If you fish any stream in the city of Allentown, and catch a trout or two in early summer, you have three sportsmen’s groups to thank, as they replenish city streams with trout after the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission’s (PFBC) final spring stockings.
Of the trio (Lehigh Fish & Game, Trout Creek and Pioneer Fish & Game associations), Pioneer is the second oldest of the three with Lehigh Fish & Game Protective being the oldest and about to celebrate their 100th anniversary.
Today, Pioneer celebrates 85 years of existence as it began life on Jan. 31, 1935 when a group of local sportsmen met at Pioneer Fire Hall (where the club derived its name), at 8th & Tilghman Streets in Allentown.
During that meeting, it was agreed members would endeavor to insure that the Jordan Creek in Allentown would be stocked regularly, and to make anglers aware of how the fish and game commissions operated.
On March 21, 1935, the newly formed group obtained their charter from Lehigh County Courts. And on March 25, 1935, Jordan Creek received a stocking of brown trout through Pioneer’s efforts.
That same year, the group helped the game commission stock pheasants, rabbits and quail on lands open to public hunting in Lehigh County. Shortly thereafter, the group decided to have an annual fishing contest and award members with prizes for catching the largest fish. And that included any member who shot the largest buck.
By the end of their first year, according to the organizations’ history, the club signed a total of 246 members with a dues of fifty cents.
In March 1936, Pioneer initiated their Reforestration and Water Conservation program for the Jordan Creek. From that, 15,000 trees were purchased and planted along the Jordan Creek. They subsequently planted 4,000 seedlings over succeeding years. In its first 10 years, the club planted over 40,000 trees along the Jordan and its tributaries.
These are but a few of Pioneer’s many accomplishments that included trapping/transferring rabbits and pheasants within the city, then releasing them on open hunting lands, working on a soil erosion program, and in 1937, sponsored a Coonhound Field Trial for the new Lehigh County Coonhunters Association.
Club membership eventually outgrew the fire hall and their meetings had to move to the American Legion Hall on S. 7th Street in Allentown. It was during that time that a picnic was planned and fishing contest held along Jordan Creek at Helfrich Springs.
Most importantly, and as it stands today, Pioneer along with their membership in Lehigh County Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs, cooperated in having the City of Allentown purchase the Trexler Trout Hatchery (now the popular, Lil’-Le-Hi Trout Nursery).
Pioneer was proud of the fact that with dues revenue of fifty cents, they were able accomplish all that and more.
Today, club membership has dwindled from its high of 2,314 in 1945 to considerably less today. According to Pioneer spokesperson, Mike Cech, many older members passed away and it’s tough to entice young members in todays busy climate. The club no longer charges dues but maintains through contributions that primarily helps defray cost of fish food and overall upkeep at the nursery. They used to host fishing contests but Cech said because of costly insurance requirements, the club could no longer afford to do so.
Currently, Pioneer members volunteer their time and muscle to feed the trout at the hatchery on weekends, as city workers feed them during the week. Club members also clean the many trout holding tanks at the nursery and assist in stocking fingerlings in the tanks the fish commission provides and where trout grow and eventually get stocked annually in late spring and early summer.
Aside from the work members do every Tuesday, the club’s most enjoyable job is the stocking of Little Lehigh, Jordan and Trout creeks within the city.
Todays members range from a few youngsters like Alex Seagreaves to 87-year young Al Halman, the oldest working member.
If any sportsmen or sportsgals are interested in joining Pioneer, stop by the nursery from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. every Tuesday. Members there will whole-heartily welcome you.
With the spring gobbler hunting season underway, it’s interesting to note that for the first time in history, and during the 2019 spring turkey season, not a single hunting-related shooting incident was recorded, a time that historically garnered the most of these incidents. And the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) hopes that continues for 2020.
According to the PGC, hunter-safety results from the 2019 spring turkey season are part of a larger report on hunter safety. Overall in 2019, reports the PGC, there were 26 hunting-related shooting incidents (HRSIs) – injuries caused by sporting arms while hunting or trapping. It was the seventh consecutive year with fewer than 30 HRSIs and one of the safest years on record. However, and sadly, four of the incidents in 2019 were fatal, but the PGC doesn’t indicate in what seasons those occurred.
