"The state's striper fishery is limited to where they occur naturally or where we stock them," explained Bob Lorantas, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission's Warmwater-Coolwater Unit leader.
"Reservoir populations (both the pure strain and hybrids) require pelagic forage, which in Pennsylvania means either alewives or gizzard shad. Also, pure striped bass require a hypolimnetic oxygen supply in summer."the majority of hybrid stockings take place in the western portion of the state in the Ohio River drainage.
An additional limiting factor relating to striper-hybrid striper fisheries is the supply of fingerlings available to stock.
"The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission hatchery system does not produce any striped bass or striped bass hybrids," noted Lorantas. "These fish are acquired from nearby states with extensive rearing programs for these species. We trade fish we produce in abundance for these species through the national fish trade forum. This acquisition process creates a little more variability in stocking levels, although we have been rather consistent over the past several years on most waters.
"Our prioritization system generally favors stocking reservoirs before rivers. This reduces recreational loss associated with migration out of stocking locales."
Data from the 2002 survey shows striped bass ranked third of most caught species. Only smallmouth bass and channel catfish edged out stripers, which ranked just ahead of American shad. Some 36,328 striped bass were caught, with 99 percent being released. Striper catches were highest between April and July, with June being the top month.
Fortunately, Nockamixon has a consistent stocking history over the past several years, with 7,250 hybrid fingerlings stocked annually since 1998 except in 2000, when no hybrids were stocked. Pure striped bass, both fingerling and fry, have also been stocked on a consistent basis.
According to Mike Kaufmann, area fisheries manager, anglers can expect good action on Nockamixon this spring. While both pure and hybrid stripers are stocked in the lake, Kaufmann said hybrids show up most often in anglers' catches.
"Some anglers are catching pure stripers, which seem to top off about at 17 pounds," he said. "Hybrids run 10 to 12 pounds."
Kaufmann said the hybrid harvest is not as high on Nockamixon as it is on some other lakes, so the fish get a better chance to attain larger sizes.
In spring, Kaufmann suggested that anglers concentrate on the main lake's points and flats.
"Sometimes the best structure is no structure," he said. "Places that hold springtime hybrids can seem featureless."
Alewives and gizzard shad comprise the forage base in Nockamixon, and savvy anglers know stripers are rarely found far from their food source.
Nockamixon Lake offers four boat access areas. Anglers typically use the Three Mile Run and Haycock launch areas. Maximum horsepower was recently raised to 20 horsepower. For additional information, call the Nockamixon State Park office at (215) 529-7300.
Blue Marsh Lake
The stocking history of Blue Marsh Lake is similar to Nockamixon. Fingerling plantings of hybrids became consistent in 1999, when 13,800 stripers were stocked. In 2001, the lake received 11,500 fish; another 11,498 in 2002 and 10,300 more in '03. Pure stripers have also been stocked. Biologist Kaufmann reported that hybrid stripers are more popular at Blue Marsh than they are at Nockamixon. Because of a heavier harvest, the average size fish seem to run a bit smaller there. Alewives provide the food base. An avid angler, Kaufmann related a pattern he sees that occurs on both Blue Marsh and Nockamixon, and likely most lakes that hold hybrids.
"When a sudden warming trend occurs, one that quickly increases the water temperature in protected bays and coves, hybrids will often go on feeding forays within the confines of these waters," he said. "It's important that it happens suddenly, so the bays warm but not the main-lake areas. Often, baitfish and carp will be back in the coves. Hybrids will be there, too. They won't often take a topwater bait, but they will hit lures retrieved just under the surface."
Productive methods include night-fishing, particularly in areas where spawning alewives make evening migrations.
There is no horsepower restriction on Blue Marsh Lake. Access areas include Dry Brooks and Slate Hill. A $3 access fee is charged at these launches during the summer months. This lake is in Berks County near Leesport. Additional information can be obtained by phoning the lake office at (610) 376-6337.
According to a 10-year stocking history of the lake, Raystown has been stocked every year except 1995. During that period, the average stocking has been over 91,000 fingerlings.
The average fish is over 10 pounds, with a lot of 30-pound fish in the lake and a few 40-pounders as well.
During May, fish at night and during the day. Cloudy days produce the most action. At this time, the fish will be in the shallows. As May gives way to June, he said the fish scatter, and striper activity is seen all over the lake.
Stretching nearly 30 miles, Raystown Lake offers a dozen launch facilities. There is no horsepower restriction. The same fee schedule as other Corps lakes applies.
For more information, visit the Raystown Lake Web site at http://raystown.nab.usace.army.mil/
or call (814) 658-3405.
Lake Arthur in Moraine State Park north of Pittsburgh has received stockings of hybrid fingerlings each year since 1995, with the exception of 1997 and 2000. Most of those stockings have consisted of 16,100 fingerlings. The 2001 stocking, following a year when no fish were introduced, included 32,200 fingerling hybrids.
Lake Arthur Hybrids
Lake Arthur is to hybrids what Raystown is to pure Breds.
The hybrids are well distributed throughout the lake. The early-season focus is on evening spawning migrations by alewives, the lake's main forage species.
More anglers are catching fish during the day using live bait. Last year, I took several hybrids pulling spinner-crawler harnesses along deep basins, a tactic that's common for walleyes.
Lake Arthur covers nearly 3,300 acres with a maximum depth of about 35 feet. The average depth is much shallower. Many extensive bays and arms stretch out from the central basin.
Moraine State Park along Route 422 between Butler and New Castle features boat launches in all areas of the lake. Motors are limited to 20 horsepower. For more information, phone the state park office at (724) 368-8811.
Lake Wallenpaupack /Beltzville Lake / Shenango Lake
In eastern Pennsylvania, Lake Wallenpaupack has received consistent stockings of pure-strain stripers, though local guides indicate the fishing has been slow for this species during the past few years, but biologist Dave Arnold said that Beltzville Lake continues to grow as a purebred striper water.
Shenango Lake provides another hybrid venue for western Pennsylvania anglers. Biologist Craig Billingsley said consistent stockings have created a fishery where 15- and 16-pound fish are showing up. Most of the fish seem to be east of the Route 18 causeway. Hybrids are also stocked in the lower Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio rivers, though catches in the rivers seem better during the winter months when the fish stack up near thermal discharges.