Gone Fishing

By Andy Cook

Listening to the sound of water cascading over rocks. Collecting your thoughts amongst the peace and calm of a stream in the woods. A grandfather spending time with his grandchildren. Fishing provides the opportunity for all these occasions, and the Lehigh Valley has a wealth of prime fishing spots waiting for you!

The Lehigh Valley is fortunate to have an abundance of clean, fertile lakes, streams and rivers which provide beautiful venues for a perfect day out fishing.  Through the efforts of our local cities’ parks and recreations systems, we are lucky to have many options close at hand. Whether you prefer Wehr’s Dam in Orefield, the picturesque Monocacy Park in Bethlehem or the mighty Delaware River in Easton, there are many places you can cast your line regardless of your age or skill level.

The Jordan, Little Lehigh, Cedar, Trout and Monocacy creeks all host native brook, brown, rainbow and golden rainbow trout populations.  We are also lucky to live in an area featuring one of the oldest continuously operating trout nurseries in the nation – the Lil-Le-Hi Trout Nursery, located just off Fish Hatchery Road in the Lehigh Parkway.  According to The Morning Call archives, the Lil-Le-Hi Trout Nursery was created as a state-owned hatchery in 1883 until 1903, when the operation was taken over by the Troxell family.

In the late 1930s and 1940s, the hatchery went through a period of uncertainty until 1945, when a court decided the facility should be purchased by the city. All fish, which are provided by the state Fish and Boat Commission, arrive at the nursery as fingerlings and raised to adulthood by  volunteer sportsmen. Unlike trout in state hatcheries, which are stocked after one year, fish reared at Lil-Le-Hi Trout Nursery are grown for two years before their release. Those of you who are fisherman can appreciate this level of commitment.

“There is no doubt that we are incredibly blessed to have wonderful fishing opportunities in the Lehigh Valley,” says Greg Weitzel, Director of the Department of Parks and Recreation for the City of Allentown.  An avid fisherman himself, Greg works closely with the PA Fish and Boat Commission, and numerous fish and game protective associations, to protect our water quality so the next generation can continue to enjoy fishing opportunities.  Greg adds “this is important, especially when reports show that fishing and boating together have an economic impact of more than $2 billion per year in Pennsylvania.”

According to Steve Anz, store manager of the Army Navy Store in Whitehall, they have seen growing interest in fishing over the last two years. Specifically, he notes that kayak fishing “has exploded for us,” sharing that manufacturers are now making kayaks outfitted with mounts and features to attach gear, rods and fish-finding equipment.

Steve Schrader, the fishing buyer for the Army Navy Store agrees. “Trout fishing has gotten very popular in the local area, and we’ve gotten back into fishing more aggressively as our customers demand it.” Schrader, a lifelong Valley resident, also has a love of fishing and recalled childhood fishing trips with his father and great-grandfather. The attraction of fishing for him? “It’s really nice to get out with nature – it’s very peaceful,” he says.

“There are surely other destinations in the state of Pennsylvania, and within the US that rival these blessed waters” says Mike Makela, a passionate fisherman, who lives in Perkiomenville and works in Allentown.  “In these days of tight wallets and scaled back vacations, it’s wonderful to know that we can drive (and maybe even walk) to find some of the best fishing resources right here in the Lehigh Valley,” he added. Mike has also been known to explore local creeks during his lunch hour, and has been surprised at the great fishing spots he has found. He has also enjoyed teaching fly fishing for his sons’ scout troops.

Whether you enjoy fishing as a hobby or a sport, there are many ways to improve your skills. Good anglers always try to learn more. Local sportsmen’s clubs, fish and game clubs, and sporting groups offer classes on a variety of topics including fly fishing, casting skills, fresh water vs. salt water fishing and fly tying. You may also want to point your mouse to the Internet, where you can find videos showing you how to cast your line or attach bait to your hook.

Remember, if  you’re 16 or older you need a license to fish in Pennsylvania.  Many area sporting good, hardware and hobby shops serve as license issuing agents, or you can purchase one online at fishandboat.com.

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