The PGC has compiled data on HRIs since 1915. The agency establishes incident rates by computing the number of accidents per 100,000 participants. In 2019 the incident rate was 3.06 whereas for 2018, the rate was higher at 3.16.
PGC reports that 58 percent of 2019 incidents were inflicted by others, and the primary cause of HRSis, while 42 percent was a victim being in the line of fire. The second most common cause was the unintended discharge of a firearm.
Aside from there being no HRSis in the 2019 spring turkey season, there were none in the fall turkey season as well. The PGC attributes this and nearly an 80 percent decline in incidents, to hunter-education training that began in 1959. For example, in 2019, 30,821 students (22,526 traditional classroom courses and 8,295 online students) took the course run by 1,828 volunteer instructors that teach Pennsylvania’s basic-safety and advanced hunting skills.
My son and I took the course at Grouse Fish & Game Association’s Grouse Hall in Ironton when he was 12 and now he’s 48. I have a buddy who, many moons ago, once joined us to small game hunt and I had to show him how to load his pristine Browning A5 semi-auto shotgun. He never took the course.
WHITEHALL’S 2020 ANNUAL FISHING DERBY CANCELLED
According to Michele Dragovits, Whitehall Township’s Recreation Bureau secretary, this years Annual Fishing Derby for youngsters 15 and under and held in Hokey Park in Hokendauqua, had to be cancelled because of the Covid-19 virus. The annual event would give out prizes for biggest fish and in four age groups.
This year’s derby was to be sponsored by Willie Marx’s Bait & Tackle shop in Cementon.
Last Wednesday, volunteers from Pioneer Fish & Game and Lehigh County Fish & Game associations, stocked trout from the Lil Le Hi trout hatchery in a portion of the Little Lehigh Creek in Lehigh Parkway. Fish were stocked from Bogert’s Bridge and downstream to the metal bridge at the entrance to Allentown Police Academy.
Also receiving a second stocking two weeks ago was the Lehigh River from Northampton upriver. The river gets stocked by Lehigh River Stocking Association who have made the river an enhanced fishery.
After a cold and unseasonable weekend, this week’s forecast of temperatures in the 60s should allow better fishing conditions.
Before the cold front hit, anglers were picking up trout from area streams and the Lehigh River. In particular, the Little Lehigh from Bogart’s Bridge downstream that was stocked last Thursday with fish from the Lil-Le-Hi Trout Hatchery. And from stream reports, anglers there were picking up some sizable trout. One angler caught and released 21 on the day after the stocking so there should be a lot of leftovers.
As for the Lehigh River that was stocked by the Lehigh River Stocking Association from Northampton upriver, Willie from Willie’s Bait & Tackle in Cementon said the dam area in Northampton/Cementon sides were producing trout as was the portion of river in the Slatington stretch around the Rte. 873 bridge. Willie said most guys are using fathead minnows, night crawlers, Blue Fox spinners and Weaver’s Grabber spoons (a local lure maker). And trout are ranging from 13-19 inches with an occasional lunker.
Up at Leaser Lake, Willie said not many anglers are lake fishing as yet but he hears anglers are picking up some bass, crappies and muskies. At Mauch Chunk Lake it’s mostly crappies on minnows.
Chris from Chris’ Bait & Tackle in Mertztown, reports Ontelaunee Reservoir in Berks County is fishing excellent for catch-and-release bass that are being enticed with rubber skirted jigs and Senko worms. Crappie and catfish there are also starting to turn on.
At Leaser Lake, bass up to 5 pounds and over are being caught and Chris added that it’s common to catch 3-4 pounders mostly on jigs. Muskie action was slow there but should pick up again with warming weather.
Blue Marsh Lake, also in Berks County, is fishing good for catch-release bass since the opening of trout season and crappies there are starting to hit, the latter favoring fathead minnows.
