2010-03-18 / Local & State

Need Exists To Restock Fish And Fishermen


ASPERS, Pa. (AP) – On a stone bridge beyond craggy orchard rows and just past a clapboard house where a dog lazed on the front lawn, over from a pond wrinkling in March winds, you’ll find a creek.

It bubbles under a little stone bridge – a fisherman’s dream.

A quiet spot on most days, it was overrun last week by a feeding frenzy of local fishermen who flocked from all sides to watch as hundreds of squirming trout were dumped into the water.

But for several minutes before that rush, there were only three young people huddled against the wind to listen to the well-worn stories of a man who stood with a broken fishing net in his hand.

“I’ve caught rainbows out here, and brookies,’’ said Tom Scheivert, in a voice as weathered and gravely as the bridge he stood on. “It’s a good spot.’’

A member of several local fishing associations, Scheivert was helping to coordinate the stocking effort this week, and has been trolling area creeks and streams since his uncle showed him how to put half a nightcrawler on a hook and cast more than 40 years ago.

His father, a long-haul trucker, never had the time, he said.

But those early lessons with his cousins stuck, pulled him in and held him tight the deeper he waded. And they’ve kept him coming back, always looking for a new angle, a bigger fish.

The bridge over Opossum Creek where Scheivert stood, just south of Aspers, was just one of several spots in Adams County where state and local fishing association officials were stocking trout this week. In advance of the opening of trout season next month, 1,800 brown, rainbow and brook trout were dropped in Adams’ waterways on Thursday alone.

And each stop brought a flurry of pickup trucks with devotees who were following the action, watching from the bridge above as volunteers eased into the muddy creek to guide a box full of trout downstream and unload them at spots along the way.

But Scheivert – who, since a grade-school fight, has been known to friends and foes alike as “Scrappy’’ – doesn’t wade the waters much anymore. Years of scrapping have left him with ruptured disks, a missing finger and a kidney taken in 2002 after a fight with cancer.

“But you should see the other guy,’’ he growled with a sharp grin.

Today, Scheivert fishes mostly from the shore and watches with others from the bridges above, as younger men stock the streams he knows so well, trying to share expertise and stories with those who will listen.

He buys fishing licenses by the handful, passing them out to kids throughout the spring and summer.

“You gotta try and pass it on,’’ he said.

And statistics show such local efforts could be working.

“We’re seeing pretty good turnout of young people still at a lot of our events,’’ said Waterways Conservation Officer Dave Keller of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission. “It’s something we’re very interested in supporting.

Keller said the state-sponsored South Central Outdoors for Youth program is one way officials try and lure young people away from video games and sedentary pursuits, out into the great outdoors to learn hunting and fishing techniques. Locals teach children the right way to handle their fishing rod or gun, passing along priceless expertise in the process, he said.

“It’s a real hands-on program,’’ he said. “We’re really pleased with it.’’

And it was three young people who, with Scheivert and others looking on Thursday, waded into the cold, hip-deep water of Opossum Creek to drop about 400 fish along a one-mile stretch.

John Wolfe, along with his friend Jason Cottrill and Cottrill’s girlfriend Kayla Gebhart, were quickly telling jokes and stories, as they sloshed away from the crowd and into deeper water.

Cottrill said he learned to fish from his grandfather not long after he learned to walk. He spends the days when he’s free from his job at a local printing company exploring little-known local creeks, trying to catch the big one.

“He’d be out here every day, if I’d let him,’’ Gebhart said. “It must get in your blood.’’

But with wind-blown hair and shivering legs, Gebhart said it wasn’t in hers just yet.

“I’m out here for him,’’ she said, pointing to Cottrill. “I like to fish, but I’d rather do it from the shore – and when it’s warm.’’

Still, the three slipped and stumbled their way down the stream, a writhing mass of fish in the floating basket between them.

“This is a blast,’’ Cottrill said. “Now we’ll know where to catch them next month – we’ll be back.’’

Occasionally, someone would toss in a single trout, but more often it was Gebhart, who used a small net to pick up the fish before dumping them in the stream.

It was a net with a brown handle, turned black with age. A net broken in one spot along the wooden frame. A net used to successfully unload more than 400 trout into a local stream.

That net was a gift to the three from a man who had long since faded from sight – a man called Scrappy, who knows these waters.

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