Sunday, March 25, 2012

State Opens First Trout Trail

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Pennsylvania has long had hiking trails, bike trails and ATV trails. More recently, it's even had water trails. Now, it's got its first trout trail.
And it's right here in southwestern Pennsylvania.
Representatives of local tourism organizations, Trout Unlimited, the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and others have given birth to the Laurel Highlands Trout Trail, a "pathway" that fly fishermen can follow to enjoy good angling on public lands from Ligonier to Ohiopyle.
George Daniel
Champion fly fisherman George Daniel

The idea for it grew out of an episode on the Outdoor Channel, said Monty Murty of Ligonier, president Trout Unlimited's Forbes Trail chapter and Pennsylvania's representative on its national council. It featured Spruce Pine, N.C.
"It was all about fly fishing in this little town, and as I watched it, I realized it was so much like Ligonier. It had a downtown trout stream, sort of upscale tourist stops, all that," Murty said.
"And I realized it was being featured just primarily because of a promotional thing, a strategy."
He thought his hometown could be marketed in the same way. As he started talking to others, though, the idea grew from focusing on one town to the greater Laurel Highlands "corridor."
The result is the regional trail, which highlights opportunities to fish waters ranging from stocked Loyalhanna Creek to wild trout streams like Camp Run and Quebec Run to the trophy fishery of the middle Youghiogheny River.
Fly fishermen are being targeted in particular -- and are a large reason so many non-fishing-specific businesses are involved in the trail effort -- because of the demographic they represent, Murty said.
According to research done by the Recreational Fishing and Boating Foundation and the Outdoor Foundation, the most common income bracket for all freshwater anglers is $25,000 and $49,999 per year. The typical fly angler, by comparison, earns $100,000 annually.
A study done by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, meanwhile, found that trout anglers tend to be more educated and to spend more on things like transportation, guide services and equipment annually than other freshwater fishermen.
"I kind of repeat the old joke that trout fishing in Pennsylvania is like attending church: many attend but few understand," Murty said. "Once people start to see the demographics of fly fishing, they start to think wow, these are the people we should be marketing to."
The trout trail is not just about fishing, though.
Olga Herbert, executive director of the Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor, a tourism group, said it has three goals: to get area residents to understand the importance of protecting the resources in their own back yard; to promote tourism; and to spark economic development. It will best succeed at all of those if trail organizers can reach more than just the fishermen in families, she said.
"We already have a lot of fellas who come here to fish. We're trying to get moms and children to come in, to stay overnight and to see what the area is all about," Herbert said.
That's why places like Fort Ligonier, Compass Inn Museum and the Ligonier Theater are offering promotions and hosting events in connection with the trail, she said.
"We're hoping that this is going to be well received," she said. "This is something new. I'm pretty excited."
"We're going to show the value of cold clean water, that it pays, it doesn't cost," Murty agreed.

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