Outdoors Notebook: Stocking won't be dropped at Loyalhanna

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Taking its name from a Delaware Indian village settled nearby after the tribe was relocated from the Susquehanna region in 1772, Loyalhanna Creek drains some 172 miles in Westmoreland County. It's a favorite of Western Pennsylvania anglers, and not only because of its easy access as the creek splits the lanes of Route 30 between Ligonier and Latrobe. Cooled by springs and tributaries much of the year, it harbors native trout in its upper reaches; bass and northern pike where it morphs into Loyalhanna Reservoir; and in between stocked brown and rainbow trout imported from the state Fish and Boat Commission's Bellefonte Hatchery.

Since January, when the agency announced plans to close the Bellefonte and Oswayo hatcheries in 2014, rumors have flowed out of Loyalhanna Gorge that the creek's trout-stocked days were numbered.

Not true. Sources at Fish and Boat say Loyalhanna will remain on the stocking list next year, even if some stocking points downstream from Kingston Dam might be dropped or receive fewer fish.

"A creek like Loyalhanna, of course we'll stock it," said Fish and Boat executive director John Arway, a North Huntingdon native who grew up fishing the creek. "Like everywhere else, places that get a lot of fishing pressure will continue to get fish, and places that log few angling hours will get fewer or no fish."

On March 9, the state stocked browns or rainbows from Zimmerman Run to Monastery Run. Catch-and-release fishing is open in the 1.7-mile Delayed Harvest Artificial Lures Only area.

Fly fishing seminar

Penn's Woods West Trout Unlimited will hold its annual free fly seminar 9 a.m.-2 p.m. March 24 at a new location, Wilkins School Community Center in Regent Square (7604 Charleston Ave., Swissvale, PA 15218). Pro guides Rob Reeder and Scott Loughner will cover tackle, knots, flies and gear and offer casting instruction. Register and get details at robreeder0827@gmail.com.

Bug chuckers

At Monday's 7 p.m. meeting of the Upper St. Clair Fly Fishing Club, members of Bug Chuckers Inc. explain their philosophical take on fishing. Upper St. Clair Library Multi-Purpose Room, 1820 McLaughlin Run Road. 412-835-6107.

Hunters Sharing the Harvest

Venison is off the menu at Louisiana food banks and shelters, but in Pennsylvania the Hunters Sharing the Harvest program is still sizzling.

The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals recently ordered the Shreveport-Bossier Rescue Mission to throw away 1,600 pounds of hunter-donated venison representing some 3,200 meals. Staff was further ordered to douse the meat with bleach to prevent it from being consumed by animals.

A Louisiana Health Department official said the venison posed "a potentially serious health threat." No illness was related to the hunter-donated meat. Local media reported one person being fed at the rescue mission had complained about being served the venison.

The donation rejection sparked outrage among Louisiana hunters and pro-hunting legislators. A state representative said he was drafting a bill that would require that donated wild meat is inspected and labeled before it's delivered to shelters.

Pennsylvania's hunter-donated venison program, among the first in the United States, endured a similar threat in 2009 when Philadelphia attempted to prevent local food banks from serving wild venison unless a veterinarian accompanied the hunter to verify the deer was healthy when killed. The attempted banning of donated venison was overturned.

"We stopped that," said Hunters Sharing the Harvest executive director John Plowman. "In Pennsylvania there's legislation that says a municipality can't just shut it down when a charity accepts hunter-donated meat."

Dozens of authorized meat processors across the state inspect all hunter-donated venison, which is processed into ground meat and packaged in 2-pound and 5-pound bags for food banks and shelters. About 90,000 pounds of venison goes through Hunters Sharing the Harvest each year. A donation of $15 from the hunter helps the processor with costs. Read more about the program at www.sharedeer.org.

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