in Pennsylvania. The commission estimates about 1.8 million people will make a total of 18 million fishing excursions in the state this year, contributing about $1.6 billion to the economy.

"License sales have been good," said Heckman, who estimated the number sold through his store at more than 500.

"We'll sell several hundred of them this weekend," said Randy Eigenbrode, one of the owners of Keystone Country Store in Fort Loudon, Pa.

License sales have been a bit slow so far, he said, but he attributed that to the rainy weather.

By Saturday, he said, "I think they'll be ready to go."

Heckman and Eigenbrode said the sale of live bait is an important part of their businesses. Eigenbrode said his store will open at 6 a.m. Saturday for those getting last-minute supplies before the season opens at 8 a.m.

Eigenbrode said anglers can buy live bait at his store even when it's not open.

"We actually have a live bait machine on our porch," he said.

Like a soda vending machine, fishermen put money in the machine and get a Styrofoam cylinder filled with nightcrawlers, redworms or minnows.

While he also likes to fish, Eigenbrode will not be doing any Saturday.

"I'll be in here taking care of everybody else. It takes everybody we have," to serve the customers, he said.

The Fish and Boat Commission already has stocked 2.2 million trout in state waterways. Cooperative nursery branches, usually rod and gun clubs and conservation groups, have stocked another 250,000, Tredinnick said.

The state will stock another 2 million later in the season, with the cooperative groups adding another 750,000.

Tredinnick said that generally each fisherman is allowed to catch and keep up to five trout a day, none smaller than 7 inches. There are restrictions on some waterways in the area, which can be checked out on the commission Web site at www.fish.state.pa.us.

Catch-and-release fishing has become more popular over the past two decades, and not that many people take home their daily limit, Tredinnick said.

Herman said he particularly likes fishing for a rare type of rainbow trout called the Shasta that breeds naturally in the Falling Spring, but they do not end up in a frying pan.

"I like to fry up anything you can get at the seafood market," Herman said.

What he catches, however, is soon off the hook.

"That way we can catch them again," he said.

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