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Youth fishing event back in action

Courtesy photo Phoebe Williams, 4 of Canoe Creek, shows off her 19-inch golden trout she caught.

CANOE CREEK — The statewide trout season across Pennsylvania begins Saturday, but thanks to a program instituted by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission back in 2013, youngsters have been afforded the ability to get out on the state’s waterways, beat the crowds, and get in some fishing a week early.

This past Saturday, sunny, warm and beautiful early-spring weather helped usher in the PFBC’s Mentored Youth Trout Day for youngsters under 16 and their mentors ages 16 and older.

All stocked trout waters across Pennsylvania were included in this year’s Mentored Youth Trout Day, which was canceled last March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and, which, from 2013 through 2019, had been held on two separate Saturdays to accommodate young fishermen in different regions of the state.

To participate, anglers under the age of 16 must be accompanied by a mentor angler ages 16 years or older who possesses a valid Pennsylvania fishing license and trout/salmon permit. The youth angler must either possess a Mentored Youth Fishing Permit, which is free of charge, or a Voluntary Youth Fishing License, which costs $2.97.

Because last year’s event was canceled, youth licenses for the 2020 event were honored this year.

Both the youngster and his or her mentor are permitted to fish, but only the youngster is permitted to keep two trout seven inches or longer in length.

The Mentored Youth Trout Day is truly a day for the kids.

C.J. Rinehart, 10, of Altoona, who was fishing with his father, Cody, 28, in a stretch of Canoe Creek off Turkey Valley Road last Saturday, values the time spent astream with his father.

“I haven’t caught anything yet, just a few bites,” said C.J., who began participating in the program last year with his father. “It’s pretty fun, fishing and enjoying the time with my dad.”

C.J. and his father were fishing with corn and worms as bait.

“Last year, this (day) was obviously canceled because of COVID, but I’m glad that it’s back this year to give him an opportunity to fish and to learn,” Cody said.

Several miles away, near a popular Canoe Creek fishing hole off Beaverdam Road, Jock Williams, 60, of Canoe Creek was watching his three grandchildren – Meika, 15 and Madison, 13, both of Altoona, and Phoebe, 4, of Canoe Creek, enjoying their day of fishing.

“We love it,” Jock Williams said of the Mentored Youth Trout Day. “It gives them an opportunity to fish without the adults crowding in. The first day of trout season in Pennsylvania can be pretty bad (for crowds).”

Jock wasn’t fishing himself, but his grandkids were having plenty of success.

“They caught fish, they threw a lot of them back, they only kept a couple,” Williams said. “I have my license, but I don’t even fish this day myself. I just come down with the grandkids.”

Madison Williams – who was part of a large contingent of family and friends at the stream – had caught several trout on yellow PowerBait, but had kept only one.

She has been participating in Mentored Youth Trout Day since she was very young, and appreciates the chance that the day gives youngsters to fish away from the large adult crowds that are typical of the opening day of the season.

“It’s a family thing that we have always done together,” Madison said of the Mentored Youth Trout Day. “(On the first day of trout season), it’s too crowded, everybody gets their lines tied up, and it can get annoying.

“When grown-ups fish, they try to catch them all,” Madison added. “I think this is good because it allows kids to catch at least some of them.”

Much further downstream from the Williams contingent, Mike Holencik, 67, of Canoe Creek, was with his grown son, Adam, 36, of Williamsburg. The young anglers in their party were Mike’s two grandchildren and Adam’s children – Braylyn, 8, and Benjamin, 4.

Fishing with minnows, the two young children had caught one foot-long trout apiece.

“I think it’s a great thing,” Mike said of the Mentored Youth Trout Day. “It wasn’t around when my son and daughter were growing up. It gets the kids interested in fishing and gets them away from their computers and their laptops.”

Adam appreciates the idea of having a special fishing day for the kids.

“My dad always took me fishing with him when I was a kid,” Adam said. “Now, having kids myself, I take my kids out, too, because it gives them a chance to catch a few. There are not as many people out on the Youth Day.”

And kids will always enjoy the timeless thrill of catching a fish.

“Absolutely … they light right up,” Adam said.

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