Beginning Saturday, April 2, anglers will be casting everything from spinners, minnows, worms, PowerBaits, marshmallows even bread, to some of the thousands of trout that have been stocked by the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission for the statewide trout season opener. The season kicks off at 8 a.m. with a creel limit of five and a minimum fish length of seven inches.
After the initial in-season stockings, there will be more trout upcoming. The fleet of white commission stocking trucks will add even more trout to area waters. The stocking schedule for Lehigh County is as follows, but keep in mind not all sections of streams will be stocked on a given day:
4/4: Switzer Creek, Jordan Creek; 4/6: Jordan Creek; 4/9: Jordan Creek; 4/10: Jordan Creek; 4/12: Jordan Creek, Coplay Creek; 4/13: Swabia Creek, Little Lehigh Creek; 4/18: Little Lehigh Creek, Cedar Creek; 4/18: Little Lehigh, Cedar Creek; 4/21: Maiden Creek, Ontelaunee Creek, Pine Creek; 4/22: Coplay Creek, Trout Creek; 4/25: Jordan Creek; 4/28: Jordan Creek; 4/29: Swabia Creek, Little Lehigh Creek, Cedar Creek.
Herb Gottschall, president of Lehigh Fish & Game Association, said the club stocked 64 palomino (golden rainbow) trout in the Little Lehigh and will stock another 60 there on May 1. The trout were donated by Cabela’s in Hamburg. Gottschall also said the association will hold their 100th year anniversary and trout derby on May 7 and 8 on the Little Lehigh. Further details on this will be forthcoming.
Over in Northampton County, the in-season stocking schedule is as follows:
4/4: Monocacy Creek; 4/5: Lehigh Canal; 4/7: Hokendauqua, Indian Creek; 4/11: Lehigh Canal; 4/14: Jacoby Creek, Martins Creek; 4/15: Bushkill Creek, Little Bushkill Creek; 4/19: Hokendauqua Creek; 4/20: Monocacy Creek, Saucon Creek; 4/26: Bushkill Creek; Little Bushkill Creek; 4/28: Minsi Lake; 10/13: Minsi Lake.
For mentored youth under 16, the fish commission stocked a total of 3,100 brown and rainbow trout in a three-tenth of a mile stretch of the upper Jordan Creek within the Trexler Zoo. The area runs from the ford crossing upstream to the small bridge. Again, this is for kids-only until May.
The fish commission will again include in this year’s stocking the Keystone Select Stocked Trout Waters, a program where sections of 24 streams across the state are stocked with large 14-20-inch trout that are managed under Delayed Harvest Artificial Lures Only or Miscellaneous Special Regulations. Under this program, approximately 10,000 large trout will be distributed among these streams at a rate of 175-225 per mile of stream. Veteran anglers may want to seek out these waters for exceptional size trout.
In addition to trout, there have been several reports of shad being caught in the Delaware River. As the old saying goes, when Forsythia start to bloom (which they are) and river water temperature is right, shad start their spawning trip up the Delaware and beyond.
Appearing on the Delaware River Fishing Reports Facebook page, one angler reported catching his first shad on March 20 compared to last year when he caught his first one on March 26. On the 20th, he went two for four in an hour. He caught all of them on John Augustine shad flutter spoons.
So anglers can try for trout in the morning and shad in the afternoon when Delaware River water temperatures rise.
With two weeks before the opening of trout season on April 2, and before the Mentored Youth Trout Day March 26, many anglers are itching to wet a line. Until then, you may want to try the New Jersey shore points for stripers.
According to fishing reports from On the Water Magazine, New Jersey back bays are heating up with large bass arriving around the rivers and will soon be moving into open water within the bays. The best weekend bet will be to soak bloodworms along the bay areas and there are plenty of spots so a boat is not always needed, especially during the early part of the season.
The reports indicate bloodworms were getting it done up north in the Raritan with more stripers coming in towards the end of the month. The bridges, of Ocean, Atlantic and Cape May counties have an excellent number of stripers being caught. In addition, it’s reported that some of the sedges and marshes have good access to channels or points that typically hold striped bass during this time of year. A few jumbo bloodworms or a bloodworm ball on an inline circle hook will do the trick.
More specifically, The Reek Seat in Brielle reports their backwaters are full of schoolies with some bass up to 35 inches being caught on artificials such as the Yo-Zuri Ma dater, Yo-Zuri twitch bait and soft plastics like paddletail shads. And fishing these in the back bays and rivers should be productive.
Grumpy’s Tackle in Seaside Park reports lots of stripers in the bays and rivers with most fish falling for soft plastics and bloodworms. Stripers are also being caught in the open water of back bays with boat anglers trolling SP minnows to help locate fish before casting for them.
Fisherman’s Supply Co., in Point Pleasant Beach, reports most anglers are hooking stripers in bays but close to the tidal rivers. They say the tide doesn’t seem to matter whether incoming or outgoing, anglers are still catching fish. Some small bass are moving into Point Pleasant Canal but the majority are in the rivers around bridges. Bass are biting during the day and night with most fish coming on 4-5-inch plugs such as Rapala X-Raps or small Yo-Zuri Mag Darters or by jigging Bass Assassins and ZMan soft plastics. Bloodworms are also working, but more fish are being taken on artificials.
If you haven’t already, it’s time to get your trout gear ready. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to spool on some fresh line and check rod guides for any burrs. Reels too could use a shot of lube. And don’t forget to check hip boots and waders for cracks or holes that may have developed over winter storage.
As for bait and tackle, especially if heading to Leaser Lake or the upper Jordan Creek to fish, Bob’s Wildlife Taxidermy in Orefield has expanded their bait shop with large coolers for meal worms, crawlers and nightcrawlers along with tanks for Rosie reds and fathead minnows plus shiners. Bob’s also has an array of terminal tackle, Power Bait, Power Worms and spinners.
