CANOE CREEK - By his own admission, Richard Paul Weber II doesn't characterize himself as much of a fisherman.
"I usually just do the traditional first day,'' he said Saturday morning while standing streamside near a popular large Canoe-Creek fishing hole off Beaver Dam Road.
Nonetheless, Weber, 18, a junior at Altoona Area High School, could no doubt boast of one of the biggest catches and best fish stories on Saturday's opening day of the 2014 trout season for area anglers.
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
Wally Shoeman of Altoona chooses a spot to fish just below the paper mill dam in Tyrone on opening day.
Fishing with his younger brother, Brendan, 14, and their grandfather, Harry, 70, Richard Weber hauled in a mammoth 24-inch rainbow trout on his first cast of the season shortly after 8 a.m.
The trophy trout devoured a nightcrawler that was meant for a nearby golden palomino trout, and the battle was on. It took Weber about a half-minute to win it.
"I was trying to get the palomino, and he just beat the palomino to it,'' Weber said of his prize catch.
Weber had the lunker fish submerged in shallow water on a stringer at mid-morning Saturday.
"My rod just went from this to that,'' Weber said, placing his hands into the shape of an arch. "The jolt just about pulled me into the water. It took me about 30 seconds to catch the fish and get it off the hook. It put up a fight, but I just reeled it in. I didn't want it to get away.''
Some people would have a prize fish like that mounted on their living-room or game-room wall. Weber said that he and his family will probably just enjoy eating the catch.
"It's probably going to be dinner at some point this week,'' he said.
Harry Weber, laughing, had different ideas.
"We'll put it on the hood of the car and drive around Altoona,'' he said.
Crowds were decent at Canoe Creek as a pleasant, sun-splashed morning with projected high temperatures near 70 degrees by the late afternoon greeted first-day anglers.
"I like to be outside,'' said Denny Claar, 45, who was fishing with his pal Mike Boccardi, 46, and Boccardi's girlfriend, Buffy Gardner, 39, all of Altoona. "I'm an outside-type of guy, and this is the first day of the outdoor season.''
Claar hadn't caught any trout yet when approached by the Mirror, but his cohorts had done better. Gardner had her daily limit of five on a stringer, and Boccardi had four trout in tow.
"These will be supper tonight,'' Gardner said of the trout.
John Horton, 48, of Altoona, was fishing a flat stretch of water downstream with his son Dalton, 18. John Horton was running a rooster-tail spinning lure through the water, and appreciated being out fishing on the first day for a number of reasons.
After undergoing a pacemaker operation a couple years back, John Horton was forced to take a hiatus from fishing. He had caught two foot-long trout on small nightcrawlers early Saturday.
"It's a really nice day, and it's the first time in a long time that I've been out on the first day,'' said John Horton, who was wearing a New York Yankees cap. "I've finally started getting back into fishing now.''
Matt Corle, 26, of Altoona was fishing in a swimming hole further downstream, and showed off two very husky trout.
"I caught three and kept two,'' Corle said. "I like fishing any day of the season, but on the first day, it's a lot easier.''
The first day of trout season is often special for young and not-so-young anglers alike. Aaron Johnson, 43, of Altoona, had caught one trout and missed one on Saturday, but he and three of his fishing buddies enjoyed watching a group of younger sportsmen have some early-season success.
"There was a group of kids down on the stream catching them left and right,'' Johnson said while taking a break Saturday. "It was fun watching them catch fish.''
A weekend weather forecast that couldn't be better for area trout fishermen added to the appeal of Saturday's opener. Sunshine is also in today's forecast, with temperatures expected to soar above the 80-degree mark.
"It's better when it's nicer out,'' Johnson said. "You can just enjoy nature, and it's a nice way to relax.''