By Jordan Cohen
For four hours Saturday, about 125 people ignored threatening skies and occasional rain to experience a once-a-year fishing treat: casting their lines in the pristine waters of Meander Creek Reservoir.
“I can scratch this off my bucket list,” said Craig Richards of Youngstown as he tossed another line into the water. “It’s a blessing and a privilege to be here.”
The Mahoning Valley Sanitary District, the water supplier for Youngstown, Niles, McDonald and all or part of 15 other communities, opened the west dam section of the reservoir for public fishing for the first time since 2012 — the only time that fishing will be permitted in the reservoir this year. Last year’s event was limited to veterans.
This year, the MVSD limited the number of fishermen to 200, but weather appeared to hold down the turnout.
In addition, the MVSD imposed a strict rule to protect the area’s largest water supply.
“They are not permitted to use live minnows as bait because we don’t want to introduce any possible pollution into the water,” said Anthony Vigorito, MVSD chief engineer.
Weathersfield police, along with MVSD staff and maintenance people, patrolled the fishing site and reported no problems.
“We know we have to be conscious of the environment,” said Richards, who fished alongside his father, Adam, also from Youngstown. “It only takes one to ruin this.”
From the rocks of the west dam and the green, flat spillways nearby, men, women and a few young children cast their lines in search of bass, blue gill and perch. Most tossed whatever they caught back into the water.
“I caught a 5-pound and 4-pound bass, but I let them go,” said John Breedlove of Girard. “My only complaint is that it’s pretty muddy, and I should have brought boots.”
“I just think it’s great to be out here, and any fisherman will tell you that,” said Richard Kundracik of Boardman, who was accompanied by his daughter, Melissa Osborne of Wooster. Kundracik said he tossed back the small bass he had caught. His daughter said her luck was not as good, but agreed the best part was being there.
“I didn’t catch anything, but that’s all right,” she said.
The view along the west dam was reminiscent of a pastoral oil painting with fishermen standing on the rocks, the silent waters in front of them and heavily clouded and darkening skies above. At one point, an eagle soared overhead as if to survey the rare scene below. Vigorito said MVSD employees discovered the eagle’s nest recently.
Ron Trimble of Youngs-town brought along his 7-year old son, R.J., but had to help him as his son’s poles would tangle each time the youngster tried to cast them.
“I want to catch a shark,” exclaimed R.J., unaware that no such predators are to be found in the waters of Meander.
“He’s using a large rubber minnow, and it’s big enough to catch just about anything out there,” Trimble said.
Several of the maintenance people said they found very little to clean up afterwards, a sign that those who took advantage of the fishing opportunity were well aware of their responsibilities.
“These are nature people, and they appreciate having this experience,” Vigorito said.