Koi - One Surprise
Inside the Outdoors, June 10
, 2011

When a friend called and told me he had caught a fish of interest, I figured it would be one of the fresh water varieties. I was simply amazed to find out that what he had hooked was a fairly large-sized koi.

Most everyone that I know has either heard of this fish, seen it swimming in a garden pond or most likely in a zoo setting.

According to Wikipedia free encyclopedia, “Koi are ‘brocaded carp’ that are ornamental and comes in varieties of domesticated common carp.” The word comes from Japanese and simply means carp. It includes both the dull grey fish and the brightly colored ones. My friend caught the latter.

A little bit about these fish, and then back to my story.

As to its history, “The carp is a large group of fish originally found in Central Europe and Asia. Various carp species were originally domesticated in East Asia, where they were used as food fish. The ability of carp to survive and adapt to many climates and water conditions allowed the domesticated species to be propagated to many new locations including Japan.”

Here is where it gets interesting. “Koi have been accidentally or deliberately released into the wild in every continent except Antarctica. They quickly revert to the natural coloration of common carp within a few generations. In many areas, they are considered an invasive species and pests. They greatly increase the turbidity of the water because they are constantly stirring up the substrate. This makes waterways unattractive, reduces the abundance of aquatic plants and can render the water unsuitable for swimming and drinking even by livestock.”

So, as it goes, my favorite carp fishing buddy hooked into one of these fish that was supposedly “planted” in St. Vincent Lake. People have a way of doing things like that when they don’t want critters anymore. Such depositing is prevalent in Loyalhanna Creek as well.

But that wasn’t the only surprise of the day.

“Hey, Paul. There’s a red snake out there!” he said. “Have you ever seen one out there?”

Well, my visits to that lake have been minimal. So, I can’t rightly answer his question to the affirmative. I called the Pennsylvania Game Commission and was referred to the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission for help. I was told that my senior citizen buddy probably eyed a red-bellied snake.

According to enature.com, here we have an eight to sixteen inch snake, that comes in a variety of colors on its belly including red, orange, yellow and occasionally jet black. In looking at a picture of this slithering creature, one can easily conclude that the snake is all red because the belly is so prominent. The rest of the snake appears as though it could be red, too, but “has faint narrow dark stripes, three light spots on the nape of the neck, which sometimes fuse to form collar.” Its habitat is mountainous or hilly woodland, sphagnum bogs.

I always find something interesting about something. This is no exception. That is why I love the outdoors so much. The red-bellied snake “hides under lumber or debris around houses. They eat slugs, earthworms and insects.”

If seen, don’t kill them. Anything that will eat a mosquito is certainly my friend!

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Touched base with Rich Kacsuta at the Loyalhanna Fishing Post in Ligonier last week. He told me people are having a great time fishing on the Loyalhanna Creek. He said, “All the action is occurring up beyond my shop especially upstream from the 711 bridge behind the diner area. Anglers are catching brown trout going between three and one-half to five pounds each.”

I asked him where he thinks they came from. He was unsure. After a bit of research, I learned that the Forbes Trail Chapter of Trout Unlimited stocked 50 large brown trout in addition to other species of trout in that locale.

Finally, one of the local retailers shared this story with me recently. She told her mother she had seen a bear on the way to work, whereby her mother responded, “I didn’t know bears work!”

Catch you next week.


- Paul J. Volkmann
You can contact me by email