In Pennsylvania, Pymatuning Lake the place to be for spring fishing

Linesville, Pa. — Muskies? Yeah, you might say Pymatuning Lake in Crawford County has a few.

Sort of like the way the night sky has a few stars.

A couple of things prove that.

First, early this spring, Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission biologists did their annual trap net survey of the 17,000-plus acre lake that straddles the Pennsylvania-Ohio border. The goal, as always, was to capture and count as many fish as possible.

In recent years, the muskie catch has been a highlight of that work.

So it was again this year.

Biologists captured 89 muskies all told. They ranged in length from 28 to 44 inches.

Word of their presence is getting around, it seems.

“The muskellunge population is in excellent shape and more anglers are beginning to target them,” reads a commission report on the survey.

Indeed they are. And with success, too.

The Three Rivers Chapter of Muskies Inc. held its annual Andy Luchovick Memorial Tournament on the lake on May 21. Forty-four anglers participated.

They caught 48 muskies, with the two largest going 47 inches and the third 44.5.

“This is a new club best for number of fish caught in a Pymatuning Lake event,” reads a post on the group’s Facebook page.

That didn’t surprise Jared Sayers, manager of the commission’s Linesville hatchery, which produces muskies for stocking.

“Pymatuning Reservoir is the ultimate muskie destination,” he said.

That’s not the only good thing going on at Pymatuning either.

This spring’s crappie fishing has been hot, according to Tim Wilson, a fisheries biologist in the agency’s area 1 office in Linesville.

His crews caught a lot of crappies in their survey. They got 1,405 black crappies, the largest 14 inches, and 92 white crappies, the largest 15.

Anglers have been doing well on them, it seems.

“It’s been crowded as can be out there. The parking lots have been full,” Wilson said. “So I’m assuming they’re catching fish.”

He has been. His time fishing for crappies has produced consistently good catches, he said.

“The average size has been tremendous. Any time you’re averaging 11 to 12 inches on the fish you’re keeping, that’s pretty good,” he said.

The hope is that the walleye fishing this year will, finally, be as good.

Last year, in 2017, biologists recorded their second-highest catch of walleyes ever, dating back to 1989. This year, they got even more.

Biologists got 3,801 walleyes. Most were nice, too. The majority of fish – 3,504, or 92 percent – measured between 15 and 22 inches. The average fish overall was 18.5, with the largest a nice 28 inches.

The catch showed that last year’s collection wasn’t an “anomaly,” Wilson said.

“The fish are there,” he said.

Anglers, though, have had a hard time catching them. Wilson acknowledged receiving “numerous complaints” from anglers.

The problem has been an overabundance of forage.

Last year, biologists collected not only tons of walleyes in their trap nets, but also a “massive year class of gizzard shad in the 5- to 7-inch range” as well. That’s in addition to the above average numbers of alewives and spottail shiners.

Simply put, Wilson said, walleyes had so much to eat they didn’t hit very well for fishermen.

This past winter may have helped that situation, though.

“With our first hard winter in several years, we saw a large die-off of gizzard shad in February and March 2018. Subsequently, this year’s trap net catches of gizzard shad were substantially lower than last year,” a commission report reads.

That’s not to say the forage base crashed. The spottail shiner catch was also lower than last year, but the alewives catch was up.

So the lake’s still got plenty of feed for predators, Wilson said. Just not as much.

And that may benefit anglers.

“From what I’ve seen, things look good,” he said.

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