Among fishermen, there is an old saying that "fish are where you find them."
On Saturday, youngsters 16 and younger found plenty of fish in Chartiers Creek during Heidelberg's first fishing contest.
The contest was the idea of police Chief Vernon Barkley, an avid fisherman.
After participants registered at the Heidelberg Park on Industry Way, they fanned out to cast their rods into the half-mile section of the creek flowing through the town.
One of the contest rules was that all the fish had to be caught within the borough's borders.
Mayor Kenneth LaSota said the Heidelberg Volunteer Fire Department was on hand with its rescue boat on standby to make sure everyone was safe. The boat wasn't needed.
Public works employees helped to make additional areas of the creek accessible by cutting back brush and weeds, he said.
After the fish were caught and weighed, they were released back into the creek.
William Ford, 13, of Rosslyn Farms caught a 4-pound catfish by the Washington Pike Bridge using hot dogs for bait, but his fish soon was eclipsed by a 4-pound, 11-ounce catfish caught by Riley Miller, 8, of Pleasant Hills. She landed her fish in the creek near Short and Zero streets.
Prizes were awarded for the biggest fish weighed in the individual categories of catfish, bass, carp, perch, sunfish and crappy bass, but Chief Barkley said some sheepshead and sucker fish also were caught.
Walmart, Walgreens and the Heidelberg Marathon gas station were among the businesses donating gift cards, fishing equipment and tents as prizes.
"It was great to see people involved and excited about the event," said Chief Barkley, who was pleased that the contest gave parents an opportunity to spend time with their children.
"The creek is an asset not only for Heidelberg but for other communities, too," Mr. LaSota said, noting about half of the contest participants lived in neighboring communities.
Borough manager Joe Kauer said another benefit of the contest was to help dispel the image that Chartiers Creek is dirty.
"The fish all looked healthy. There was no litter along the creek and plenty of trees. It was very serene," he said.
Bob Hedin, of Hedin Environmental in Mt. Lebanon, who has developed projects over the past two decades to help clean up pollution flowing into the creek from abandoned coal mines, credited local volunteer community groups for taking the initiative to help clean up the creek.
He cited the Allegheny Land Trust for a project at Wingfield Pines in Upper St. Clair to remove iron oxide from the water; the work being done by the South Fayette Conservation Group on the Millers Run, a tributary of the creek; and efforts by the Chartiers Nature Conservancy as all helping to make Chartiers Creek cleaner and able to support healthy fish populations.
"It's nice to see the creek getting better," he said.
Bob Podurgiel, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org. First Published August 16, 2012 9:30 AM