The Susquehanna River, between Tunkhannock and Sayre, ran strong and shallow in the riffles and deep and placid in the pools; fishermen sat tranced and stubbled in old boats or stood chest-deep in the water. The Susquehanna is not a fancy river. It runs untended between untended banks, and it isn't exactly full of fish.
"Any luck, men?" Warden Stephen Shabbick laid a hand on the gunwale of an old boat and pulled gently alongside; a pale little boy, fishing with his father, looked at him doubtfully. The boy wore shorts, an undershirt, out-size sunglasses and galoshes.
"One little boy about your size, down the river, caught a 27-inch walleye," Shabbick's partner, Clair Fleeger, said. "Biggest fish we've seen today. May I have a look at your license, sir?" The boy's father produced his fishing license, then his motor license. Shabbick checked the number against the number on the outboard. He counted life preservers, pulled up the stringer and looked at two bass, small but not "shorts," and peered into the bait bucket.
"They seem to be hitting Sonics down the river," the warden told the boy's father. "Good luck!"
Shabbick and Fleeger moved upstream. They had been up at 6 and on the river by 7. They were checking licenses, life preservers, motors, fish and bait. They were watching for dead fish—a tanker of hydrochloric acid had gone into the river at Waverly, N. Y., and if there was going to be any toxic pollution it should show up in Laceyville shortly.
"It wasn't so bad with the sewage that was running in, but now they got that gosh-durned stuff from the mines," a fisherman grumbled to Fleeger. "That sewage isn't so bad—fertilizes the river."
"Well, it is and it isn't," Fleeger said temperately. "Bacteria takes a lot of the oxygen out of the water and you have a lot of fish killed. And think of all the poor people who have to drink it."
"Hey, you're the guy who promised to look at a pond for me over at Beaumont," another fisherman told Shabbick.
"I was over there that afternoon with the supervisors," Shabbick said.
"No, no, that's my brother. He's the one with the bulldozer. I wanted to move a crick."