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Fisherman get jump on upcoming trout season

It would be every child's dream to get presents not only on Christmas, but a month early, too, brightly wrapped and set around the Thanksgiving turkey.

Area anglers don't have to dream. They experience something annually.

Weeks before the statewide trout season opens each March, they can fish over large numbers of long, fat trout released by sportsmen's clubs.

The West Newton Sportsmen's Association and Smithton Sportsmen and Conservation Association release trout into the Yough River; the Twin Lakes Fishing Association puts fish in Upper and Lower Twin Lakes; and Bill Berry of Leechburg and other volunteers stock the Kiski River.

West Newton and Smithton have done this for more than three decades. Berry is a newcomer; he's been stocking the Kiski for only six years.

But the intent is the same in each case.

"You've got the get rid of that cabin fever somehow," Eric Celapino of the Smithton club said jokingly. "All of the state-stocked streams are off limits until the opener, so this is a way to get out and fish in March."

Here's a look at what each club is doing and when:

West Newton Sportsmen

Stan Sanner, chairman of West Newton's stocking committee, had planned to stock the Yough twice, on March 1 and March 8. High water canceled those plans.

The club hopes to begin this year's stocking effort March 15 at 1 p.m. Fish also will be released at 1 p.m. March 22 and 29, April 5 and 26, and May 3 and 10, and April 11 at 6 p.m., the day before the statewide opener, and April 18, the night before the club hosts a trout fishing tournament.

The trout -- browns, rainbows, brooks, palominos and tigers -- will be at least 12 inches long. Some will be larger.

"We'll have some tackle busters in there," Sanner said.

Roughly 300 fish will be tagged. Anglers who have one of the club's "Stock the Yough" buttons can turn those in for various prizes.

"It will be a good year, I think," Sanner said.

Smithton Sportsmen

The Smithton Sportsmen, which have been stocking the Yough longer than any club, plans to put fish into the river at 9 a.m. every Saturday from now through April 26. Fish will be stocked at 5 p.m. April 9 for the opener.

At least $1,500 worth of fish will go in every time -- more if any stockings get canceled because of high water, as has been the case twice this year.

The club will stock rainbows and browns, Celapino said. The fish will range from 9-to-18 inches, with five lunkers, averaging 26-to-28 inches, in the mix each time.

"We're going to put 25 palominos in each week, too," Celapino said.

Twin Lakes Fishing Association

On life support just a few years ago -- it had dropped to 34 members by 2003 -- the Twin Lakes Fishing Association is up to nearly 500 members now and once again doing good things for fishermen.

The club plans to stock $1,000 worth of trout tomorrow. The fish will be split between the Upper and Lower lakes.

"A lot of guys prefer one lake over the other, so we try to take care of both," said club secretary Bob Patricelli.

The fish released will be a combination of rainbows, browns and brooks, none shorter than 15 inches. A handful of larger fish -- the biggest last year was 8 12 pounds -- will be stocked, too.

A second, similarly-sized stocking will be made prior to the club's annual fishing derby, set for April 27. It's open to the public and will feature all kinds of prizes.

Bill Berry/Kiskiminetas Watershed Associaiton

Once dead from pollution, the Kiski River has come a long way in the last two-plus decades, to the point that it holds a variety of fish. Trout wouldn't be one of them without Berry's help, however.

The Leechburg man has taken it upon himself to raise money to stock fish in the river each year for six years now.

He's raised about $1,600 -- with the money channeled through the Kiskiminetas Watershed Association, rather than his own pocket -- and hopes to raise another $3,000. He can make three sizeable stockings in the river before the end of April, he said.

He hopes to put brooks, browns, rainbows, and palominos in the river, all at least 15 inches long. Last year, he stocked fish as long as 28 inches.

"I just like to see people enjoying the river," Berry said.

Donations welcomed

• West Newton Sportsmen's Association supports its stocking program by selling $10 membership buttons. They're available by mail by sending $10 to Stan Sanner at Stan's Barber Shop, 303 S. Fifth St., West Newton, Pa., 15089. They can also be picked up at various locations around the area, including Youghiogheny Canoe Outfitters. Information on the club's trout tournament, which is open to the public, can be had at that same store or by visiting www.youghcanoe.com .

• Smithton Sportsmen and Conservation Association buttons cost $10 and can be had at S&R Bait on Route 51 or by sending a check to Mike Hazy, Main Street, Box 11, Jacobs Creek, Pa., 15448. They can also be purchased from members on the days fish are stocked.

• Twin Lakes Fishing Association supports its stocking effort by selling memberships. They cost $10 for adults, $5 for children ages 8-to-15. They're available at the Twin Lakes boathouse.

• Anyone wanting to help put trout into the Kiski River can purchase a $5 button or make a donation of any size. Donations can be mailed to Bill Berry at 73 Tunnel Hill Road, Leechburg, Pa., 15656. Make checks payable to the Kiskiminetas Watershed Association.

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