About 40 years ago, on the opening day of trout season, Frank Stanek Sr. would head north to Lawrence County.
Stanek hoped to catch not only the first fish of the season, but also some quality time with his son, Frank Stanek Jr.
Standing along the banks of the swift-moving Neshannock Creek, off of Route 956 in Wilmington Township, just after 8 a.m. Saturday, the father-son pair from Washington, Pa., resumed their tradition, with just one difference.
Frank junior had been promoted to driver.
“I’m lucky to be out here today,” said the elder Stanek. “I’m under doctor’s care, so when my son comes up, he brings me with him because I can’t drive.
“You can’t beat this,” he continued, bobbing his fishing line on the sparkling water. “It’s a nice day and a good place to fish.”
Just after catching his first trout, Frank Stanek Jr. said he was glad to continue the tradition with his father.
“When I was younger, we did this every year. Today, I drove him up — he’s 84 — and when we left at 6 this morning, he was really excited,” he said.
The Staneks were among the large crowds of anglers who headed out to their favorite fishing spots on Saturday, the traditional statewide opening day of trout season.
Since mid-February, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission has been stocking waterways, making approximately 3.2 million adult trout available to anglers in lakes and creeks across Pennsylvania, according to a release from the commission.
With the National Weather Service recording temperatures in the mid-70s across the county on Saturday, plenty of families took advantage of the weather and lined the banks of local creeks and rivers, looking for a bite.
Katie McCullough, 23, of Akron, Ohio, met her father, Bill McCullough, of Hubbard, Ohio, for breakfast in West Middlesex, before driving on to one of their favorite spots along the Neshannock Creek.
The younger McCullough said she and her father have fished various sites around Lawrence County for years.
“I always come for opening day,” McCullough said, explaining that her two older sisters didn’t stick with the tradition like she has. “I love it, even though I still get grossed out by the worms.”
Bob Heeley of Robinson Township took his three daughters to fish Slippery Rock Creek in McConnell’s Mill State Park. By mid-afternoon, his youngest, 9-year-old Erica, proudly showed off a 10-inch trout and another 12-inch one.
“It’s fun to spend time with my family,” she said. “And I got a rainbow trout.”
Erica’s older sister, 22-year-old Deb Keeley, said they arrived just before 8 a.m. and would stay until they got tired.
“We always come here, because there’s more room than Raccoon Creek State Park,” Deb Keeley said. “There, you’re elbow to elbow.”
The Keeley family was one of many who purchased mentored youth permits from the fish and boat commission, allowing children and youth 16 years old and younger to practice their fishing skills with adult mentors.
“We’ve sold more than 8,500 voluntary youth licenses and have issued more than 17,500 mentored youth permits,” said John Arway, executive director of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.
A license is required for trout fishing in all wild and stocked trout waterways, and regulations permit anglers to keep a daily combined species creel of five trout, at least seven inches in length.
This year, the commission reduced the price of resident, non-resident and senior resident annual licenses by $1 for the entire 2015 season. With the discount, the price of a resident annual license is $20 and a non-resident annual license is $50.
(Email: j_shelenberger @ncnewsonline.com)