Those who fish for the abundant crappie at Lily Lake are thrilled that the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission recently changed it from an “early season trout stocked water” to an “approved trout water open to year round fishing.”
While the change may be good to the panfish anglers at Lily Lake, don’t expect the joyous sentiment to carryover to the ice anglers who look forward to some late winter fishing at Lake Irena.
Last year the PFBC approved changing the designations on a number of lakes that were in the early season trout stocked water program. Lakes in the program were stocked in the winter to provide ice anglers an opportunity to catch trout through March 31, and then they closed to all fishing until the season opener in April. As a result, panfish anglers who wanted to get out when the water was warming up in April to take advantage of a prime time for panfish were out of luck.
But the change to an approved trout water open to year round fishing allows for just that - anglers can fish places such as Lily Lake and Lake Irena any time. They just can’t keep any trout from March 1 until the season opener, but panfish and other species are fair game.
In Luzerne County, Lake Took-A-While, Lily Lake, Moon Lake and Lake Irena were added to the year round fishing list, joining Frances Slocum Lake, Moon Lake, Sylvan Lake and Lake Jean.
On the surface, the change seems like a good thing all the way around. Waterways Conservation Officer John Cummings, whose district includes some top panfish lakes such as Frances Slocum, said the designation switch has opened up more opportunities for anglers.
“A lot of lakes where we’re putting these trout, there are many guys going for crappie and perch as well but they haven’t been allowed to fish these places after March 31,” he said.
Although they gain just a two-week window in April to fish, it is a peak time of year for panfish. The water is warming up, which triggers the spawn and panfish become more active. It’s similar to hunting the archery season in November for deer during the rut.
WCO Aaron Lupacchini said Lily Lake is a prime example of how the change provided a positive benefit.
“They can take advantage of the crappie fishing as the ice is going off and things are heating up,” he said.
But what about other places, such as Lake Irena, where trout are the main target?
“At Lake Irena the panfish population is negligible. A lot of the old timers that go there go to ice fish and they’re going for strictly trout,” Lupacchini said.
But with the change, the Lake Irena trout anglers are out of luck, at least from March 1 to opening day on April 13.
For a month-and-a-half, Lake Irena is going to be a pretty quiet place, even though it’s open to year round fishing.
The changes also present another issue - the temptation to poach.
While the lakes are closed to trout fishing from March to the season opener, the PFBC is busy stocking fish in those same waterways.
Lily Lake, for example was stocked on April 4 and those trout are off-limits until the April 13 opening day. Included in the stocked trout are a handful of trophy fish that will surely make a few anglers proud on opening day. But what happens when someone fishing for panfish on Lily Lake in April, after it was stocked but before the season opener, lands one of those monstrous trout?
Will they be able to release the lunker, or will temptation be too much?