By Bob Frye,
If you're a walleye fisherman, this could be your year, particularly at Pymatuning Lake.
One of the premier walleye fisheries in Western Pennsylvania before falling on hard times in the early 2000s, the lake is poised to make a dramatic comeback, beginning this spring.
That's the word from Matthew Wolfe, a Jeannette native who now works as a fisheries biologist with the Ohio Division of Wildlife.
The division manages the lake in cooperation with the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission. For decades, the two agencies stocked the lake with walleye fry -- fish only about 1/4-inch long, or "two eyes and a wiggle" -- to good success, Wolfe said. From 1989 to 2000, those fish were surviving at tremendous rates.
Then, for reasons unknown, those stockings just quit working.
Whereas pre-2001 biologists doing fall young-of-the-year surveys had captured as many as 120 juvenile walleyes per hour, between 2001 and 2007 they reached 30 per hour -- the minimum needed to sustain a good fishery -- just once. In one year, the found no juvenile walleyes at all, Wolfe said.
That showed up as poor fishing. Surveys done between 1982 and 2000 showed that it took an angler, on average, about one and a half hours to catch one Pymatuning walleye. By 2004, that had risen to seven hours; by 2007, 30 hours.
But that was the "old" Pymatuning.
The "changed" Pymatuning, the one that's resulted since the two states began stocking fewer but bigger walleye fingerlings in the lake as of 2008, is poised for a breakout, Wolfe said.