Shickshinny hoping to see benefit of new boat launch

Last updated: August 17. 2013 2:07PM - 2345 Views
By - tvenesky@civitasmedia.com

The new boat launch in Shickshinny will be celebrated with a grand opening and two bass tournaments on Sept. 14.
The new boat launch in Shickshinny will be celebrated with a grand opening and two bass tournaments on Sept. 14.
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Want a hint of the fishing opportunities that can be found in the Susquehanna River in Shickshinny? John Oast has fished the stretch several times over the last few weeks and came away amazed at the number and diversity of fish in the area. Oast caught plenty of smallmouth bass and largemouth bass along with walleye and muskie - one of which measured 36 inches.

Caught hook, line and photo

Those participating in the kayak fishing tournament won’t be bringing their fish back to the weigh-in. Because kayaks don’t have livewells, those anglers will practice catch-photo-release. According to John Oast, every angler is given a marker before the tournament. When they catch a bass, they have to place it along side a ruler and the marker and take a photograph. The marker, Oast said, is used to verify the fish was caught that day.

At the end of the tournament, all anglers turn in their memory cards and the length of each fish is reviewed. The longest fish wins.

“The whole process requires minimal handling of the fish, which is better for the fishery,” Oast said. “As regulations continue to increase to protect the bass fishery on the Susquehanna, this is the way to be able to still hold tournaments without harming the fish.”

From her backyard, Shickshinny Borough mayor Beverly Moore sees the beauty of the Susquehanna River.

She sees anglers fishing for bass in the summer and muskie in the winter. Eagles and blue herons are a common sight, and the view of the river as it meanders through the town is breath-taking, Moore says.

They are all sights that Moore wants to share with others, and a new boat launch and dock will help accomplish that goal.

The Shickshinny boat launch, complete with a floating dock, paved access road and paths - all of which is handicap accessible, opened for use on June 30. Moore hopes the facility will make Shickshinny a destination for angler and boaters and give the town a bit of an economic boost in the process.

“This launch offers access to a really nice stretch of the river,” Moore said. “I’ve gotten very positive feedback on it and every morning when I go down I always see someone fishing from the dock.”

On Sept. 14 Moore will see a lot more people fishing around the boat launch. The borough has partnered with the Suskie Bassmasters and the Pennsylvania Kayak Fishing Association to hold two bass tournaments to celebrate the grand opening of the launch.

The way Moore sees it, the fishing tournaments are the perfect way to compliment the grand opening of the boat launch. It combines two of the main elements of the launch - fishing and boating.

“This is our first tournament and I’m extremely excited,” she said. “I see it becoming an annual event.”

When Suskie Bassmasters tournament director Rob Rosencrans was contacted by Moore about the possibility of conducting a tournament for the grand opening, he was equally excited. The Suskie Bassmasters, which has 60 members, host a bass tournament on the river at Nesbitt Park every Wednesday, so shifting the operation downriver to Shickshinny for an event was an easy task.

“It means a lot to the club that she called us to do this,” Rosencrans said. “That tells me we’re doing something right.”

Rosencrans said the event will actually consist of two separate tournaments — one for power boats and another for kayaks. Rosencrans said its the first time that a power boat and kayak tournament has been held together.

John Oast, founder of the PA Kayak Fishing Association, said the event also represents the first organized kayak fishing tournament on the Susquehanna River.

“It’s an ideal opportunity to come out for the Shickshinny community and work with one of the larger bass clubs in the state with Suskie,” Oast said. “It’s a chance to showcase what kayak fishing is all about.”

To avoid issues with wakes in the river, the power boats will launch at 7 a.m. while the kayaks will head out a half-hour later. Weigh-in for the kayaks will be at 1:30 while the power boats will come in at 3 p.m.

Moore said local businesses are donating breakfast sandwiches, coffee and snacks for the anglers and the grand opening event will also feature numerous vendors.

And hopefully a large crowd.

Rosencrans said the Wednesday tournaments at Nesbitt Park always draw a crowd when the fish are weighed in, and he expects a similar turnout in Shickshinny.

“Bass tournaments are continuing to grow in popularity, not just from anglers but from those who follow them or want to see the fish that are in the river,” Rosencrans said. “We always get a lot of spectators for the weigh-ins.”

That interest is what Moore hopes puts Shickshinny on the map as far as a destination for anglers, boaters and tourists who want to enjoy the river. It’s a big turnaround from the negative perception of the river — one that was magnified in 2011 when floodwaters ravaged Shickshinny.

“The river is a part of what this town is. We’re a river town and we need to embrace that,” Moore said. “With a town the size of Shickshinny, we need to think outside of the box and make it a destination for people. The river, fishing, boating and natural beauty are a way to do that as we continue to recover from the flood.”

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