Deer hunters in the U.S. harvested an estimated 6.3 million white-tailed deer in the 2020-21 seasons
Pennsylvania deer hunters will be interested to know that there have been 6.3 million white-tailed deer harvested in the United States in the 2020-21 hunting season. This figure comes from the latest Deer Report from the National Deer Association (NDA).
The NDA’s report shows that harvests of both antlered bucks and antlerless deer were up over the 2019 season, and the estimated buck harvest of 3,041,544 was the most in 21 years.
According to kip Adams, NDA’s Chief Conservation Officer, “2020 saw the highest buck harvest in the new century and amazingly, we estimate that we set another new record for the percentage of these bucks that were 3-5 years old or older. U.S. hunters are taking fewer yearling bucks and harvesting more of them as mature deer, but this doesn’t mean fewer bucks taken overall. We’re taking older bucks and more bucks than ever in America.”
The NDA report says the steadily climbing percentage of 3-5-year-old and older bucks in the harvest is the result of declining pressure nationwide on yearling bucks (1-5 years old). Only 26 percent of the 2020 antlered buck harvest were yearlings, another new record low in modern history. The total buck harvest of 3,041,544 was up 5.3 percent from the previous season. It’s estimated 41 percent of them were 3-5 years old and older, or 1.2 million.
While hunters took slightly more bucks in total in the record 1999 season, the national harvest at that time was more than 50 percent yearlings. Therefore the 2020 season likely saw the greatest number of mature bucks killed by American hunters in modern history.
Nationally, the antlerless harvest (which includes does and buck fawns) jumped 12 percent from the previous season to 3,207,937, reversing a three-year decline and putting the number back above 3 million for the first time since 2013, says the NDA.
The antlerless harvest estimates also climbed above the antlered buck harvest for the first time since 2016. Modern antlerless harvests first surpassed the buck harvest in the 1999 season and remained there until it dipped slightly below the buck harvest in 2017, 2018 and 2019.
“We know 2020 hunting licenses sales increased by about 5 percent over 2019, and those license buyers took home half a million more whitetails than previous season, or an increase of almost 9 percent,” said Adams. “They helped increase the antlerless harvest back above the buck harvest where it needs to be, but they also saw more mature bucks in the woods than ever before. Hunters are clearly reaping the benefits of more naturally balanced age structures in herds across the whitetails range.”
Other interesting facts found in the new Deer Report are as follows:
*65 percent of deer taken in the 2020-21 season were killed with a firearm compared to 26 percent with archery equipment and nine percent with a muzzleloader.
*Texas had the highest total buck harvest of any state in the nation at 449,933, but Alabama had the greatest increase in buck harvest from the previous season of any state, climbing more than 27,000. Pennsylvania had the highest buck harvest in the Northeast at 174,780, while Michigan killed the most in the Midwest at 219,387.
*Delaware increased its buck harvest by the greatest percentage of any state with 57 percent, and Delaware also took over the top spot in the buck harvest per square mile, at 3.9 percent.
*Mississippi killed the most bucks per 100 hunters at 74.
More information from the NDA’s report can be found at www.deerassociation.com/2022-deer-report/.
Within the past two weeks you may have noticed the arrival of robins. Last Thursday I had nine at one time in my yard as they hunted for worms. They’re arrival in the beginning of March signals the time to prepare nest boxes for a variety of nesting birds ranging from wrens and bluebirds to screech owls. As such and if you haven’t already done so in the fall, now’s the time to clean out or repair existing bird houses for the nesting season and perhaps plan for new additions that can be made or purchased from a hardware or birding store or the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC).
If you decide to build your own, it’s necessary, says the PGC, to provide the right size of bird house for the bird(s) you wish to attract. The trick, they say, is to provide a bird house that will permit birds from the size of wrens to bluebirds to enter the hole in the bird house. But it should be small enough to exclude large birds like starlings and House Sparrows. The latter two are non-native species that aggressively compete with and exclude native birds from natural cavities. Henceforth, providing a nest or bird house with the smallest possible opening will permit wrens, chickadees and bluebirds inside.
Predation, says the PGC, is an even bigger concern so it’s important that nest boxes are protected from raccoons, squirrels, chipmunks, snakes and other nest robbers.
Installing a birdhouse is equally as important as selecting the right size. Installing a nest box in the right backyard habitat or field habitat will dictate what species you’d like to attract. Placing a nest box for bluebirds on the edge of bushes or overgrown trees won’t attract bluebirds – but it will attract wrens.
As for the beautiful bluebirds, they’re early nesters so now is the time to erect one and clean an existing one. If it’s a new one, the PGC recommends placing a nest box on a pole 3 to 5 feet above ground and facing south if possible, and facing a nearby tree or fence where young birds can safely land on their initial flights from the box. To reduce predation and competition from other species, no perch should be placed on the box; bluebirds don’t need one.
If you don’t have the inclination to build a box, the PGC’s Howard Nursery builds and sells next boxes for bluebirds and other nesting boxes. A single box sells for $14.84 including tax and when purchasing two or more boxes, the cost is $12.72 including tax. Locally, they’re available at the PGC’s Southeast Regional Office at 253 Snyder Road, Reading 19605 (located a short distance off Route 222 outside Blandon), or other regional offices or PGC headquarters in Harrisburg. The boxes are also sold as kits that can be home assembled.
A brochure of the PGC’s bluebird nesting boxes and other nesting boxes is available online by navigating to the Howard Nursery page at www.pgc.pa.gov.
Nick Hromiak has been an outdoors and automotive writer for over 30 years. He's been published in numerous national and state-wide outdoor magazines and newspapers.