Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Trout Season Opening-Day Traditions Fade

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Trout Season Opening-Day Traditions Fade

Article excerpt

At precisely 8 a.m. Saturday, anglers will plunk baits into lakes and streams at the opening moment of the statewide trout season.

For some families and fishing buddies, the long-held Pennsylvania tradition will include a hearty breakfast served at the confluence of trout fishing, civic responsibility and pancakes.

Many rural communities capitalize on the annual influx of opening-day anglers with fundraising breakfasts benefiting volunteer fire departments, churches, community centers and other nonprofit organizations. Staffed by local volunteers, the events can draw sizable crowds and raise thousands of dollars.

But in recent years, the opening-day fundraiser tradition has begun to wane. Organizers say the aging volunteers who have set up the card tables, fried the eggs and poured the coffee are not being replaced by a busier, more mobile generation that seems less anchored to their hometowns. Anglers, too, are more rushed. Breakfast organizers believe Pennsylvania is gradually losing a quaint rural tradition as well as the revenue it brings to civic organizations.

"Twenty years ago, you could go to a fire hall at 4 a.m. and get breakfast before going to your fishing hole," said Art Grguric, manager of the annual opening-day Wild Game Breakfast at Blackleggs Creek Memorial Park near Saltsburg, Indiana County. "It's a lot of work to put this on. I'm grateful for the help we get, but a lot of people don't have the time to make the commitment. I wish I had the answer."

Angler Ron Taylor of Moon used to volunteer at a Westmoreland County fishermen's breakfast until the event closed.

"These pancake breakfasts were a huge attraction at the opening of trout and buck seasons. You don't see that as much anymore," he said. "It could be that things are changing. There are so many McDonald's and Sheetzes now where you can stop by and grab a breakfast sandwich. Also, guys used to go to a camp and stay several days. Now you see a lot more one-day hunters and fishermen who are too rushed to go over to the fire hall."

Mr. Taylor said the loss of the sportsmen's breakfasts is cutting into the camaraderie and trade of fishing stories. But more tangible is the loss of revenue for civic organizations.

For small-town churches and community recreation centers, the closing of a bacon-and-eggs benefit can cut a couple thousand dollars from the yearly budget. Volunteer fire departments that are not funded by the municipalities they serve can find it harder to absorb the absence of angler revenue.

"Our annual budget of $70,000 to $80,000 will be gone by the end of the year. We don't get any tax money," said Jim McConnell, assistant chief and president of Volant Volunteer Fire Company, which for 40 years has sponsored a buckwheat pancake breakfast near the banks of Neshannock Creek in Lawrence County. …

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