The statewide walleye season began Saturday, May 3, and recent sampling surveys by the state Fish and Boat Commission continue to show high-quality walleye fisheries in waters across the state.
"In terms of angler demand, walleye rank fourth behind trout, black bass and panfish among species targeted by anglers purchasing a fishing license in Pennsylvania," said Tim Wilson, commission Area 1 fisheries biologist based in Linesville, Crawford County.
"Anglers like fishing for walleye because they're generally larger than trout and it's a long season," he said. "As an added benefit, walleye are among the best-tasting fish to eat."
A list of Pennsylvania's Best Walleye Fishing Waters is available at fishandboat.com/water/best/walleye-best.htm.
Because of angler interest, the commission has for decades widely stocked walleye fry and fingerlings across the state.
Between 2008 and 2013, however, the agency suspended walleye stockings in all flowing waters as part of a comprehensive evaluation program to determine the levels of natural reproduction in previously stocked rivers. The results of that evaluation are included in the commission's new Inland Walleye Management Plan, which is available online.
"It's our responsibility to provide anglers with the best product in the most cost effective manner," said Dave Miko, chief of the commission's Division of Fisheries Management. "If we can identify self-sustaining walleye populations, we can remove those waters from the stocking program and distribute fry and fingerlings where they are needed in order to meet angler demand."
For example, survey work on the Allegheny River demonstrates that natural reproduction is occurring in the river, but is yielding greater young-of-year abundance and more consistency in downstream sections compared to upstream sections.
"These results suggest that natural reproduction is sufficient to maintain the current quality of the walleye fishery in the Allegheny River from Lock and Dam 6 near Ford City upstream to Oil City," Wilson said. "These sections of the Allegheny River should not need continued stocking to maintain a high quality walleye fishery. But it is recommended that walleye fry stocking be resumed in a portion of the Allegheny River from the Kinzua Dam to Tionesta."
Other major river sections which are managed for self-sustaining walleye populations include the:
North Branch Susquehanna River;
Youghiogheny River, from the Connellsville Dam downstream to the mouth;
Ohio River; and
West Branch of the Susquehanna River, from Moose Creek downstream to Bald Eagle Creek.
Based on survey results, the commission will resume stocking walleye in:
Crawford County's French Creek;
Stocking will not resume in the Delaware or Lehigh rivers.
Miko added that the evaluation program will be ongoing.
"A major part of the new Inland Walleye Management Plan is that all flowing waters that are returned or added to the walleye stocking program will be thoroughly evaluated to verify that stocking is adding to the population and that any fishery created is worth the expense of continued stocking," Miko said.
Walleye season extends from May 3 through March 14 on Lake Erie and on commonwealth inland waters.
Anglers can keep up to six walleye per day. The minimum length is 15 inches.
On the Delaware River, the season extends from May 3 through March 14 on the portion between New York and Pennsylvania. The season is open year round on the portion of the Delaware River between New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Anglers can keep up to three walleye per day. The minimum length on the Delaware River is 18 inches.