In an effort to promote fishing in the Conemaugh River, the Sandybottom Sportsman Club wants to lure anglers to the Seward area.
With trout season about to open at 8 a.m. Saturday, the club, which is only a stone’s throw away from the banks of the Conemaugh, has purchased and stocked hundreds of legal-sized trout to entice fisherman and publicize the ongoing cleanup of the waterway.
To sweeten the pot, two of the largest trout placed in the river have been tagged. Any fisherman catching a tagged trout will get a $50 prize from the club.
Pat Robinson of East Wheatfield Township, the club president, said the anglers who land the tagged fish are welcome to keep them, but the gill tag must be presented to the club to get the prize.
“We purchased 440 rainbow, brown and palomino trout ranging from 11 to 17 inches and placed them in several areas adjacent to the club grounds,” Robinson said.
“The prize will be paid anytime between Saturday and opening day of 2015.”
Anyone lucky enough to land a tagged fish may contact the sportsman club at www.sandybottomsportsmanclub.org, call Robinson at 446-5198 or stop by the club, which is located along Route 56 in Seward Borough.
Club meetings are held at 7:30 p.m. the first Sunday of every month
“We were advised by the (state) Fish Commission to place the fish near the Route 56 bridge that crosses the Conemaugh,” Robinson said. “We also placed some upstream, where we hope they scatter throughout the river and seek water in deeper holes.”
As many as 600,000 anglers may be on the water statewide Saturday. In 2013, fishing licenses sold in Cambria County amounted to 17,671. Other counties’ sales included Westmoreland, 23,845; Somerset, 8,239; and Indiana, 9,022.
The Conemaugh River has seen much improvement in water quality through the years, thanks to conservation and cleanup efforts.
Members of Sandybottom have had two previous stockings to help propagate the river’s fish population.
Last April, the club stocked hundreds of bass, bluegill, catfish and minnows. In October, over 400 walleye were dumped in the rock-strewn river.
“Many of the fish we stocked are at the age where they will be able to spawn in about six months,” Robinson said.
Anglers are welcome to park near the river at a small lot on club grounds.
Robinson said it is part of the club’s creed to promote fishing and hunting in an ethical manner.
“By encouraging families to use the river, we would hope it will promote other interests like kayaking and canoeing,” he said.
“We would like to thank the Seward-area businesses and individuals who donated money to help us purchase fish.”
But the club also pays something forward to the community by offering a free fishing derby for children ages 15 and younger on Mother’s Day weekend.
The club will welcome kids from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 10 and 11 to a free fishing event at Migut’s Lake, formerly Fry’s Lake, along Route 56 between Seward and Armagh.
“Last year we had over 90 kids participate,” Robinson said. “We allow one rod per child and when a line is unattended, it must be reeled in.”
Children are eligible for prizes and receive a token for a free hot dog, bag of chips and a beverage.
Tom Lavis covers Features for the Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter.com/Tom LavisTD.