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Library program loans out fishing gear to patrons

| Monday, May 20, 2002

The Shaler North Hills Library has more than 50 books about fishing, and they cover everything — from beginners' guides to tying flies.

But if reading about fishing isn't enough, library patrons also can check out a rod, reel and tackle box and head to Pine Creek, the Allegheny River or any other favorite fishing spot.

"People are always really surprised," said librarian Sharon McRae. "They say 'You lend out fishing rods• What else are you going to lend out?'"

This spring is the third that the library is taking part in the Rod & Reel Loaner Program, run by the Holiday Park Bass Busters and the Pennsylvania Bass Federation.

Ken Saville, president of the Bass Busters, said the program began in 1997 at the library in Penn Hills. This year, the fishing gear is available in eight libraries — in addition to Shaler and Penn Hills, it also is offered in O'Hara Township, Sharpsburg, Monroeville, Plum, Lower Burrell and New Kensington. The C.C. Mellor Memorial Library in Edgewood usually participates but is taking this year off because of renovations.

"The idea of the program is to promote fishing and the outdoors, to give a kid, or even an adult, the availability of the equipment without the purchase," said Saville, who oversees the program in this region.

The tackle boxes come complete with hooks, bobbers, sinkers and the all-important rubber worms — one of the easiest ways to catch a bass, according to the experts.

"Generally, it's everything you'd need to go out and do some fishing," Saville said.

People older than 16 need to secure their own fishing licenses, and the libraries do not provide live bait.

The rods and reels are donated by the Pennsylvania Bass Federation, and the program is maintained by the Bass Busters, based in Plum. The group has 16 local business sponsors to help offset expenses of equipment and literature, which Saville said costs about $500 per library.

The number of rods and tackle boxes placed at each library is based on demand. The Shaler library has five rods that patrons may check out for a week at a time.

The Lauri Ann West Memorial Library in O'Hara Township, where the program is in its second year, has 16 rods and tackle boxes on hand, with another four at the Sharpsburg branch.

Patrons can check out the equipment from the two branches for three weeks.

"Sometimes the family will use them for vacation, or just in the local area," librarian Suzanne Cowley said.

McRae said the program has been a good one for Shaler area residents.

"The idea is to lend out fishing rods to kids and promote fishing — to get them started," McRae said.

"What's neat about it is we've had grandparents who maybe have a rod, but their grandson doesn't," she said. "It's something to do while the kids come and visit the grandparents."

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