Category Archives: fishing

Lure Collection

Here is the new display for my lure collection.  I’ve been working on the lures occasionally since my bait and tackle installation of 2009.

Lure Collection, 2009 - 2013

Lure Collection, 2009 – 2013

detail, Lure Collection

Detail, Lure

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Fishing Report Part II

Well, I’m back to blogging after a long holiday break.  I finally got around to condensing my Fishing Report documentary from 2009 into a ten-minute sample.  The full version is about 40 minutes long.  I cut out a lot of the scenic footage, and chopped the interviews down to give a basic idea of what the piece is about.

For those who are unaware of the project, the Fishing Report is a project that combines my interests of fishing and art into a documentary that explores the creative side – traditions, craft, rituals, etc. – of fishing.  The piece was screened at Sarver’s Bait and Tackle, a storefront installation featured at the 2009 Three Rivers Arts Festival in Downtown Pittsburgh.  The project was also supported by the Pittsburgh Foundation and the Mattress Factory.  I shot a lot of the video myself, but also had assistance from Jeremiah Johnson, Rose Clancy and Mike Cuccaro.

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Home on The Toxic Range

Pennsylvania may soon be a toxic mess.

With the election of Tom Corbett as Governor, Pennsylvania is about to be ravaged with a wave of irresponsible and minimally regulated industrialization.  If you stay in the AC, drink imported bottled water, and have all of your food flown in from organic farms, the changes probably will not affect you.  If you like to hike, fish, camp, and explore Pennsylvania’s vast forests and natural areas, you might want to find a new pastime.  Your former getaway may soon be a toxic mess.  You might also want to keep an eye on locally produced foods and your drinking water supply, unless you can handle hazardous chemicals in your system.

Industrialization can be a good thing.  Many of the small towns in rural Pennsylvania appear to be dead or dying.  New industry may revive these historic places.  On the flip side, the temporary boon could plunder the remaining small town culture and create ghost towns.

Outdoor recreation may be Pennsylvania’s largest sustainable industry.  It is not as profitable as natural gas, but it can continue indefinitely if people take care of the environment.  Most of Pennsylvania’s natural areas have undergone substantial remediation efforts over the past eighty years.  Many streams now hold populations of native brook trout.  (The PA state fish.)  Brook trout can only survive in streams with balanced ecosystems, including healthy aquatic life, shade, and cool, clean water.

The new gas extraction methods in PA require a tremendous amount of water.  In order for the operations to be profitable, water needs to be drawn from nearby streams, rivers, lakes and municipal reservoirs!   The companies take what they need; draining some streams dry and destroying delicate ecosystems.  After the drilling the waste water is extremely toxic.  Usually the water is allowed to evaporate in open pits next to the drill pads.  In some cases it is dumped back into rivers.

In August the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette announced that hazardous chemicals leftover from Marcellus Shale gas well drilling are being dumped –with minimal treatment – into the Monongahela River near Pittsburgh.  Apparently, there is some speculation about weather the chemicals can cause ill health to people.

I cannot recall a case where hazardous chemical contamination was a benefit to people, even in small quantities.  Logically, I cannot figure out how hazardous chemicals can be removed from waste at municipal water treatment facilities if waste fluids contain secret formulas developed and patented by the industry.  The bottom line – we have no idea what kind of hazardous chemicals are being dumped into our rivers.  If you put two and two together, you will realize that this waste may jeopardize potable water supplied to our homes, workplaces and schools.  If the chemicals cannot be removed before the waste is dumped into the rivers, then how will our utility companies remove them?  It is true that our tap water goes through a thorough filtration process, but how can our treatment plants filter out new high-tech chemicals if they have no knowledge of them?  For all we know, we may be ingesting diluted poisons.  If the chemicals were designed to dissolve solid rock hundreds of feet below the surface of the earth, we can’t be talking about Coca-Cola.

Through science, we know that hazardous chemicals in our environment cause cancer, birth defects, and other illnesses.  How many people are we going to put in harm’s way for a temporary supply of fuel?  Is it fair for one group to profit from the Marcellus Shale developments while the greater population is faced with a possibility of long-term suffering?

Sadly, it appears as though the majority of Pennsylvanians want the money now.  They are willing to sacrifice the future of the state for a mad rush of industry and a temporary boon.  Most of the profit will probably go to big business, Wall Street and investors elsewhere.  Slick ad campaigns (Managed by former director of HS) will brainwash people into thinking that they are doing the right thing in unconditionally supporting the gas industry. If the industry is challenged and regulated, perhaps a safer strategy can be discovered.

Media Coverage:

Do gas wells pose health risk? – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Sudden death of ecosystem ravages long creek – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Anglers concerned about decline in Monongahela River fishing – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Mon, upper Delaware on list of “most endangered” rivers in U.S. – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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Sarver’s Fishing Report Part 1

Over the past two years, my work has gravitated strongly towards projects that directly engage the public. I also aim to seek connections between art and everyday activities. In Part I of Sarver’s Fishing Report, my two great interests, art and fishing, have come to a crossroads and sparked a new project, a video piece on fishing in Pennsylvania as seen through the eyes of an artist. In working on the video, I discovered an interesting group of people with a variety of backgrounds and interests. I plan to continue work on the project and to release an hour-long piece in 2009.

