(Editor's note: The Linesville Spillway is part of the Pennsylvania state park system and a threatened government shutdown Monday could limit services at the attraction.)



There’s something fishy about this story.

It’s a classic tale of two species co-existing at a manmade monument to, well, a free lunch.

It’s been told time and again, yet doesn’t grow stale to those who’ve seen the scores of carp flip-flopping on a lake shore as ducks and geese walk over them vying to catch a mouthful of cheap bread.

It’s the tale of the Linesville Spillway, a real-life rural legend that needs to be updated this year.

Things have changed at the one-of-a-kind tourist attraction. About $2.8 million has been spent in the last year to renovate the landmark, Pymatuning State Park Manager Pete Houghton said.

The cash wasn’t spent for the carp.

They know how to fend for themselves, Houghton said, but the shore near the spillway was deteriorating and the buildings showing signs of age.

Things are different now as newly installed railings overlook the stabilized shoreline and a new concession stand/gift shop also sports modern restrooms with running water. The whole shebang is also handicapped-accessible now, Houghton said.

It’s safer for everyone, said Mark Gross, who runs the concession stand.

“Obviously it’s a heck of a lot better than it was,” Gross said. “The improvements are so noticeable.”

The spillway closed about a year ago and reopened Memorial Day weekend.

On Tuesday afternoon, the parking lot was packed.

People lined the smooth sidewalk along the freshly painted railing where a rusting chain-link fence once separated the humans from the fish and fowl.

What hasn’t changed is the hilarity people of all ages seem to get out of chucking stale bread into the shallows where carp and geese wait to suck it up.

It’s tough not to smile at the sight of the slimy, scaly, capacious carp fighting over the free food.

Couple that with ducks and geese waddling atop them, waiting for the chance to catch a crumb, and you get one of Pennsylvania’s top tourist traps.

Between 300,000 and 400,000 people visit each year, Houghton said.

Folks, fish and fowl feed off of each other.

Although Houghton said some believe the carp are corralled in the area, they can come and go as they please, but “pretty much like you and I” they can’t turn down a free lunch.

“Last year (when the spillway was closed) they went out and fended on their own,” he said.

It didn’t affect their size this year.

The current crop is fat and getting fatter.

Be it buns or bagels, baguettes or doughnuts, they suck it all down, and keep coming back for more.

Some slide down the bowl of the spillway that gives it its name.

That’s where the upper 2,500 acres of Pymatuning that’s a wildlife refuge drains into the lower 14,000 acres that’s a playground for fishermen, swimmers and campers.

The bowl of the spillway and area around it hasn’t been changed by the renovation, although plans to improve it are in the works, but not to be done anytime soon, Houghton said.

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