Hatchery Closing to Devastate Economy?
Inside the Outdoors, February 15
, 2013

We here in the Laurel Highlands’ communities, especially we anglers, have taken it for granted that just because trout stocking has existed in our streams and lake basins, that means the tradition will repeat itself indefinitely.

The words ‘Nothing lasts forever’ just may apply here. The word ‘may’ is used here because unless the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission relies on another hatchery to gets its trout in two years, we may find a shortage of this particular species in our favorite bodies of water.

The PFBC recently announced that it will close two hatcheries in two years, Oswayo in
Coudersport, Potter Country, and Bellefonte in Centre County, the latter which supplies the majority of our trout that we have had the joy of catching throughout Westmoreland County.

In a release put out by the PFBC, it was announced that in 2015, the number of trout that it stocks will be reduced by 22 percent. That comes down to the fact that there will be a decline of almost 700,000 stocked in commonwealth waters, 540,000 of which come from Bellefonte, the hatchery responsible for stocking area waterways. Those include: Keystone State Park Lake, Loyalhanna Creek, Mill Creek, Northmoreland Lake, Shannon Run and Tubmill Creek.

What has to be kept in mind is the question, “How would that affect the tourist trade in our vicinity?” Second, “Would we still get the draw from a 50-mile radius of Pittsburgh to the Laurel Highlands’ Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor?” That remains to be seen.

I felt compelled to write to Eric Levis, press secretary for the PFBC concerning the possible loss of stocking to our lakes and streams. This is what he had to say when I asked him the question, “Will the Pleasant Gap facility replace stocking of the streams and lakes of Westmoreland County in two years when Bellefonte closes?” This is what he had to say:

“One of the remaining hatcheries will cover the stockings to Westmoreland County. But, I don’t know which ones yet. In response to the decision to close the hatcheries, we will be implementing stocking changes across the state. Some waters will receive fewer trout in order to make up for the lost trout. At this point, the remaining hatcheries are at capacity so the trout from thee two hatcheries will not be replaced. Also, some waters will be dropped from the list. These will be ones that have low angler use or have residency problems with the trout. Overall, the fisheries management staff will be designing a stocking schedule that best meets the needs of our customers. At this point, the plan isn’t finalized, so I can’t say for certain what waters will be impacted. But when the plan is finalized, we will announce it so everyone can clearly see what changes are taking place.”

When Monty Murty caught wind of this action by the PFBC, he emailed me with his comments.

The Forbes Trail Trout Unlimited president stated, “This is a sad state of affairs for Pennsylvania to close two hatcheries. This is why we need to be concentrating on cleaning up our trout streams to the degree that they can grow wild trout without stocking. There will be big winners and big losers from now on in our state. If one’s stream gets hit by Marcellus Shale industry impacts, not just fracking accidents, but roads, piplines and forest clearing, one won’t have trout fishing. If one lives down-wind of a coal-fired power plant, he won’t have trout. On the other hand, if one is lucky and can get wild trout to grow, he will have very good trout fishing, and a robust tourist industry to keep businesses going, and a wonderful quality of life to sell real-estate.”

Concentrating on area concerns, he said, “Our problem in the upper Loyalhanna is still acid rain, according to Penn State University. Linn Run’s Park Manager, Doug Finger, needs to and wants to expand the limestone dousing to the Linn Run main stem. The problem is that limestoning releases an aluminum salt that also kill the trout. This is why Dr Bill Shark of PSU has been against stream projects above his research station on upper Linn Run. We could use an FTTU hero to step up to getting a grant to build a wetlands mitigation project to allow Linn Run limestoning. Any takers?”

In conclusion, the Latrobe-based organization leader stated, “I think if we sportsmen speak to our legislators about the hatchery closing, there could be a short term delay. But in the long run, large-scale Pennsylvania trout stocking’s coming to an end. We better start doing something about it!”

So as Levis stated, “Plans still have to be finalized.” It will interesting to see whether or not we will see long lines of anglers again at retailer shops standing and waiting to be next to purchase fishing licenses, or will the waterways be promoted as great fishing for other species?

Anglers, please step up to the plate and voice opposition to these closings if one wants stocking to continue. Attitude means everything when it comes to things one desires. If there is an apathetic approach, then fishermen and women will get what they deserve – no trout for the future. Is this really what one seeks?

- Paul J. Volkmann
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