Part I of Sarver’s Fishing Report

11 Minute video, 2008

Tom Sarver – Director, camera, editing
Liz Hammond – Camera
Jeremiah Johnson – Camera
Susanne Sarver – Music

Thank you – Anglers of North Park Lake & Hereford Manor Lake, Officer Furlong of The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission and North Park Sports Shop.

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Fishing Report: Big Brother on The Big Streams


I grew up fishing in Pennsylvania.  My first fishing trip involved a journey to the banks of the Ohio River near the West End Bridge.  I was five years old.  The experience began with my father, two uncles and an older cousin scrambling down a rusty metal ladder onto a crumbling concrete slab carrying me, fishing gear, a Coleman stove, lantern and a big container of dough ball.  The adults set up the rods, attaching the gooey mess of solidified cornmeal stew to our hooks.  According to my uncle Nick, the concoction was guaranteed to lure in some carp, one of the few fish species lurking the Ohio in 1980.  It was my cousin’s birthday.  He held in his hands a brand new Abu Garcia rod and reel combo.  I wielded a Zebco children’s model that was more of a toy than the tool of a mighty river angler.  Nobody really expected me to catch anything anyway.  I was terrified of falling off the concrete slab into the river, so I stood as far away from it as I could, holding my rod and sipping hot chocolate.  My uncle warned everyone,  “hold onto your rod!” but my cousin didn’t listen.  He set his pole down and it was dragged into the river faster than you can say “catfish”.   When I felt a tug at the end of my rod, I held on for dear life.  My little hands turned red as I turned the crank on my reel and fought the mighty carp to the surface.  My uncle netted the fish.  Everyone laughed as he held up a fish that was nearly as big as me.  My cousin wasn’t laughing.  He lost interest in fishing completely after that day.  I was hooked for life.

Fishing became a regular part of my life after that day.  It was a way to get away from everyday hassles, to disappear, temporarily entering a world where nobody was watching.  It gave me great satisfaction to be in a place where nobody could find me.  Whether I caught something or not, it really didn’t matter.  I enjoyed the total freedom of being in the wilderness.

Aside from the serenity that fishing offers, I have always appreciated the traditions involved with fishing in Pennsylvania.  As an artist and complete fishing geek, I would rush to the tackle shop every year just to see what species of fish were being featured on the annual fishing license.  I would fantasize about someday being the illustrator of the annual trout stamp, a full color illustration generally depicting one of the three common stream trout of Pennsylvania.

This week, as I was running errands across Pittsburgh, I decided to stop into a Kmart store to inquire about purchasing a fishing license.  In a short half hour, all of my romantic visions of fishing in PA were shattered.  I first inquired at the customer service counter,  “Does your store happen to sell fishing licenses?” I asked.  “Ya have to go back to electronics,” replied the sales associate.  I thought about how weird it was to sell fishing licenses in an electronic section, but figured, hey, its Kmart.  The store is probably on the verge of bankruptcy.  They have to cut costs somewhere.  (Merge sporting goods and electronics perhaps)?

When I found the electronics section, the associate managing that section informed me that they do sell licenses, but only if the thingamajig works.  I was baffled for a moment, until I caught sight of the fish commission’s new POS license sales computer equipment.  Straight out of the film Back to The Future, the system features a pull out keyboard just in case the four buttons located on the top of the machine fail to function.  (The system is rendered completely useless if the associate waiting on you is incapable of typing.)  According to the associate, the system is connected to a satellite and only works at certain times of the day, (Perhaps depending on cloud cover.)

At first I thought the whole thing was amusing.  I laughed to myself after thinking about how stores were going to handle working with this piece of junk on the day before the trout season opener, when mobs of last minute anglers line up at the counters.  The associate then asked me for my drivers license and swiped it through a card reader.  The machine then connected to a state computer via satellite and moments later announced that my identity had been pre-approved.  The next portion of the transaction required that my Social Security Number be entered into a touch pad for final validation.  At that point I felt a little uncomfortable.  Why do Kmart and The Pennsylvania Fish Commission need my Social Security Number?  What kind of database is the state building on fishermen and why?  Are they selling info to private companies?  Am I going to get a free month’s subscription to Field & Stream?  Is the state using this system to track down fugitives, people who have not paid their parking tickets, or kids with fake IDs?  Would I have been detained if my license transaction had been declined? Who knows?

I asked the sales associate for a copy of the 2008 state fishing guidelines and after reviewing the section on the new POS system, I felt a bit more comfortable about entering my private information into the Kmart computer.  My license request was soon approved and the machine printed out a yellow form that looked more like a UPS packing label than the familiar illustrated license with lick-and-stick trout stamp that I had always anticipated.  “I wonder if there is a tracking device embedded in this label?” I said to the associate.  “I really don’t know.  It sounds like Big Brother to me,” he responded.  As I walked out to my car, I wondered if fishing in Pennsylvania would ever be the same.  Will fish commission officers be patrolling state waters in hovercrafts outfitted with laser barcode readers?  Will I have to scan my license at a streamside computer kiosk before beginning a day of fishing?  Only time will tell.

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