Young: Popular wild game dinner will be held in March

It’s always my pleasure to announce the popular Wild Game Feast hosted by the Altoona Alliance Church located at 3220 Pleasant Valley Blvd. next to Planet Fitness. This year will mark the 12th annual installment of this worthwhile event, which will be held on Saturday, March 11.

The buffet style meal will include various kinds of wild game including elk, moose, bear, deer, rabbit, pheasant, fish and more, along with store-bought turkey and hot dogs, sides, desserts and drinks. Having attended this event many times, I’ve always found the variety and quality of the food to be excellent.

This year’s special guest speaker will be Steve Chapman from Nashville, Tenn. Chapman is an avid hunter who has written several books, including “A Look at Life from a Deer Stand” and “365 Things Every Hunter Should Know.” As a motivational speaker, Chapman uses music and videos along with his gift of storytelling from real life adventures that are sometimes humorous, sometimes serious but always filled with life-changing insight. As a special addition to this year’s Wild Game Feast, Chapman and his wife Annie will present a special concert of gospel music at the church on Sunday, March 12.

Doors for the Altoona Alliance Church Wild Game Feast will open at 4 p.m. and dinner will be served at 5 p.m., followed by Chapman’s presentation and the awarding of a generous array of door prizes. Plan to get there early and browse some of the informational booths and outdoor resource tables that will be on display in the lobby. Space is limited, however, and tickets are required for admission. The suggested donation is $10 per ticket. Pastor Tim McGarvey said, “This is not a fundraiser for our church, but an outreach event we love doing for the community.” Pastor McGarvey also urges folks to get their tickets early to avoid disappointment because they tend to go rather quickly once the word gets out. Tickets are limited to ages 10 and older. To obtain tickets or for more information, call the church office at 944-0171.

At its quarterly meeting last week, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission proposed removing the closed season on bass from May 1 through mid-June on 98 miles of the Susquehanna River from Sunbury downstream to the Holtwood Dam and on 31.7 miles of the Juniata River from Port Royal downstream to the mouth. Surveys from 2005 to 2012 revealed severely reduced numbers of smallmouth bass in those sections of the rivers. Even though all the biologists and fisheries managers I spoke with back then were certain that the causes for the bass decline on those waterways were related to water quality and not recreational fishing, the PFBC imposed catch-and-release regulations in 2011for bass on those sections of the Susquehanna and Juniata.

In 2012, the PFBC imposed the closed season regulations on the Susquehanna and Juniata rivers that made it “unlawful to target or attempt to catch a bass” during that six-week period. The closed season regulation was especially silly because it, too, did nothing to address the real problems on the rivers and, most important, was largely unenforceable. Many anglers continued to target bass during the closed season under the pretext of fishing for walleyes, catfish or some other species found in the river. And as long as any bass caught “accidentally” were immediately released unharmed, they technically were not in violation.

Thankfully, recent surveys have indicated increasing numbers of smallmouth bass in the middle Susquehanna and lower Juniata rivers, and the PFBC has started the process to remove the frivolous closed season. There will be a 60-day public comment period after the changes are published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin, and three public meetings will be scheduled for public input.

If the proposed changes are then given final approval later this year, they would take effect in 2018.

Also at last week’s meeting, the PFBC announced it will be expanding its Keystone Select Stocked Trout Program. This program began last year and included eight waters managed under Delayed Harvest Artificial Lures Only regulations.

These designated stream sections receive a special allotment of large trout from 14 to 20 inches during the regular preseason and in-season stockings at a rate of 175 to 225 of the big fish per mile, offering anglers an increased chance to catch and release a trophy-sized trout.

Last year, the closest water in the Keystone Select Stocked Trout Program to area anglers was Laurel Hill Creek in Somerset County. This year, the DHALO section of Chest Creek in Cambria County, from near the town of Patton 1.8 miles downstream, is among the six waters added to the program.