Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Voices from the Past: Bob Mayer (1966)

Many readers know I am a huge fan of Thaddeus Norris. I've written a lot about his rodmaking career, but he was the most important early fish culturist who's influence was felt in many parts of the world. Bob Mayer, outdoor columnist for the Montgomery County-Record, detailed how Thad founded the sport of bass fishing in Pennsylvania in this fine June 29, 1966 column.

Bass anglers owe Thad Norris a vote of thanks

By Bob Mayer

Pennsylvania's bass season began two weeks ago on ponds and lakes throughout the state. There's a year 'round season for bass in rivers and streams, but fishing in the lakes and ponds offers a real challenge to the dedicated bass angler.

Many anglers believe this hard-fighting gamester is superior to any other gameflsh in every respect. Bass fishing is one of my favorite freshwater fishing challenges, only topped by the Atlantic salmon and muskellunge. Bass are more plentiful and readily accessible than salmon or muskies, so I can spend more time fishing for bass than the other species.

It seems incredible that more than 100 years ago, when the Pennsylvania Fish Commission was organized, not a bass was found in the waters of the Commonwealth. For the introduction of this magnificent game and table fish, we are indebted to an enthusiastic angler, "Thad" Norris, and a number of ardent Easton and Philadelphia fishermen.

Norris, who was throughly acquainted with the habits, game qualities and table merits of the black bass, broached the subject of introducing bass to Pennsylvania waters to Howard J. Reeder and G.W. Stout.

The project was started with a great deal of enthusiasm as Norris collected $1,000 and Stout $313.

With one half of the amount collected, about 450 black bass were purchased at Harper's Ferry, W. Va. These fish were mature specimens taken from the bass-loaded Potomac River, The bass were taken to the Delaware River where they were deposited Oct. 26, 1870, just below the Lehigh Dam at Easton.

Shortly afterwards, a number of public-spirited citizens residing along the Susquehanna and Schuykill Rivers, bought more bass at $1 each from the Potomac and planted them in the two rivers.

The results were beyond all expectations as the fish took kindly to their new quarters and multiplied quickly.

Bass in the 4-to-5 pound range were frequently caught in 1873 from all of these rivers. The voracity and eagerness with which they took both bait and fly, the stubbornness and vigor with which they fought when hooked, made them a favorite gamefish among anglers.

In 1873, the Board of Commissioners of Fisheries deceided to take bass from the Delaware River for stocking in other waters in Pennsylvania. Under the distribution plan, 2,044 mature bass were stocked throughout the Commonwealth in many small streams and lakes.

The widespread distribution plan resulted in an increase of bass in practically all waters in Pennsylvania.

The demand for bass became Increasingly stronger as the years passed. It was not until 1914 that the Fish Commission announced a successful method of artificial propagation of this peerless game fish. Now the bass are permitted to spawn naturally and as soon as possible after the young bass become free' swimming fry, hatchery personnel remove them from nests and place them in rearing ponds.

This is done to save the brood from the natural tendency of the parent fish to devour their own young. Safe in their own pond, the young bass are fed daphina for about five weeks. Afterwards, they are fed ground marine fish, meat products and live minnows when available.

Pennsylvania's bass season in rivers and streams is open all year and carries a 10-inch minimum size limit. The minimum size for bass taken from lakes and ponds is 12-inches. The daily limit of all species is six per day.

When you hook a lunker bass, remember "Thad" Norris. He helped make Pennsylvania's bass season a reality,

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