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Two eyes and a wiggle

Fishing in and around the Great Lakes region including all tributaries and adjoining states.

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Two eyes and a wiggle

Postby JackSprat » Mon Jul 23, 2007 8:50 pm

What came first, the fish or the egg?

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I believe that God’s Word states that the fish was created first, but this is not a Bible study. It is a story about Pennsylvania’s effort to sustain Lake Erie’s world-class Steelhead fishery and the organizations and people who work to make that happen.

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Anglers appreciate the fact that whether it is natural reproduction, or “put and take” management, Lake Erie fishing success depends on a healthy lake ecosystem plus a major investment of time and money by organizations that rear game fish and “stock” the lake.

I may not know all the groups and I apologize in advance if I have overlooked any, but my Internet search revealed plenty of information.

In 1966, 3-C-U was organized and grew to become the largest Pennsylvania Boat & Fish Commission's cooperative nursery program in the state.

The S.O.N.S. of Lake Erie Fishing Club (Save Our Native Species - Sons), an active organization of over 2000 members, was established in 1981, and it is dedicated to the improvement of fishing on Lake Erie and its Pennsylvania tributaries.

Pennsylvania Steelhead Association was found in 1996 to foster good relationships with stream landowners and maintain a professional relationship with other organizations and agencies.

Add to the list the state agencies – Pennsylvania Boat and Fish Commission, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Department of Environmental Protection, and a few federal agencies and you get a powerful coalition.

That much I know.

It is now mid-July and the Steelhead stocking for 2007 is a done deal. After 12-months of rearing, Steelhead smolts were released into the streams this past March.

I happened to be fishing for Steelhead at Elk Creek Access Area this past spring when a small white pickup truck backed down the boat ramp and began “piping” smolts into the stream. I grabbed the camera and got a short video of the stocking. You can view the video at http://www.storytrax.com/node/883.

The “parents” of those smolts started their “lake life” the same way. They were planted into a Lake Erie tributary or Presque Isle Bay, and matured and thrived in Lake Erie. They returned to the streams or bay first as 2-year old “jacks” and then a year later as mature adults.

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I have always wanted to know more about the Steelhead propagation program because that is my favorite “CPR” [Catch-Photograph-Release] fish so I asked for advice, called a Perch fishing buddy who is involved with the program, grabbed the camera, and headed for Erie.

I had two places that I planned to visit - the Son’s Chestnut Street Bay Front Hatchery in downtown Erie and the Mission Fish Raceway near Fairview.

I want to thank Steve Gdanetz, Bob Zawadzki, and Bob Hetz for agreeing to be interviewed. They provided great information so I ran plenty of video tape and kept edits to a minimum and divided the interview sessions into several “parts”

Steve Gdanetz is an intern from Gannon University and currently the Chestnut Street hatchery manager. His position there is funded through a joint scholarship from the Sons and PA Steelhead Association. I would have guessed that Steve’s field of study would be biology, but he told me it is law enforcement. He graduates soon, but as was done for him; one of his last tasks will be to train the next hatchery manager.

Right now, the Steelhead class of 2008 is following in the “fin prints” of this year’s class. Eggs were stripped last fall, fertilized and nurtured into fry, and the youngsters are now 3-4” smolts and growing nicely in holding areas throughout Erie County.

The Mission Fish Raceway was my next stop.

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Now Bob Zawadzki (Son’s) [left] and Bob Hetz (3-C-U) [right] are two individuals who have a volunteer resume that would make any club member proud. They have seen it all, done it all and worked for years with many other dedicated volunteers who have done likewise.

When I first met Bob Z and Bob H, I assumed that their fishing preferences were similar to another well-known Steelhead volunteer, Jimmy Dallas. Jimmy is the guy that sells 3-CU fund raising booster buttons and hats at the Walnut Creek Marina. He is a regular at Walnut Creek, and he loves to catch Steelhead and to talk about Steelhead baits and techniques.

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But Bob “Z,” is focused on Walleye and he catches Perch with ease, loves to listen to polkas, likes duck hunting, and he does not fish for steelhead and never fishes the tributaries.

As for Bob “H,” he continues to rear and stocked thousands of Steelhead each year. His business card reads, “The Trout and Tree Man.” He is a passionate 3-C-U volunteer and well-known nursery operator. One thing he is not is an angler – gave it up years ago.

Both “Bobs” are easy to talk to and we quickly spent two hours talking. I had hoped to get a short interview with each and ended up with 35 minutes of video. We discussed club history, recent past, accomplishments, and challenges, and toured the Mission Fish Raceway to feed a part of the class of 2008.

At the risk of preaching to the choir, I encourage every angler who has the means to do so to contribute your time, talent, or cash to those organizations that work for your fishing future.

As you read this, Steelhead cruise the waters of Lake Erie growing longer and heavier each day as they prepare to run the fall gauntlet of anglers that will be waiting in the tributaries. It will not be long now.

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If you want to have a better understanding of history of the organizations that support Erie’s fishery programs and learn about the structure of the fish propagation system then please take the time to view the interview videos posted at http://www.storytrax.com/node/883.
A 63-Year old who was down-sized into early retirement and is making the most of each day.
JackSprat
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Posts: 24
Joined: Wed Feb 21, 2007 10:21 pm
Location: Pennsylvania

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