BY JEANETTE ROBISON NCLOCAL@NCNEWSONLINE.COM





Winter took a spring break, along with more than 1,000 outdoor enthusiasts. And it was just in time for the annual pre-season trout stocking in Volant Saturday. Despite rumors about rescheduling because of icy conditions, Joe Morris, a Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission officer, said the warmer temperatures and a strong wind a few days before the annual event cleared the waterway, allowing a full day of activities. The annual trout stocking is a family tradition for some members of the community as well as visitors, who gather and enjoy spending the day together. Every year, David and Amy Ball of Neshannock take their sons, Scot, 7, and Sam, 4. "I like to fish," Scot said. His brother noted he likes the boats and both mom and dad agreed the all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast at the firehall was the number one reason they enjoy the day. Obviously, they were not alone. More than 1,100 people were served the sweet-smelling meal, a fund-raiser that started out as breakfast at 8 a.m. and ended up as dinner by 7 p.m. The two events go hand-in-hand, just as they have for more than 40 years. Throughout the firehall were diners of all ages, enjoying plates full of hot cakes, sausage and applesauce. Bill Stoup, 80, of Brookfield, Ohio, noted, "I come every year. My mother used to make buckwheat pancakes when I was growing up, and this is the best place for buckwheat cakes and good sausage." Jim McConnell, president of the Volant Volunteer Fire Company, said that around 9 a.m., there was a fire on High Street and six volunteers had to leave. Around noon, snowflakes started to fall and the temperature had climbed to 35 degrees. Just then, the five Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission trucks arrived from their two-hour drive from the Corry hatchery. They were filled with thousands of brown and rainbow trout, ready to be set free in the fast and furious waters -- a result of Lawrence and Mercer counties' recent spring thaw. Bob Miles, teacher and director of the Laurel Conservation Club, was awaiting word from Morris on whether to float stock or not. The level of excitement and anticipation was as high as the water in the creek. After a few minutes, the go-ahead was given and the truck moved in to start the hand delivering of buckets of fish to the creek. Young, old and those in between stood in line to get a chance to look and see the splashing, colorful fish before they found their way to the cold water. According to Morris, there were about 7,000 fish to distribute in Lawrence County. A third were brown trout and two-thirds were the rainbow variety. The average size was 10 inches and they were about 18 months old. Every once in a while, a really nice-sized fish would be caught in the net and the crowd would all "wow" in unison. Paul Roberts, 49, of Pittsburgh said he takes his son Sam and Sam's friend Rocco Cattanzarite -- both 19 and on spring break from Penn State -- to the stocking every year. "We come to eat pancakes and fish." Proof the Volant trout-stocking is a family tradition that continues to reel 'em in year after year.

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