Catch and release rules may soon end at County Lehigh’s popular fishing lake

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After years of managing the catch-and-release fishery for most species, anglers may have the opportunity to harvest bass, sunfish and other species from Leaser Lake starting in 2022.

Since repairs to the dam and spillway were completed and fish restocking began in 2013, the 117-acre reservoir in northwest Lehigh County – one of the two main fishing lakes Lehigh Valley Public – has been managed under “various special regulations” to protect young fish populations. Anglers are permitted to keep hatchery-raised trout, which are stocked annually in Lake Lynn Township. However, all other species such as largemouth bass, crappie, perch and muskellunge should be returned to the water immediately.

At its spring meeting, the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission board of commissioners gave preliminary approval to remove designation from various bylaws, with a final vote expected at the October board meeting. If this motion is passed, the special regulation will be removed as of January 1, 2022.

CBFP fisheries biologist Mike Porta said once the various special regulations are lifted, a lease could be proposed for the Big Bass and / or Panfish breeding programs. In addition, the lake may be considered for the stocked trout fishing program open year round. Any changes made would come into effect for the year 2022.

If new regulations are adopted for hot and cold water fish, they would be put in place to create a balance between protecting fish populations and allowing fishermen to keep a few fish if they wish. Sunfish breeding regulations, for example, aim to increase the number, quality and size of sunfish by establishing minimum size limits for species such as sunfish, crappie and yellow perch. Under usual Commonwealth inland water rules, there is no size limit for these fish and anglers can keep up to 50 per day. Likewise, the rules of the Big Bass program are often implemented to give the bass a chance to grow and prosper.

Since Leaser’s resupply began in 2013, CBFP has released a variety of fish into the lake, including sunfish, white and black crappies, yellow perch, largemouth bass, muskellunge, tiger muskellunge, bullheads. and bullheads. While fish populations were originally struggling, the latest CBFP surveys at the lake – conducted in fall 2020 and this spring – showed bass, sunfish and other species are doing much better.

According to a report on the CBFP website, the catch rate for largemouth bass in the fall 2020 survey was 118 fish per hour, far exceeding the catch rates from previous surveys at the lake. , while the catch rate for bass over 12 inches was 8.8 fish. per hour and bass over 15 inches was 4.8 fish per hour.

The agency noted that a large number of small fish produced in recent years were collected during the 2020 survey, resulting in an increase in the total catch rate.

“The sighting of several large year classes of largemouth bass is promising, especially since limited breeding has been observed in previous surveys,” the report said. “If these several year classes recruit to adulthood, fishing opportunities should improve considerably in the years to come. “

Porta said 118 largemouth bass (LMB) were caught during the spring 2021 survey.

“The total number of LMBs was lower than that observed during the fall survey; however, this is not surprising, as the young of the year last spring influenced the catch rate in the fall – (there was) an increase in numbers due to the collection of many small fish.

“Although the total number of LMBs was lower, the number of bars exceeding 12 and 15 inches has increased compared to the fall survey. We collected 22 LMBs over 12 inches, and among those fish, 13 LMBs exceeded 15 inches. “

Regarding panfish, the agency conducted a trap net survey targeting these species in the spring of 2021, and the results suggest that the abundance and size structure of these populations have improved to levels where they can now. withstand a limited harvest. According to Porta, black crappies up to 12.6 inches, white crappies up to 14.2 inches, yellow perch up to 11.2 inches and bullheads up to 15.7 inches in length have been captured.

“Bluegill was the most abundant panfish species caught in the trap survey and most of these fish were 6 to 7 inches tall,” he says. “The other panfish species were less abundant, but some grew to larger sizes. “

Porta reports that the CBFP does not plan to maintain any other special regulations on the lake, which means that species such as walleye, walleye and muskellunge will be managed under regular inland water regulations.

It should be noted that Leaser has gained a reputation as a stellate muskellunge fishery, with a number of large individuals – primarily tiger muskellunge – captured each year. Porta notes that inland water regulations protect muskellunge up to 40 inches, and most muskellunge fishermen practice voluntary capture and release. That being said, the agency is taking steps to ensure the lake’s population remains strong for years to come.

“The results of last fall’s survey were promising, as many large tiger muskellunge were captured. However, few smaller fish were caught, which is important for the future of the adult population. As a result, the muskellunge and tiger muskellunge stocking strategy has been changed for 2021, where only tiger muskellunge will be stocked in Leaser Lake.

“In previous years, muskellunge and tiger muskellunge were stocked at a 1: 1 ratio. The objective of the new stocking plan is to improve the survival and recruitment of the adult tiger muskellunge population in order to maintain this very popular fishery.

Mark Demko is a freelance columnist for lehighvalleylive.com.


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