Walleye, Sauger Fishing Seasons Begin in Pennsylvania

All signs point to a successful season ahead as Walleye and Sauger fishing begins in Pennsylvania.  It kicked off May 2.

“Walleye are a popular catch for anglers seeking fish that can grow to significant size and make great table fare,” said Kris Kuhn, Director, Bureau of Fisheries of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission’s (PFBC). “This season is a welcome sign of spring, especially on the many larger lakes where Walleye populations are plentiful.”

To prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus, all anglers participating in Walleye and Sauger fishing are reminded to practice social distancing under the guidance of the PA Department of Health and CDC. The PFBC recommends that anglers wear a mask and fish only with immediate family living in the same household. When fishing around others from shore or on a boat, maintain a physical distance of at least six feet between individuals. Anglers planning to use the services of a guide or charter boat should consult the Governor’s guidance for life-sustaining businesses and contact businesses in advance to ensure that services are available.

Walleye fishing is regulated under Commonwealth Inland Waters regulations, with a minimum harvest size of 15-inches and a daily creel limit of six fish. For Sauger, the Walleye’s smaller cousin which is naturally present only in the Three Rivers area of western Pennsylvania, harvest is regulated with a 12-inch minimum size limit and a six fish daily creel limit.

Differences in each fish’s appearance is subtle, with one exception; the Sauger’s dorsal or back fin possesses many pea size black spots on the fin membrane which are not evident in Walleyes. Other differences include several darker mottled saddle patches on the Sauger’s back with the Walleye’s back typically uniformly colored. For more details about fish identification, visit the Pennsylvania Fishes page at www.fishandboat.com.

Walleye fishing opportunities exist across the Commonwealth from the Allegheny, Susquehanna and Delaware Rivers to Lake Erie, Pymatuning Reservoir, Blue Marsh Lake, Raystown Lake, Lake Wallenpaupack and many other locations.  Many large and medium size reservoirs and flowing water river and stream sections are biannually stocked with fingerling Walleyes as described in our Walleye Plan.

2020 Lake Erie creel limits for Walleye were announced by the PFBC in April and allow for the legal harvest of six Walleye per day exceeding 15 inches. Lake Erie harvest limits are set annually by the PFBC based upon abundance estimates derived from collaborative assessment programs that include all jurisdictions bordering Lake Erie including Pennsylvania. PFBC biologists note that several abundant year classes, especially the 2018 year-class representing two-year-old fish, will comprise angler catch.  Biologists note that two-year-old Walleyes will be around 15-inches in length or less, with some not reaching the 15-inch size limit. Overall, PFBC Biologists report that conditions remain favorable for Lake Erie Walleye anglers who have experienced record high harvest rates since 2017.

Annually, the PFBC collects approximately 90 million eggs from brood stock Walleyes collected in Pymatuning Reservoir in Crawford County, as well as Duck Harbor Pond in Wayne County, and Lake Wallenpaupack in Pike and Wayne Counties. Between 1 and 1.5 million fish are raised to fingerling size before being stocked, while the remainder are stocked as fry.

Anglers seeking above average opportunity to catch Walleyes this season can find a list of Pennsylvania’s Best Fishing Waters based on biologist population survey data, and Walleye fishing tips.