Mike, from Mike’s Bait & Tackle in Nazareth, said the shad bite is on in the Delaware River and they’re being caught from below Easton on up to the Delaware Water Gap. Most are being hooked on darts and flutter spoons and there’s a mix of roe and bucks.
And while on the subject of shad, it’s not known at this time why the Delaware River Shad Fishermen’s Associations’ Shad Hotline phone numbers were disconnected. They were always a good shad fishing source. But anglers can go to the associations Facebook page and click on their “Fishing Log” for timely angler reports.
And then there’s commercial shad fishermen Steve Meserve, who hasn’t had much luck in his annual shad netting operation on the Delaware River. His problems were either storms that made the water high and unsafe with lots of debris, or cold river water temperatures.
Mike went on to report that Minsi Lake trout action is good. One customer came in and said he caught 11 the last few days, one of which was a 21-inch Palomino. Orange Power Bait appears the bait of choice for Minsi trout.
When asked about Delaware River stripers, Mike said he hears most action is south around Philadelphia and Delaware Bay area.
On the saltwater scene, On the Water Magazine reports the striper spawn is on and they’re making their way from Delaware Bay up past Delaware and along the Jersey coast.
For southern New Jersey, the magazine says stripers are active around most sod banks, bridges and inlets. Bluefish too have started to arrive at some of the inlets and areas up to Brigantine. They added that drum fishing has been hot with the Delaware Bay the most productive at Tussey’s slough, Pin Top and the Punk Grounds.
In northern New Jersey, they report blues have shown up in Raritan Bay, Shrewsbury and Naversink rivers. Boaters are hooking stripers on bunker spoons, Mojos, live bunker and bunker chunks around Hazlet, while beach anglers are using worms and chunks at night.
Sportsmen have a choice what to pursue right now, be it spring gobblers, trout, shad or stripers. All that’s needed is cooperating weather.
Wildlife Research Center has an urgent request for Pa. sportsmen to voice their opinions on the PGCs deer scents/CWD edict
The following is am urgent request from the Wildlife Research Center regarding deer scents and CWD in Pennsylvania:
The Pennsylvania Game Commission has introduced a 2nd generation of their CWD Response Plan, which unlike the first generation, proposes to ban the use of all scents and attractants in the entire state. We are encouraging hunters to contact the Commission and comment before May 7th to oppose this part of their plan.
Sample Email below
SUBJECT: Oppose statewide ban of all attractants.
Comments: Write a brief note opposing this specific part of the proposed regulation. You can use these points to guide your note:
1 Using natural deer scents is a long tradition for Pennsylvania hunters, and there are urine-based products from responsible sources with carefully monitored deer herds that are tested to make sure they do not have CWD prions.
1 There are several scent companies that are testing their product for CWD prions using the same test that was used to discover prions in urine. The RT-QuIC test is sensitive, reliable and peer reviewed. Products that have been tested have a recognizable logo on them.
1 Other states have required scents come from the ATA Deer Protection Program. Less than a dozen collection facilities have met the rigorous standards of this program that goes far beyond USDA requirements, including having closed herds, enhanced fencing requirements, annual testing and tracking.
1 Natural urine attractants that are applied in less than 1-ounce quantities during hunting season are not a major congregation risk compared to the millions of gallons of urine deposited by wild deer. If anything, using these products adds additional scent locations to what occurs naturally and makes the hunt more successful, both of which aid in reducing congregation.
1 Regulations should protect the deer herd with the least possible disruption to hunters. A blanket prohibition of scent products appears to be intended to be “easy to enforce”, but in practice will do nothing to reduce risk of CWD spread. A targeted regulation that allows scents from ATA Deer Protection Program facilities and/or is tested prior to distribution via RT-QuIC is a more reasonable alternative that doesn’t disrupt hunters.
Please include your name and address. More information on PGC’s CWD Plan can be found at: https://www.pgc.pa.gov/Wildlife/Wildlife-RelatedDiseases/Documents/CWD%20Response%20Plan.pdf
Thank you for your help on this important issue,
Wildlife Research Center, inc. | 14485 Azurite St NW, Ramsey, MN 55303 | (763)-427-3350
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.