A Pennsylvanian rite of spring was shared between generations Saturday morning as family members and friends gathered on river and creek banks and lake shores, enjoying sunny skies and mild temperatures as they took part in the opening day of trout season.
Overnight rains swelled and muddied some streams, but had little impact on the enthusiastic crowds.
“The rain affected some of the streams. Some of the mountain streams were running pretty clear and people were catching fish there,” said Corey Girt, waterway conservation officer for the state Fish and Boat Commission. “Some of the bigger streams are muddy, but it’ll work and they’ll still catch some.”
In his travels Saturday morning, Girt observed a great many younger fishermen turned out for the opening day.
“There are lots of kids and youth out,” he said.
Near Cornpropst Mills, the Raystown Chapter of Ducks Unlimited set up an area for children to fish along Stone Creek on property owned by Sonny Heine, just as they have each year more than a decade.
Ducks Unlimited member Scott Walters credited Heine’s generosity and commitment to youth in making the reserved fishing area possible. Ducks Unlimited is the largest private wetland conservation organization in the world and works to preserve and enhance wetland habitat throughout North America.
“We sponsor a children’s fishing area in cooperation with Sonny Heine,” Walters said. “It’s an opportunity to allow the youth to fish in their own area and get experience in outdoors where they can not be crowded out by adults.”
Father and son team Norman and Wyatt Querry, 11, of James Creek, have been fishing together for seven years.
“I started fishing when I was 4 or 5,” said Norman Querry. “We try to do it every year. It’s fun to spend time with the kids and the family every year. It’s a family thing and a chance to watch the kids have fun”
Wyatt agreed that time with family was the best part.
“I like hanging out with my family,” he said. “It’s also a chance to learn and get experience.”
Duane DeArmitt of Bellefonte is a regular visitor to Stone Creek for fishing season and brought his 9-year-old grandson, Layton Covel of State College, to share in the experience.
“I’ve been fishing Stone Creek since I was about 4 years old. We would just fish up and down the stream from McAlevys Fort all the way down to Black’s Bridge,” DeArmitt said. “Coming here is tradition. I started fishing with my father. My grandson and I fished on the lake when he was about 3 or 4 and started coming down here when he was 5 years old.”
Sharing the experience with Layton is a chance to carry on a cherished tradition.
“It’s a chance to spend time with him,” he said. “He loves fishing and it’s nice to see him catch them. It’s just a nice fellowship between different people. He loves coming to camp.”
“Fishing is very fun,” Layton said. “I like reeling them in. It’s fun fishing with my grandfather because he helps me hook fish and he helps me get the big ones in.”
Sophia Harris, 7, of Cresson, visited Stone Creek with her grandfather, Duane Harris, also of Cresson.
“We come down here every year,” Harris said. “She likes to come fishing with her pap.”
She vividly remembers catching her very first fish — a palomino trout — at the same spot when she was 3.
“I love catching fish,” said Sophia, adding that she especially loves spending time with her grandfather. “We like a lot of the same things.”
From their vantage point near the banks, members of Ducks Unlimited enjoyed the opportunity to share in the excitement as cries of “I got one!,” were heard and wide grins accompanied photo ops with a fresh trout on the line.
“It’s nice to see kids catch their first fish,” Walters said. “And it’s nice to see them fish without the extreme competition. It’s a good-natured, family-friendly atmosphere.”
The children’s fishing area near Cornpropst Mills is operated through a permit granted by the Fish and Boat Commission and will continue to be open only to youth for a period of 30 days.