PFBC officer Aaron Lupacchini on new trout regs for Lehigh River.
WHITE HAVEN — From the opening day of trout season in April until the hottest days of summer, Daniel Zlockie fishes the Lehigh River several days a week.
In March, he spends some time on the river helping to get it ready for the upcoming trout season.
Zlockie, of Mountain Top, was one of a handful of volunteers who turned out on Friday to help the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission stock the Lehigh River in preparation for the April 15 start of trout season. It’s something Zlockie has done each preseason for the last 10 years, even when the weather takes a turn for the worse as it did on Friday.
Still, a late winter snowstorm and plummeting temperatures couldn’t chill Zlockie’s enthusiasm for the preseason stocking.
“I have a passion for fishing and that’s why I come out and help,” he said. “They put some quality fish in here and they really take care of the Lehigh River.”
On Friday, two PFBC trucks hauled in loads of brown and rainbow trout from the Benner Spring State Fish Hatchery, where they were released in the Francis E. Walter Dam and down through the Lehigh River into White Haven. Waterways Conservation Officer Aaron Lupacchini said rainbow and brown trout are stocked because they adapt best to both the river and lake environments.
Despite slippery snow-covered banks, Lupacchini and the volunteers hauled buckets full of trout to the river and spread them out in the cold current.
Lupacchini said the Lehigh River is one of the top trout fisheries in the region, and anglers count on the fish being there for opening day.
“It’s very important to them. Even though this stretch of the river is open to year round fishing, there’s still a large segment of anglers who won’t fish it until opening day,” he said. “It’s very common to see three generations of anglers out here on opening day, fishing the same spots that they have for years.”
The river was originally scheduled to be stocked on April 4 but the date was moved up to Friday because the stretch below the dam is open to year-round fishing. Still, trout can’t be kept until the April 15 opening day.
The river will receive two more stockings of trout after the season starts – April 26 and May 16.
Lupacchini said the preseason stocking is the first step toward building the trout fishery each year on the river, and angling activity reflects just how popular it is.
“Even in July and August when there’s no activity on other streams because they’re too warm, there are still anglers out here having success,” Lupacchini said. “The fly fishing really picks up on the river in the summer.”
Zlockie said the habitat found in the river, along with water flow, depth and a mix of rapids and pools, make for an ideal place for trout fishing for most of the year.
And even though he spent Friday carrying buckets of fish and not a rod and reel, Zlockie was excited to see things get underway.
“It’s very gratifying to come out and help with a preseason stocking,” he said. “It’s a way to give something back.”
Changes on the Lehigh River
Section 6 of the Lehigh River, which extends from the Francis E. Walter Dam to the confluence with Sandy Run, and the dam itself are open to fishing year round. Trout must be released until the season officially begins.
“Using barbless hooks and artificial lures are a good idea because that will reduce incidental mortality,” Lupacchini said. “If a trout does swallow the hook, don’t try to remove it but rather cut the line and release the fish.”
Another change on the river this year is a new stretch that will be stocked in Carbon County. The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission will stock trout in the river from a point starting three-tenths of a mile upriver from the railroad bridge crossing at Glen Onoko down to the confluence with Mauch Chunk Creek. That stretch is not open to year round fishing and will remain closed until opening day.
Reach Tom Venesky at 570-991-6395 or on Twitter @TomVenesky