Youth pitch in with trout stocking - LancasterOnline: Sports

Youth pitch in with trout stocking

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Posted: Sunday, March 25, 2012 12:10 am | Updated: 7:15 pm, Thu Sep 12, 2013.

Austin Yost ran across the meadow toward Big Beaver Creek, leaning to the left to counterbalance the weight of the five-gallon bucket filled with water and trout in his right hand.

Despite the heavy load, the Solanco High School sophomore covered the 150 yards lightning-fast, and dumped the trout into the Providence Township stream.

"This is my second year doing this," Yost said as he hustled back to the stocking truck March 19. "I love it."

Yost was part of two van loads of students from Solanco and Lampeter-Strasburg high schools who spent part of their school day dressed in neon-yellow shirts, helping southern Lancaster County Waterways Conservation Officer Jeff Schmidt stock the Little Beaver and Big Beaver creeks in anticipation of the March 31 trout opener.

Any angler who catches a trout on either of those streams has Yost and his comrades to thank.

Every year for the past 15 years, I've followed a trout-stocking truck for one day during the preseason stockings in the county.

In the past, the hordes of volunteers following the truck primarily were gray-haired retirees.

In recent years, though, Schmidt has injected some youthful exuberance into the stockings by inviting high school groups to help out.

This year, he landed some corporate sponsorship for the teens and branded the southern end stocking schedule "WCO Schmidt's World Stocking Tour."

"They're a great help to me particularly in areas where there is rough terrain," Schmidt said of his strapping volunteer stockers. "The reality of it is a lot of my stocking help are retired guys who may or may not have some ambulatory issues.

"That was particularly evident down on the West Branch of the Octoraro at Black Rock. That's where the high school student stockers are a great benefit."

If you've ever been to the Black Rock area, then you know the going is tough, with steep, rocky banks guarding both sides of the creek.

Safety always is an issue stocking Lancaster County's trout waters, since the work basically involves shuttling buckets to streams from the stocking truck, which often parks on the shoulders of public roads.

Schmidt wanted to make sure his volunteer stockers were highly visible to passing motorists, so he convinced management at Good's Store and Ferguson & Hassler Supermarket to provide PennDOT-grade safety shirts for the students.

It was impossible not to notice all that yellow running around March 19.

Since he's currently covering northern Lancaster County in addition to his usual beat in the southern end, Schmidt enlisted help from some Manheim Central High School students this year as well.

"Some of the kids fish and so they're very knowledgeable," Schmidt said. "Others don't even know how to identify a trout."

Either way, it's nice to see some young faces out there.

P.J. Reilly is the Sunday News' outdoors writer. Email him at preilly@lnpnews.com.

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