Saturday, September 9, 2017

Different Kind Of Fishbowl

Pymatuning Spillway offers quick trip for a carp-load of fun


Tribune Chronicle correspondent

Visitors to the Spillway in Pymatuning State Park sit on benches and watch waterfowl on the reservoir. Tribune Chronicle photos / Jennifer Martinek

LINESVILLE, Pa. — Driving down U.S. Route 322 toward Andover, the scent of freshly cut grass suddenly fills the car. Breathing in deeply, I take in as much of the country air as possible.
The moving scenery is speckled with farm houses and large, newly plowed fields. Every once in awhile, there will be a small mom-and-pop restaurant or gas station that interrupts the rhythm.
Continuing along at a decent speed, occasionally slowing down for an Amish buggy pulled by a single horse, I reach my destination — the Pymatuning Spillway.
The Spillway is located at 12318 Hartstown Road, in Pymatuning State Park in Linesville, Pa., only about 55 minutes away from the the Warren / Niles area.
The main attraction is feeding bread to the carp, ducks and any other waterfowl. The fish will physically jump on top of one another just to get a taste of the tiny morsels that are thrown to them. Sometimes, the ducks appear to run across the backs of the fish to beat them to the bread, giving the site its unofficial motto, “Where the ducks walk on the fish.”
After just a few minutes, I came upon a mother and her three children. They were leaning over the railing watching the ducks waddle over to try to snatch small pieces of bread before the thick carpet of frenzied fish could get to them. I had brought a loaf of bread myself and offered some to the kids.
As they took turns throwing the bread to the carp, I engaged in some small talk with their mother. She said that they had come in from Pittsburgh to feed the fish.
We reminisced about how it was before the park added the parking lots and concession stand with bathrooms. I added the part about the restrooms because when I had visited the Spillway with my mother over 30 years ago (now I’m showing my true age), there were none. We would have to go into the neighboring town and use one at a gas station or restaurant.
The Spillway attracted visitors well before its completion in 1934. Originally, carp, geese, ducks, and other wildlife gathered to feast on the smorgasbord of crayfish, insect larvae and plant material that would flow over the spillway.
As the number of tourist increased, roadside vendors started providing bread to feed the fish. Today, more than 300,000 yearly visitors make this one of their vacation stops.
When all of the bread had been thrown, I headed up towards the concession stand. There I met Becca. Becca is the daughter of Barb Hogan, who is the owner / manager of the establishment. She told me that she works with her mom in the concession stand, and also does a variety of other jobs.
When asked if there was anything specific that she was saving her money for, she responded, “I want an Apple computer, and after that a car.” Becca also told me that she loves the big cities. As she puts it so eloquently, “I live in the boonies. There is nothing around.”
Becca told me that on any given day, there were five to six people working at a time.
“Usually there’s two working in the concession stand, two gathering the garbage, and one or two doing general maintenance,” she explained.
I asked her how long they had been working there and she said they had been there for three years, but have a lease for 10 years.
After thanking Becca for the talk, I walked back to the car to get ready for the trip home.
It’s amazing how your memories come flooding back even after being away for so many years, remembering how the area looked before the addition of the concession stand, parking lot and even areas that families can sit down and have a quick bite to eat.
So if you are looking to add another place onto your vacation list, don’t forget to add the Spillway in Pymatuning State Park.
There are also other activities to do at Pymatuning, such as watch for eagles at Wilson Launch, take a kayak or canoe trip on the Shenango River, explore the history of the swamp reservoir and dam at the Gatehouse, choose from seven trails to explore, or spend a weekend at the Jamestown or Linesville campground.
Pymatuning State Park covers 16,892 acres around the 17,088-acre Pymatuning Reservoir, and features boating, fishing, swimming, camping, hiking and hunting among other recreational opportunities, and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission operate a fish hatchery and visitor center, and the Pennsylvania Game Commission has wildlife viewing areas at the park.
If you happen to stop by the Spillway make sure to say “hi” to Becca and her mother, Barb. Tell them Jen sent you.
 #pymatuning #spillway #carp #fish #travel #writing #jenstravels

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