October 05, 2010
Here's a look at what's in store for Keystone State walleye anglers in 2010. (April 2010)
Angler surveys conducted by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission have shown the walleye to be the third most popular sport fish in the state, following bass and trout. And while some might point to the fish's quality as table fare as being the reason for such popularity, I'd prefer to think of the walleye's reputation as "the thinking man's fish" as being the motive.
An angler has to be versatile to consistently catch big walleyes, and the Keystone State provides some great places for fishermen to test their skills.
The state's walleyes are managed through natural reproduction as well as the stocking of fry and fingerlings. Where conditions allow for self-sustaining populations, most commonly in rivers and riverine impoundments, no fish are stocked. Stocking is reserved for waters where conditions don't permit the survival of naturally produced walleyes.
Generally, walleye fry are a week or two old when stocked. Fingerling walleyes typically are 2 to 3 months of age. While fingerlings have a much higher survival rate, they are stocking in far fewer numbers.
For the past three years the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission has discontinued, at least temporarily, walleye stockings on the Allegheny, Juniata and Susquehanna rivers. Fall surveys aimed at evaluating young-of-the-year production from the preceding spring will help determine how well these waters are replenishing walleye numbers on their own.
Also, following several years of poor returns from spring fry stockings on Pymatuning Lake, the PFBC, along with the Ohio Division of Wildlife, began stocking fingerling-stage walleyes in spring 2008.
Thanks to excellent hatchery production between the two agencies, fingerlings have been stocked at a rate of 40 per acre (20 per acre from each source), which is double the standard rate for most state lakes. Fall surveys later in 2008 showed a strong year-class.
Fingerlings were stocked again in 2009, with even better results revealed in last year's fall survey. Hopes are that Pymatuning will soon be the walleye factory it was throughout much of the 1980s and early '90s.
Here's a look at a selection of waters expected to provide good walleye fishing this season, as well as in the years beyond:
MIDDLE ALLEGHENY RIVER
The middle portion of the Allegheny from the Kinzua tailrace downriver to the start of the navigable river near East Brady has a strong history of supplying consistent walleye fishing. Anglers can expect more of the same this spring.
According to Al Woomer, area fisheries manager, fall sampling has shown consistent year-classes, even during the past two years when walleye fry have not been stocked. Survey sites within the middle Allegheny include Oil City, President and Tidioute.
Woomer said while there was some concern at Tidioute and President, due to an absence of young-of-the-year in 2008, the sites showed good numbers last year. He also said good numbers of adult walleyes were collected during survey efforts of the past year.
A particularly strong year-class for walleye production was in 2007. Fish produced that year will be entering the fishery this year and next.
Good access sites along the middle Allegheny include Buckaloons, Tidioute, Tionesta, Oil City, Franklin, Emlenton and Parker. Much of the middle Allegheny is a shallow river, not suitable for propeller-driven boats.
For information on guide services, interested anglers should log onto www.alleghenyguideservice.com or www.keystoneconnection.com.
LOWER ALLEGHENY RIVER
The lower Allegheny takes in the last 70 miles of the river, from East Brady down to Pittsburgh. Eight lock and dam systems impound the river. The tailrace areas of each dam tend to attract walleyes, particularly from late fall through late spring of the following year.
Woomer said recent young-of-the-year surveys conducted near Templeton and East Brady, which are in the two uppermost navigation pools, have shown consistent natural walleye reproduction. Though surveys haven't been conducted recently on the lower six pools of late, good fishing the past few years indicates more can be expected this year.
Lock and dam structures are present (from south to north) near Sharpsburg (Highland Park), New Kensington, Natrona, Freeport, Clinton, Kittanning, Templeton and Rimer. The Fish and Boat Commission has ramps below the Highland Park Dam, at Springdale, Hamarville, Tarentum, Freeport, Rosston, Cowanshannock Creek, Templeton and East Brady. Many riverside municipalities provide additional public access.
Youghiogheny Lake provides a viable walleye fishery in the southwestern portion of the state, driven by a self-sustaining walleye population spawned in the river section feeding the lake and along suitable habitat found within the lake's shallows. Surveys conducted in 2007 showed a good supply of walleyes in balance with the relative infertility of the lake.
Youghiogheny Lake is along the Somerset-Fayette county border. This steep-sided impoundment covers nearly 4,000 acres. Boat landings are on Jockey Hollow, Mill Run, Somerfield (North and South) and the Tub Run Camping Area.
Though it will be another year or two before the most recent (two) year-classes enter the fishery, there are still enough walleyes in the 14,000-acre Pymatuning Lake to warrant a trip. Prior years' fry stocking efforts weren't unsuccessful, just lower than what was needed to provide the dense walleye fishing anglers had been accustomed to.
Anglers willing to work for a few bites per day are often rewarded with multiple fish over 20 inches. And, because angler pressure has waned in recent years, there is plenty of room to do so.
Pymatuning has no closed season, so spring anglers have access to shallow spawning fish. Early-season efforts should be focused along rocky points and shoals that see such activity. Some of the more productive fishing takes place at night. Later in the spring, walleyes will scatter into main-lake basins.
The motor limit was recently raised to 20 horsepower on this Pennsylvania-Ohio border water.
Boat launches on the Pennsylvania side of the lake are found at Linesville, Espyville, Snodgrass and Jamestown.
LOWER SUSQUEHANNA RIVER
Mike Kaufmann, area fisheries manager, said there is a solid walleye population in the lower portion of the Susquehanna River, which includes the section under the influence of York Haven, Safe Harbor and Holtwood dams, all of which are downriver of Harrisburg.
Kaufmann said there was an exceptional year-class produced in 2007. Walleye production has been consistent there for many years. He reported a good population of walleyes in the 16- to 18-inch range.
Access areas on the lower Susquehanna include Goldsboro, Columbia, Falmouth, Muddy Creek and Wrightsville.
Guide services are available from www.koinoniafishingguides.com.
NORTH BRANCH SUSQUEHANNA RIVER
The North Branch Susquehanna also contains a strong walleye population. Like the lower river, the North Branch experienced an exceptionally high year-class in 2007. The 2005 year-class was also quite strong, and will likely provide good numbers of legal-sized fish this year. Good hatches in other recent years will also add to the fishery.
The North Branch enters Pennsylvania (in Bradford County) from New York, and joins the West Branch near Northumberland.
Boat access areas include Bloomsburg, Danville and Tunkhannock. Guide services are available from www.northbranchoutfitters.com.
Following several years of poor walleye fishing, Lake Marburg is again producing good catches of walleyes, according to veteran walleye guide Dave Neuman. Though primarily a Susquehanna River guide, Neuman fishes Marburg at peak times, which includes the late spring, and early summer. He has had good success on Marburg walleyes the past couple of years at this time, which is right before the thermocline sets up on this deep lake.
Lake Marburg is in Codorus in southern York County. It covers 1,200-plus acres and is limited to 20-horsepower outboards. Seven boat launches are sprinkled around the lake.
For the past three years, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission has discontinued, at least temporarily, walleye stockings on the Allegheny, Juniata and Susquehanna rivers.