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Preparing for rebirth

Spring is nigh upon us. At least it seems that way. The forecasted “one-to-three inches” of snow this week was gone the next day. ’Tis nearing the season for taking a youngster fishing.

Some fishing is allowed now; check out the PA Fish and Boat website for specifics on which species are fishable and where they reside. Meanwhile, it’s a great time to get out and explore possible fishing sites in the state’s wild waters.

“Your belly’s fat,” observed a youngster I encountered on a recent wander. “You having a baby?”

“Nope,” I answered. “But I have been working on that belly a long time.”

The kid’s name was Haven; he was five years old and learning to use his powers of observation. How does one complain about that?

“We stopped to get a sandwich, then we stopped at a Rutters and got some worms,” said Ron Stine, the adult half of the Bluegill harvesting team. While we chatted, Haven cranked in another Bluegill.

Sunnies, we called them when I was a kid. Short for sunfish, called Bluegills for the blue tab they sported on each gill plate. When I was Haven’s age, we didn’t eat them because Mom said they had too many bones, another way of saying they had too little meat. But I had read the Indians used to bury one beneath each corn plant as fertilizer. Judging by the attention paid to growing corn by the local deer and raccoon population, the fishy fertilizer didn’t hurt the flavor.

A Painted turtle slipped off a low rock where it had been soaking sun. I slowly eased up the shore, trying to get a better angle while not seeming to get closer, its nose and eyes peering just above the surface. The sun glare blocked me from seeing more than a shadow below the surface.

I apologized for disturbing the critter’s sun-bathe and moved away, hoping I would return to find it back on its chosen rock.

I got a few nice photos of dragonflies and damselflies. They do not stay still – they pause momentarily, but about the time I swing the camera, they’ve gone from a standing start to about 35 mph, even backward – but getting them in flight is worth the required patience. As was the camera-caught bass I discovered hovering among some shallow weeds.

Then the snake arrived. Ron saw it first, curled back on itself, lying at the bottom of about six inches of water, only its head poking above the surface.

While we watched, the reptile swam underwater a few yards down the shore. Maybe it was hunting. I moved closer to it to get a better shot with the camera. At home, the Internet revealed it to be a Northern water snake. They are non-venomous and love to dine on frogs and small fish near the water’s edge.

Eventually, Mr. Snake (or was it Ms.) backed away from the shore, slid into about four feet of water, and swam off to the lily pads.

One of the best things a person can do is wander afield with a kid – they are closer to the ground where most interesting critters hang out. I spent many of my younger wandering days, and later with grandkids, wandering through the forest peering at bugs and other tiny critters. Even now, I have a friend with numerous pictures of me taking pictures from belly level.

It is a little early to find snakes out and about but now is a good time to begin examining the forest as it prepares to start new generations among those with whom we inhabit the planet.

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John Messeder is a freelance reporter and photographer who resides in Cumberland Township. He may be contacted at

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Bill Serfass
Bill Serfass
1 year ago

They were “sunnies” or “sun fish” in Monroe Co. where I did my crick fishing as a kid. We also had “suckers”. I don’t recall any of them getting cooked for dinner either! Thanks for the fun read!

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