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Getting Involved

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The ability to scan some old pictures made this story possible, Thank You 'hp'.

I've always been a little different and for all intent and purpose I believe that I made it that way. When it came to fishing I was one of those guys who scheduled their life around fishing as opposed to the visa versa. I had a fairly long history of getting involved with environmental sorta things that went back to the early 80's when I met a fellow named Tom. Tom was a waterways patrolman for the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission and he had the distinction of being the first person to approach me on the rivers and creeks of PA. and ask to see my fishing license.

It was fall and I am not quite sure of the year but I’m thinking 1996 sounds about right. I had taken a very long time after crossing Little Pine creek in north Central Pa. to move upstream and then actually crawled the last 30 or more feet into a position to cast from. There I laid watching and waiting for the next fish to show me where it was at when I notice someone walking down stream on the opposite shore toward me. I soon saw that it was a ‘Fish Warden’ you gotta be kidding right? Nope he was coming to me and once he entered my comfort zone of about 40 yards I called over to him and ask if he were going to ask to see my fishing license. He said yes and I ask if he would just take my word that I had one……………. He said no, so I ask him to stay away from the run I was trying to fish and told him I would come over to him. So I crawled away from the water, go on my feet and went about 60 yards down to the tail of the run and crossed the creek. I walked away from the shore and up to meet him, once we got together I handed over my fishing license and when he handed it back I offered my hand to him. His fellow seemed all business and my gesture for a handshake seemed to take him off guard. I made a quick explanation, being that in all of my years fishing the state he had the significance and merit of being the only Waterway Patrolman who had ever checked me and I congratulated him on doing a fine job. I’m a talker and soon was peeling away the hard core veneer of his enforcement work and we were engaging in a friendly discourse. Since I had made the acquaintance of the regional Forrest Ranger I had a familiar name to drop and soon Tom was getting comfortable with the idea that I might be a little different. I swung the topic to the practice of trout stockings and was looking to see if he would be interested in having someone who would do float stocking of the Fly Fish Only & Delayed Harvest waters in our region. This was a home run pitch and he indicated that he would be very willing to go along with the idea. You see, in Pennsylvania there are many anglers who will follow the stock trucks and volunteer for the ‘bucket brigade’ carrying fish to the stocking points. Some folks have the ulterior motive of returning to that spot or even staying there after the warden and truck leave and fishing for those same trout. My offer had some caveats that were intended to make it attractive. I offered to make float pens, do the stockings, and then follow up by interviewing anglers every time I visited or fished the waters that had received the float stockings to help assess the effectiveness of the distribution of the fish.

The idea I had was to get away from the concept of having hundreds of fish dumped in one or two access points along these stretches of creek. I thought that spreading the allocation of trout out over the entire areas would lead to a more realistic fishing experience for the people who came there. Before our meeting ended the patrolman took my mailing address and within a few days I received a set of plans for building float stocking pens that would hold between 300 & 350 fish each depending on the size of the fish. I got on the project over the winter and by spring I had gathered a few good surefooted waders who would help me do the first stockings of the next season. Spring came and we met the Fish Commission people at our first scheduled site. Everyone there was impressed with the float pens and I must say that I was proud of my workmanship in their construction.

Here you see Stevie Redden & Scott Thornton with 2 of the pens in the March / April stocking of the Delayed Harvest on Little Pine Creek.


All together I had built 3 of these float pens over the winter and come spring we could haul 900 - 1000 trout from the upstream access points on the target waters down through the entire length of the stretch. The state still dumped the mother load at the access points but this float business ensured that there would be fish scattered throughout the entire mile of creek. We did this on all of the Delayed Harvest sections in our region and then I would take stream side hikes and when I came onto anglers would make chit chat about the fishing to see what they were finding. The data collected went into notes and on review fishermen were finding fish, not the huge concentrations they were accustomed to but fish all along the stretch. What we did when actually releasing the trout was to use both nets and our hands to sort out the various species of trout. The rainbows were released into the swifter currents while brown & brook trout were placed into the better holding spots around boulders and pools at or near shore.

The guy in the picture is me, after releasing a bunch of browns above the fallen tree I took one big male fish across the stream in a net bag and put it in that nice hold of calm water. This would be the kind of place a brown would eventually claim as home turf and also the sort that a fisherman would look to as a place to find a nice one.


The stocking took hours and in the swift currents it was work. below I have 2 pens by their tethers and am motioning for one of the guys to slip the third down to me. The currents were hard and the bottom slick. I was the tallest and perhaps the most surefooted wader so I sometimes ended up with more than one pen when we hit tough spots.


The pens were built of pine except for the bottom thwarts which I used ash for because they would be the part getting slammed by the rocks. They held up great for the years that we used them and none of the ash bottoms ever gave out. The netting was a heavy Poly Plastic hardware cloth substitute and I used it to help prevent fish from being injured by steel mesh. It too held up great for years. They were a little heavy and at put in and take outs having three guys was a must.

At this take out you can see the guys finding some fish in the bottom and removing them by hand. Scott tips the pen up so Steve can gather the stragglers and put them out at the end of the day.


I guess the moral of the story is that if you want to see better fishing conditions sometimes you have to roll up the sleeves and open your wallet. This whole experience was fun, it helped me to understand the behavior of stock fish much better than I had prior to getting this program going. The guys who helped out also had a ball also. One time we even had some excitement doing the Loyalsock Creek Delayed Harvest area. it was a mid season stocking, end of May I believe. We got loaded up at the top access and i figured we should cross the creek to make our way down. Loyalsock is a big one, a river by most standards but away we went. The light morning drizzle gave way to a full blown Pennsylvania deluge and remember when I said 'this takes a long time'? by the time we had worked our mile down the creek the water had came up, way up and went off color. We weren't able to cross where we figured on doing it and had to drag those heavy pens up stream against the ever rising current.

When we got to where we could cross the only one of us who could handle the current and a float pen was me. I made 3 trips over with pens and then came back to help the two fellows working with me to get across the swollen river. That would have done but there was more to come, the old dirt rutted trail I had left the truck on was fast becoming a watery mire and so once we managed to get those pens in the back I had to drive like a maniac to get out. In deep ruts and mud the secret to getting through the worst is 'hit it hard & hit it fast' the fellows along that day still talk about the ride out more than the flooded creek.

When I moved away from PA. for good I donated the pens to The Lycoming Anglers Club, an organization that operates a co-op hatchery with the state. Needless to say they were pretty thrilled to have the pens even though they had a hatchery they had nothing on the scale of those three float pens on hand. I could go on and tell more stories but then what would I write next time.......... If you thought this sounded cool you should think about becoming a volunteer with your state fisheries people. If you are serious about helping to make things better they will probably be glad to meet you


Updated 12-16-2016 at 06:51 PM by Ard



  1. milt spawn's Avatar
    Outstanding Ard! Bravo! milt.
  2. Vans's Avatar
    You have led an interesting life Ard. Nice story.
  3. mcnerney's Avatar
    Ard: Another great post, I just love to read your stories! Thanks for sharing.

  4. jpbfly's Avatar
    Great post Ard.... had never heard of stocking float pens can be proud on your workmanship indeed
  5. Ard's Avatar
    Scanning those old prints brought back the memories, I gotta say they were good times. I was a fixture on so many different streams back there and enjoyed everything about fishing in North Central PA. We had plenty of wild trout fishing opportunities but trying to establish a population of hold over fish in areas that had been depleted of the breeding population was very rewarding for sure.
  6. grassonfly's Avatar
    Wow its great to hear about people taking an active role in their fisheries.