Trout Fishing the Lehigh River - The Fisherman

Trout Fishing the Lehigh River

2017 6 Trout Fishing The Lehigh River Trout
Lehigh River trout. Photo by Tom Gyory.

Just on the other side of the Delaware River lies good trout water for those looking for a stream-worthy diversion.

A lot of trout anglers have heard about the Lehigh River in Eastern Pennsylvania but have never fished it. Mark your list of trout fishing destinations to include this beautiful, clear, clean trout stream across the west side of the Delaware.

From its origin at the Frances E Walter Dam near White Haven, PA, the Lehigh River flows in a southeasterly direction for 40 plus miles before it enters the Delaware River at Easton, PA. The upper portion of the Lehigh from Route 80 in White Haven to the town of Slatington presents great trout fishing with a variety of water conditions to please the anglers, as you fish your way through the picturesque Lehigh Gap.

The stretch of Lehigh River from the Cementon Dam located near Northampton to Easton is interrupted by another dam in the vicinity of Allentown, which prevents migratory fish from the Delaware River from reaching the upper part of the Lehigh; as such, these are not considered trout fishing waters.

However, the water quality is good, and it does hold a decent population of smallmouth bass. Striped bass are also found in this area, large perch and other panfish commonly caught by smallmouth anglers.

The Lehigh River is not really a big river, but more the size of a large trout stream, for which it certainly shares similarities. The Lehigh has a good flow of clear water that harbors good insect life and baitfish that make it a good stream for trout to flourish. Besides the main flow of the river, it is fed by numerous clean tributaries that currently maintain a trout population, and there is evidence of reproduction in those streams.

The Lehigh offers good access via Pennsylvania built and maintained ramps, plus its banks present a number of areas for fishermen to enter and fish from the shorelines. The area from Glen Onoka to the Cementon Dam in Northampton is considered by many to be the prime trout waters on the Lehigh.

Keystone Stocking

The Pennsylvania Fish Commission does limited stocking on the upper reaches just below Route 80 at White Haven, but only stocks from that point downstream to about Jim Thorpe, PA. The remainder of the Lehigh River from Bowmanstown downstream to Cementon Dam below the town of Slatington is stocked by a private fishing organization, the Lehigh River Stocking Association (LRSA). The LRSA members and volunteers release both rainbow and brown trout and have been stocking the Lehigh for the past 24 years. Their main event is their annual Lunker Fest when big trout are released for a one day fishing contest in May.

The LRSA has annually released browns and brook trout at Glen Onoka State Park, Walnutport, Treichers, Laury Station, Northampton, Slatington, Jim Thorpe, Lehighton and Palmerton and plan to continue their trout stocking schedule. Trout are purchased from private trout hatcheries, with funding provided by a number of interested donors. About 8,000 rainbow and brown trout are stocked annually, with more than 500 measuring between 18 and 25 inches.

A new private trout nursery owned and operated by the Gyory family began stocking in April of 2016, and with the addition of their trout it means more fish thriving in the Lehigh. These first stocked trout in the 3- to 4-inch class have already matured to more than 10 inches in length by now.

Only rainbows and browns are stocked; by their nature, the browns tend to stay longer at the places where released, whereas the rainbows will begin to disperse and move to other parts of the river, thus there are no so-called empty gaps in the population. The new Gyory trout nursery is sanctioned by the Pennsylvania Fish Commission, and successfully released more than a thousand rainbows from their first generation of rainbow trout, primarily in area of Slatington, PA.

2017 6 Trout Fishing The Lehigh River Trout Angler With Brown
A favorite for stocking the Lehigh, brown trout tend to stay longer at the places where they’re actually released. Photo by Tom Pagliaroli

Boat, Bait & Fly

The Lehigh River is a small river, so a small, light craft is preferred since you will be fishing through a combination of shallow, rocky stretches combined with areas of deeper water. Fishing from a flyfishing tube, a canoe or kayak is a common sight, and boats of 14 to 16 feet in length with electric motor offer a delightful way to fish and also enjoy
the sights and sounds of the outdoors.

The Lehigh is a fly fisherman’s delight, and you will meet plenty of casters on any trip you might schedule. The nature of the river offers, clear running water that allows you to enter the river and gradually move about to position yourself to find trout and make that perfect cast. LRSA points out that although they release 8,000 or more legal sized trout, there is a good holdover population. Browns and rainbow in the 20-inch class are routinely caught and released, and your favorite fly pattern that works for you will probably be effective when fishing the Lehigh River.

The river attracts its share of non-fly fishermen who enjoy the action with baits such as worms and minnows, which usually is the only live bait you need. Trout spinners of course are highly effective cast on spin tackle throughout the river system, as the sight of a bright gold or silver spinner flashing through the clear waters always produces a fighting trout. Small plastic lures that simulate a minnow or worm are good choices and generate the interest of the feisty browns.

You don’t need a fishing craft to successfully fish the Lehigh River; many people are strictly shore and wade anglers, and there is ample trout fishing opportunities in the vicinity of the boat launches where you’ll observe plenty of waders. Although the Lehigh River has no restrictions, a large majority of the anglers catch and release their trout, which makes the river an attractive place to fish knowing the trout population is stable. The area of the famous Lehigh Gap offers a spectacular view of the countryside as you fish your way downriver, so keep your camera handy.

Getting There

The Lehigh River is a beautiful stretch of trout water and rather easy to reach. Fishermen from New Jersey will find it about a half hour after crossing the Delaware River. The Lehigh River runs through Carbon, Lehigh and Northampton Counties along Eastern Pennsylvania, and prime stretches are easily reached via Route 80, then taking Route 476S just East of White Haven. Follow Route 476 south to Exit 74, then follow Route 248, which follows the eastern shoreline of the Lehigh.

You can also reach the Lehigh River via the old Route 22. Get off at the exit for Route 512 and travel north a short distance to Bath, PA and pick up Route 248W to the river.

Remember that you’ll need a Pennsylvania freshwater fishing license and a trout stamp; an annual license for residents aged 16 to 64 is $22.90 ($11.90 for seniors), while an out of state non-resident for ages 16 and up is $52.90. There are also tourist licenses available in one- two- and three-day selections from $26.90 to $34.90. The Trout-Salmon permit costs $9.90. You can order your license online by visiting www.fish.state.pa.us and printing from your home computer. Licenses can also be purchased in-person at local shops.

Safe driving and successful trout fishing!

2017 6 Trout Fishing The Lehigh River Trout 2
Lehigh River rainbows are suckers for trout spinners cast and retrieved on light tackle.

 

HATCH CHART LRSA FLY TIPS
A Lehigh River Hatch Chart provided by the Lehigh River Stocking Association (LRSA). Find their website, how to join or donate, along with information regarding places to fish by visiting www.lrsa.org.

Feb.-April: Little Black Stonefly
April: Hendrickson
April-Oct.: Caddis
May: March Brown, Sulphur, Light Cahill
May-Sept.: Grey Fox
May/June: Slate Drake, Green Drake
May-July: White Fly
Summer: Trico, Mahogany, Isonychia, Blue Winged Olive
June-Oct.: Blue Quill

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