Larry Russell’s spinner smacked the rocks on the far side of Bowman’s Creek and plopped into the water.
The Tunkhannock angler tugged the line, but it pulled taut.
A bite? No, just snagged.
After easing it back, he pulled up a limp string.
“That was a good spinner, too,” he grumbled before deftly attaching a new one and pinching the line in his teeth before tightening the knot.
Saturday was the first day of trout season. Anglers across the region rose early to find spots along creeks and lake shores before the 8 a.m. opener.
At Lackawanna State Park, Frank Rosenski of Clarks Green and his fishing mate, Dennis Jones of Clarks Summit, had camped at the park the night before, a long-held tradition. “We were up today, what, 5:30?” Rosenski said to Jones. “Breakfast, coffee, fire, warmth,” before heading down to the shore with their kids.
The lone brown trout they caught swam lazily in a 5-gallon bucket. They planned to release it if they didn’t catch enough to make a meal. The two blamed it on the state Fish and Boat Commission stocking the lake earlier in the year.
“They used to stock three or four days before and the action was better,” Rosenski said.
Park Manager Kevin Koflanovich said one school of thought says trout need about a week to acclimate before becoming active.
He couldn’t explain the campers’ misfortune as park ranger Kayleigh Cornell approached to report that most of the anglers she surveyed started reeling them in right away.
“That’s why they call it fishing, not catching,” Koflanovich said, grinning.
New annual fishing license sales have been on a steady, slow decline the past three years, according to Fish and Boat Commission data.
In 2013, the commission issued 73,589 annual licenses and permits in Northeast Pennsylvania’s seven-county region. That dropped less than 1 percent in 2014 to 73,380.
In 2015, it dropped again, another 3 percent, to 71,397. No 2016 data are available.
The decline was apparent Saturday as Jones and Rosenski pointed toward the shoreline near the boat launch, where a few dozen anglers stood. A couple of years ago, you couldn’t even see the grass beneath all the people, they said.
On the western end of the lake, where it feeds South Branch Tunkhannock Creek, about a dozen anglers cast their lines from a cement ledge overlooking the cascading stream.
Jennifer St. John of Clarks Summit was just setting up her tackle and unwrapped a brand new spinner from the box.
“I always get my license; I usually bass fish,” she said, adding it’s been about 15 years since she last went out for trout on the first day. “I figured, it’s a beautiful day, why don’t I trout fish today?”
The Lackawanna River at Sweeney’s Beach in Scranton was void of anglers late Saturday morning except for Anna Fenton, 10, her dad, Bruce Fenton, and two family friends.
She didn’t catch any trout, but, with her dad’s help, hooked a humongous carp, one they said likely weighed about 40 pounds.
It thrashed against the line as Anna reeled it in where it flopped against the sandy shoreline.
In an instant, the 8-pound line snapped and the monster slipped deep into the greenish water.
Not deterred, Anna quietly grabbed her pole, clambered a little farther upstream and dropped her line to go again.