Perryopolis Sportsmen do their best to make it enjoyable
Tom Gilmore does all of that, too. But he and a few other members of the Perryopolis Sportsmen's Club also go on what they've come to call their 'beggar's tour.'
'At 9 a.m. on the first day of trout season we stock the Yough River in Whitsett with trout, and all of the fish are tagged,' says Gilmore, president of the Perryopolis Sportsmen. 'A couple of weeks before that day, three guys go around and collect donations. We get tags for $25 cash, pizzas, free video rentals, all kinds of stuff.
'A lot of the people we visit expect us and give us stuff for the tags before we even ask, but we call the trip our 'beggar's tour.''
That opening day stocking is just one of several the club will make in the Yough this year. Set to celebrate its 10th anniversary this August, the club uses a combination of its own trout and commercial fish to stock about two miles of the Yough.
The club's own fish are reared in a nursery in Gilmore's yard. Members have struggled somewhat to raise those fish over the last few years because of low water flow through the nursery. Last summer they encountered another problem, though - flooding.
The heavy rains that caused area rivers to rise washed about 900 of the club's nursery trout into the Yough prematurely. A couple of youngsters reined in roughly 100 of those and returned them to the nursery, but the rest were gone.
'We're looking at that as a bonus,' says Gilmore of the wash-out. 'We ordered 900 more fish to replace the ones we lost, and in the meantime at least those fish are in the river. They may have only been five to six inches long, but at least they're in the river.'
The 1,200 trout the club has left are primarily rainbows, with a few palominos mixed in.
'They're beautiful,' Gilmore says. 'They're anywhere from 10 to 13 inches, but they're not skinny fish. They've got some girth to them.'
The club will start stocking its fish March 30, with two more stockings to follow.
At the same time, the club will stock about $9,000 worth of fish purchased from commercial hatcheries.
The club stocks $1,000 worth of fish at a time, with $700 of that spent on fish 12 to 13 inches long and $300 devoted to fish 14 inches and bigger.
Each stocking also includes at least of couple of monster trout, though this year the definition of a monster may have to change.
'We usually stock two eight or nine pounders each stocking, but the hatcheries tell us they may not have them this year,' says Gilmore. 'The big ones this year might be 21 to 22 inches. That's nice, but we're spoiled. We're used to getting 26 to 27 inch fish.'
The club is also thinking about ordering one $1,000 truckload of exclusively palomino trout. Gilmore says the golden color of the fish makes them highly visible to anglers and so gets people excited.
The fish are also highly visible to predators, though.
'The only problem we see with the idea is that the muskies like to eat those palominos up,' says Gilmore.
'We do catch a lot of them with nicks in them, but we catch a lot of rainbows with nicks in them too, so we're thinking about doing that if we can get them.'
The club raises the money to buy trout by selling buttons. They cost $10 each and can be had at S&R Bait Shop, Liberty Lounge or by mail. Anglers should send the money to Gilmore at Box 68, Wickhaven, Pa.15492.
Purchasing a button gets an angler a membership in the Perryopolis Club.
Gilmore admits button sales have been down the last two years, but hopes that will turn around this year.
After all, great fishing awaits, he says.
'We're ready to go. The Yough's going to be loaded with fish, we just need to raise some money.'
Frye is outdoor editor for the Valley Independent in Monessen.