Shad to Snakeheads
Inside the Outdoors, March 4,

Before I get to the subject for today, I have to state that this February weather has brought out varied species that have become a bit mixed up in their thinking patterns.

Just the other day, I was walking down the street when I happened to look up in a tree and notice a dove sitting on its nest. I wondered right there and then, how far the process was coming along, whether she had laid an egg or was just perching on her well-built nest. Maybe, she was waiting for her significant other and figured this circular basin-like structure would serve as a resting place until he made his presence known.

Of course, other people, including I, have heard the birds chirping their melodious songs or calling to one another, more, so recently than all winter long. That should spell out the facts that Pennsylvania’s groundhog was right. We just may have an early spring.

I was approached by one reader who commented on the eagle he believed to be in the Pittsburgh vicinity that laid an egg or two in its nest as the snow was falling around it. He wanted to know my take on this subject matter.

I told him, it was last year, I believe, that this same bird laid another egg at the same location under the same conditions. I was going to pull up some information on how often eagles mate, but my Internet services were down for 24 hours. That put a damper on the subject. In as much as I write these stories on one particular day and am challenged the others with other activities as a retiree, I reserve Monday mornings for my writing for this page. My stories are either submitted Thursday night or early Friday morning for the next week.

Since the imploding of the Hulton Bridge once situation over the Allegheny River near Oakmont, the eagles in that locale have relocated and built a new nest in Harmar, a town located up-river on the opposite side of my former hometown. That tells me, these national birds must mate throughout the year and not just in spring.

The third species I noted was the two-legged kind as I viewed them from my bedroom window, walking in the direction of downtown Latrobe. Some of these young, attractive females were wearing short-shorts; I mean short-shorts that were shorter than the year before. Thank goodness, their colorful short-sleeve blouses hung down below their waists a tad. When I went for my walk some two hours later, I was wearing a winter coat and feeling the chill in the air. It was interesting to note that when I took my walk, I did so in heavy apparel and still felt the chill in the air. By the way, those youngsters of whom I spoke were nowhere to be seen. I think they got the message fast that February was still a month of winter.


Some time ago, I picked up a book titled, Fish of Pennsylvania Field Guide, by Dave Bosanko, to make sure I knew what fish I was catching. The interesting thing about our state is that it is represented by 27 families of fish in this state. That includes the following: bowfin, catfish, cod, drum, eel, gar, goby, herring, lamprey, minnow, mooneye, mudminnow, paddlefish, perch, pike, salmon, sculpin, silverside, smelt, snakehead, stickleback, sturgeon, sucker, sunfish, temperate bass, topminnow, and trout-perch representatives.

Here is a bit of trivia connected to certain families. For example, in the sunfish family, there are 12 different fish most if not all are found in the area lakes and Loyalhanna Creek.

All the trout that are stocked in area waters are of the salmon family. There are seven different types of fish in the minnow family including the invasive species, Asian carp.

The American shad, which is so prevalent in Keystone State Park Lake, is from the Herring family. When one hears the name herring, he may think of something found in the larger lakes, such as Lake Erie, but around here? Who would have thought?

Some fish, right off the top of my head, are strangers in my vocabulary, and maybe yours, too. Did you ever hear of a burbot? Its other names are lawyer, eelpout, ling, and cusk. This fish is found in northern Pennsylvania, particularly in the head- waters of the Allegheny River and Lake Erie.

Brook Silversides are found in Lake Erie, that resemble the common shiner, “are restricted to the coast.”

And northern snakeheads are uniquely patterned fish, “dark brown to lighter brown sides with irregular blotches and large scales with a large mouth with sharp teeth.” These fish prefer “stagnant shallow ponds and slow moving streams with mud or weedy bottom, ” Bosanko said.

- Paul J. Volkmann
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