In Chester County, a day to get trout into the water

Volunteer Bill Tipton throws trout into the Brandywine Creek. The Fish and Boat Commission is stocking the state's waterways with 3.9 million trout ahead of trout season, which opens Saturday in Southeastern Pennsylvania.
Volunteer Bill Tipton throws trout into the Brandywine Creek. The Fish and Boat Commission is stocking the state's waterways with 3.9 million trout ahead of trout season, which opens Saturday in Southeastern Pennsylvania. (CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer)
Posted: March 28, 2013

Why were those men running, not walking, with buckets of hatchery-bred trout before dumping them into Brandywine Creek?

"There's not much water in the buckets," Jim Wolownik, 75, of Valley Township, Chester County, explained.

The trout "run out of oxygen. If you don't get them into the stream fast, they'll die."

Wolownik was part of a brigade of volunteers - their 11 cars and trucks forming a convoy over winding country roads - that by 1 p.m. Tuesday had reached Hatfield House in Hibernia County Park after an hour's serpentine journey off Route 340 near Coatesville.

But what had drawn him there, to within sight of the creek?

"It gets me out," the retired metalworker said with a smile. "Besides, I fish."

Put them in one day, wrestle them out a few days later.

Tuesday was the last Chester County stocking day before trout season opens at 8 a.m. Saturday in 18 counties in Southeastern Pennsylvania.

Trout season opens across the remainder of the state at 8 a.m. April 13.

That has been the practice since 2007, said Eric Levis, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, which regulates fishing in the state. The season starts earlier in the southeast because the waters become warmer earlier than in the rest of the state, he said. Trout thrive in cooler waters.

That explains why the Chester County volunteers were out Tuesday.

Near the historic Hatfield House, a few of the younger volunteers had climbed onto a tank truck holding about 3,500 trout, fresh from a morning drive from a hatchery near Carlisle.

They had scooped out enough trout to fill a half-dozen buckets, and climbed with the buckets onto a flatbed truck, which lit out for a nearby stream bank.

Among them, the only woman was Katie Benevento, 24, of Honey Brook, who said she had the time to help a friend do the work because she is "an unpublished author."

With more experience in stocking fish than imitating the success of Richard Brautigan, author of the 1967 counterculture best-seller Trout Fishing in America, she has volunteered for about a dozen years.

Warren Steinacker, 84, of East Fallowfield Township, had a less selfless reason for braving the bright noontime chill.

"I originally came out to learn where the fishing spots are," that is, nearest to the stocking sites, Steinacker said, "and where to park, because the parking spots are limited" along county waterways.

Earlier, John Campbell, 68, a retired heavy-equipment worker from West Grove, was near the Sadsburyville post office, off Route 30, waiting for the trout tanker to arrive and begin the day's odyssey.

Even though he can no longer fish.

A few years ago, Campbell said, "I hurt my back, so it's tough for me to get around. I used to hunt and fish all the time."

Now, just following the stocking truck - such as he did with his brother another day last week for more than four hours - is enough.

Fishing is allowed around the clock through the season's end on Labor Day, with a daily limit of five trout, according to the Fish and Boat Commission.

Then, during a second season from the day after Labor Day through Dec. 31, a daily catch of three trout is permitted.

In 2013, the commission's website says, Pennsylvania streams and lakes are being stocked with 3,926,300 brook, brown, and rainbow trout.


Contact Walter F. Naedele at 610-313-8134 or at wnaedele@phillynews.com or follow @WNaedele on Twitter.

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