BELLWOOD - With hail and light snow flying through the air on Wednesday morning, the irony of the situation was not lost on Blair County waterways conservation officer Craig Garman.
Garman has held his position as waterways chief for nearly 20 years, and this has easily been the warmest, driest spring and preseason trout stocking season that he can ever remember.
Yet, as he and his crew of workers and volunteers wrapped up the preseason portion of their 2012 trout stocking schedule Wednesday along the banks of Bells Gap Run near Bellwood, the day ushered in the chilliest weather of the spring so far.
This area's 2012 trout season begins Saturday at 8 a.m.
"Everything is reversed,'' Garman said Wednesday. "Normally, the coldest day [of the preseason stocking schedule] is the first day [which this year fell on March 2]. But this is the coldest day we've had.''
The weather is expected to be optimal - sunny with a high of 65 degrees - for Saturday's opener.
"There's no reason why anglers can't catch fish on Saturday, and I think they're going to be pleased by what we've put in the waters,'' said Garman, who presided over the preseason stocking of about 21,000 rainbow, brown and brook trout in Blair County streams and will be in charge of the stocking of another 20,000 trout in the weeks following Saturday's opener.
The county's waters are in good shape right now, Garman said, although he admitted if that if the rest of the month of April doesn't bring rain, that could change.
"Last year was probably the worst I've ever seen for high water in April, and this is the worst year I've ever seen for low water,'' Garman said. "We're going to see some problems later if we don't soon get some rain.''
In lower waters, fish are more easily seen, but they're also more spooky and less likely to take bait or lures.
Don Kraft, 69, of Altoona, who has volunteered to help stock the county's streams over the last few years, said that he doesn't let the preseason weather affect him.
"I don't think it has any effect,'' he said of the weather and the stocking regimen. "We've stocked when there is snow and ice on the sides of the streams. I just dress for the weather.''
Wednesday's final preseason county stocking agenda included brook trout for Bells Gap Run and nearby Riggles Gap Run, and brook and brown trout for Vanscoyoc Run.
Bob Trostle, 67, of Altoona, who was on hand to help out Wednesday, had also stocked the Little Bald Eagle Creek near Tyrone and Canoe Creek near Hollidaysburg earlier this spring.
"The creeks are in good shape,'' Trostle said. "Last year, it rained a lot before the first day, and then it rained some more on the first day.''