Photo by Ted Peck.
The arrival of spring ushers in another fishing season, replete with a lengthy menu of options. Walleyes — those finicky biters that can challenge the best of anglers — will be high on the list of many fishermen. Across the Commonwealth, Keystone anglers will find a good variety of walleye fishing venues.
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission manages the state’s walleye fisheries in various ways. Where natural reproduction occurs, harvest management — seasons and creel limits — are in place to allow anglers to take fish home while still protecting the resource.
Maintenance stocking occurs in waters that provide suitable walleye habitat, but aren’t able to sustain fishable populations through natural reproduction.
What follows is a look at several rivers and lakes across the state expected to provide good-to-excellent walleye angling during the year to come:
Al Woomer, the PFBC’s area fisheries manager, expects this expansive Allegheny River reservoir to provide good walleye fishing this year, especially during the first six weeks of the season.
“We’ve had stable recruitment of walleyes in Kinzua the past few years,” noted Woomer.
“We stock the lake with fry-stage walleyes each year. There is also evidence of natural reproduction.”
Woomer’s crew examined Kinzua Lake during the fall of last year, a survey aimed at determining the number of young-of-the-year walleyes in the lake.
Most of the walleyes caught from Kinzua will be from sub-legal size to about 20 inches. Woomer said walleyes in this lake grow at a slower rate than in other, more fertile waters. Fingerling walleyes collected during fall measure around four to six inches in length, whereas in more productive waters, they may reach eight inches.
“It takes Kinzua walleyes about an extra year to reach the legal 15-inch length,” noted Woomer.
He also noted that during tournaments held last spring, contestants brought in good numbers of walleyes in the 20-inch range.
Kinzua is a steep-sided mountain impoundment, particularly in Pennsylvania’s portion of the lake.
Steep, dropping shorelines are the norm. Walleyes are taken close to shore by pitching jigs and pulling crawler harnesses.
On New York’s side of Kinzua, the character of the lake is somewhat different, with more flats, points and shallow areas. Most of New York’s portion of the lake falls within the Seneca Indian Reservation and requires a reservation permit to fish.
A New York license is needed for fishing the segment not in the reservation, but north of the Pennsylvania state line.
Both the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Forest Service have excellent facilities around Kinzua Lake.
There is no horsepower restriction.
MIDDLE ALLEGHENY RIVER
From the Kinzua Dam tailrace north of Warren down to East Brady, the Allegheny River provides well over a hundred miles of free-flowing waters that contain good numbers of walleyes.
Middle Allegheny walleyes don’t venture too far from the larger, deeper holes and pools in the river. For the first few weeks of the season, anglers should concentrate on these slower areas. As the water warms with the arrival of summer, the fish will be found in areas of stronger, faster current, especially when they are feeding. By mid- to late-summer, it may be necessary to fish at night to have consistent success, especially during periods of sunny weather.
Many access points dot this portion of the Allegheny. Upriver there are the Starbrick and Buckaloons ramps, as well as an access found a short distance below Kinzua Dam. Downriver, ramps are available at West Hickory, Tionesta, Oil City and Franklin. In the lower portion of this stretch, there are public ramps at Emlenton, Parker and East Brady.
Longer, deeper pools may be navigated with shallow draft boats with short-shaft outboards. Jet-drive outboards are required to run lengthy river sections dominated by shallow riffles and runs.
At 1,600 acres, Glendale Lake in Prince Gallitzin State Park represents one of the better choices for anglers from the central part of the state in search of lake-dwelling walleyes.
When the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission surveyed the lake in 2001, it discovered a walleye population at historic highs. Though it’s been a few years since the lake’s walleye fishery was evaluated, it’s a good bet that Glendale continues to support a solid walleye population.
The lake contains an interesting blend of deep and shallow water. Expansive bays give way to two major basins. Because there are no pelagic baitfish such as gizzard shad or alewives in this lake, walleyes tend to respond to “classic” walleye presentations like jigging and crawler rigging. Early-season anglers, concentrating on the larger bays and the channel edges within them, should fare well.
Bob Wnuk, a PFBC fisheries manager, said the North
Branch Susquehanna River represents one of northeastern Pennsylvania’s best options for catching walleyes this year.
A couple of years ago, a drawdown conducted to permit maintenance work allowed weeds to become established in deeper zones. Weed growth was so dramatic that over the last couple of years, it has hampered summertime fishing efforts. But this year, enough time as passed that this shouldn’t be a problem, particularly not early in the season.
A number of good launches are located along Glendale Lake. A 20-horsepower motor limit is in place.
NORTH BRANCH SUSQUEHANNA RIVER
Bob Wnuk, a PFBC fisheries manager, said the North Branch Susquehanna River represents one of northeastern Pennsylvania’s best options for catching walleyes this year.
“There are several good year-classes in there,” he said. “The section of river from the New York border down to the merger with the West Branch has been good.”
Like the middle Allegheny, portions of the North Branch can be run wit
h a short-shaft outboard. Jet boats are necessary to run the shallower areas. There’s also good shoreline fishing in many areas.
Public access areas on the North Branch include Bloomsburg, West Falls, White’s Ferry, Tunkhannock, Apple Tree and Union Township.
Wnuk added that two lakes in his district, Harvey’s Lake and Francis Slocum Lake, also have good walleye populations.
“They also have a lot of forage — mainly alewives — that keep the walleyes well fed,” he noted.
Mike Kauffman, a PFBC area fisheries manager, advised anglers from the southeastern portion of the state to check out Tuscarora Lake, found in the state park of the same name.
“Things have been on the upswing,” said the biologist. “Whereas walleyes were an occasional catch in the past, the fishery is now one where anglers are targeting the fish, and catching enough of them to keep it interesting.”
Kaufmann said that three years ago, when the commission surveyed the lake last, there were good numbers of sub-legal walleyes.
Recent angler catch rates in Tuscarora Lake indicate that a good percentage of those walleyes have survived to create a decent population.
Tuscarora Lake covers about 100 acres and is limited to electric motors and non-powered boats. There’s also ample shoreline fishing. The lake lies in Schuylkill County off of Route 54 at Barnesville.
Kaufmann said the Susquehanna River downriver from Harrisburg would continue to honor its tradition as a solid walleye producer.
“The best fishing occurs below the dams between Harrisburg and the Maryland state line,” he said.
The dams Kaufmann referred to are York Haven, Safe Harbor and Holtwood. Shore-fishing in the tailrace area is available below Safe Harbor Dam from the east side of the river.
Log onto www.shwpc.com for updated messages regarding power generation, which directly affects fishing.
Numerous boat-launch sites are found on both the Lancaster and York county sides of the river. For a complete breakdown of these access points, visit the Fish and Boat Commission’s County Guide Web page at www.fish.state.pa.us/county.htm.
The 2008 walleye season will open May 3 at midnight. The creel limit is six fish, with a minimum length limit of 15 inches.