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It's fun each spring to give local anglers a chance to share the stories behind their fish photos. Dozens participated in this year's Trout Photo Contest.
View the images on the Post-Gazette Rod & Gun Club blog at blogs.post-gazette.com/sports/rod-gun-club.
Living near Beaver County's Raccoon Lake, Nathan Quince, 17, of Imperial fishes there often -- as many as 150 times a year, he said. But on April 17, having heard that a local sportsmen's club had stocked that day below the lake at Raccoon Creek, he tried the moving water.
The 26-inch, 5-pound 7-ounce rainbow he pulled out was the biggest fish entered in this year's Trout Photo Contest.
"I was walking over the bridge and I looked underneath and saw the pink spot on his cheek and knew right away it was a big fish," said Quince. "I tried a Rooster Tail first, but it wouldn't move for it. Then I put on a Trout Magnet tipped with a butter worm -- I jigged it past him on the drift."
The fish took the bait, but the 4-pound test line snapped when Quince set the hook. He tied on another. It snapped, too, as did the next. On the fourth attempt with the same rig, Quince set the hook at the start of a thrilling 15-minute fight on a 9-foot ultra-light rod.
His mom Deb Quince shot the winning photo of her son showing off the whopper alongside a smaller legal trout.
"I was fishing with a friend. She was pretty happy about catching more fish than me in only three or four hours," said Quince. "So, when I caught that big fish, I had to send her a picture just to tease her a little about it."
Lots of big fish were photographed in this year's contest. Fly angler Ryan Duchi is pictured with a 25-inch rainbow caught on Allegheny County's Pine Creek. Mark Accettulla of Oakmont caught a 24-inch, 5-pound golden rainbow on Corey Creek, Tioga County; and using light line, Tim Warner, 13, of McDonald finessed a 24-inch rainbow to the shore at Raccoon Lake.
"Is it 8 o'clock yet, daddy?"
Adrian Jerabek, 3, of Robinson fidgeted impatiently on a lawn chair at the edge of Raccoon Creek. To beat the opening day crowds, his dad Kelly Jerabek had made sure that Adrian and his Spiderman spin-cast rod were in position early.
First cast, at exactly 8 a.m., dad set the hook. The rod bowed, and he handed it to his son.
"It was the first time [Adrian] reeled in a fish by himself since he started fishing last year," said Jerabek. "He's a real outdoors guy, likes to be out in the woods."
The trout was one of eight caught that day by the Jerabeks in a tradition shared by thousands of families throughout Pennsylvania. Jerabek's photo of Adrian tightly gripping his prize took first place in the Kidstuff category.
"I grew up in Green Bay, Wis., in a family of farmers, so I was outdoors all the time," said Jerabek. "Now that I'm living in a more urban setting, it's important to me to share a part of my roots, my traditions, with Adrian. I'm trying to get him to carry on what I did when I was a kid with my dad, and he with his dad, and he with his dad."
Adrian said he had fun catching trout that day, but he had to hold the fish "really tight" so it wouldn't wiggle out of his hands.
Every photo was a winner in the cute kid category including Noah Troxell, 3, of Moose Creek, Clearfield County, holding up his first trout; and Lily Jester, 5, of Moon who caught her first two trout using a pink Barbie fishing pole. Ethan Murick, 3, of Franklin Park, is shown during his first fishing trip hoisting a trout-filled creel; and Kendra Onuska, 6, of Independence, Beaver County, smiles beside a big golden rainbow that's nearly half as long as she is.
For most anglers, the experience ends with the harvest or release of the fish. Not so for Greg Reynolds of Penn Township, Westmoreland County.
"It's not just the fish," said the winner of the Artsy Shots category. "The photography is a big part of my experience. I enjoy the whole thing -- the drive into the Laurel Highlands and back, and I like to [photograph] a little bit of the area. Last year I visited 36 covered bridges. The fish are still important -- you go fishing to catch fish -- but I enjoy the photography, too. ... I have a very large inventory of photos."
Reynolds' tight focus on a rainbow trout caught at the lower Delayed Harvest Artificial Lures Only stretch of Laurel Hill Creek near Humbert, Somerset County, won top honors in Artsy Shots. That photo, as well as additional close-ups of a Meadow Run rainbow and an Elk Creek steelhead, were taken with a $400 Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS1 waterproof point-and-shoot camera. Reynolds used the same equipment to win the Artsy Shots category in 2012.
"I get out every day to fish when the weather allows me," said Reynolds, who uses only split bamboo fly rods. Once or twice a year, he posts 50-to-70-shot photo essays of his fishing trips on the Classic Rod Forum, an Internet meeting place for aficionados of traditional fishing gear.
"One of the reasons I like the Trout Photo Contest is the preponderance of parents taking photos of their kids outside," he said. "I don't see a whole lot of kids outside anymore. It's good to see these parents teaching their kids about the outdoors."
Doug Leichliter, a prolific angler from Greensburg, submitted artistic still life photos of brook, rainbow and tiger trout (a sterile hatchery-bred hybrid of a brown and brook trout), all caught on Loyalhanna Creek, Westmoreland County. Scott Kozelnik of Ross photographed five rainbows banked at Pine Creek, Allegheny County.