An impoundment so large that it sprawls over two states, Pymatuning Reservoir's jaws bites up to 17,088 surface water acres.
Give or take and depending on whom you speak with since that figure is what Pennsylvania uses while Ohio provides two others.
On-line literature available through the Ohio Department of Natural Resources lists Pymatuning as covering either 14,650 acres or 16,349 acres.
No matter, Pymatuning is huge; so large, in fact, that back in World War II a Cleveland-based company used the reservoir's lengthy south end to test the motor mechanisms for torpedoes.
Certainly not surprising then the reservoir – or lake, if you prefer – is more than ample enough to lay claim to being capable of housing not just a wide variety of fish species but also an ample population of each kind of fish species.
Conceived in the early part of the last century, work began building Pymatuning in 1931 and was completed in 1934 at a cost of $3.7 million.
Its purpose then as it is now is to help prevent flooding in a generally low-lying geological region on Pennsylvania's side of the isle.
But since Ohio land was required to build the lake Pennsylvania needed Ohio's cooperation along with that of the federal government.
Consequently, ever since Pymatuning was created the management of its fisheries has seen a two-parent partnership, jointly enjoyed by both Pennsylvania as well as Ohio.
Which has proven good for the two state's, anglers and the lake's fishes, says fisheries experts from Pennsylvania and Ohio.
“Our partnership has worked very well,” said Timothy A. Wilson, a fisheries technician for the Pennsylvania's Fish and Boat Commission's District Two (Northwest Pennsylvania). “We share the data we each collect and we usually come to the same conclusions.”
Presently those joint conclusions point toward a robust and diverse fisheries, agrees Phil Hillman, the fisheries management administrator for the Ohio Division of Wildlife's District Three (Northeast Ohio) Office.
Efforts often are directed so as not to overlap duties, too, enabling each party to help carry the load. Both states do, however, conduct fish samplings of the lake with Ohio also performing creel census surveys of anglers.
Again, the joint effort demonstrates Pymatuning's strengths as well as its weaknesses.
Famed throughout the region as a go-to walleye angling destination, Pymatuning's fishers have seen a bumpy road getting there, the two states say.
Back in the 1980s for a spell the walleye angling was abysmal though not from a lack of fish.
Rather, the lackluster angling catch rate was hobbled by an explosion of non-native alewives.
With so much tasty alewives to feast upon the reservoir's walleye had no need to chase down Hot N' Tots and Rapalas being trolled nor worm harnesses being drifted, Hillman and Wilson both said.
As all things do in Nature, a balance was restored where today roughly one-half of Pymatuning's anglers again now indicating how they are primarily targeting the lake's walleye.
How long this objective will remain is uncertain, however, and says Wilson.
“Our netting surveys this spring are showing another spike in alewives, which have again exploded,” Wilson said.
Okay, so walleye angling may slip some, but Pymatuning has other fish species which anglers happily seek.
“Pymatuning has always had good crappie fishing, especially when it comes to size,” Hillman said.
Figures available through the state's Fish Ohio program bear this out as well. Last year the Wildlife Division issued 1,771 Fish Ohio trophy citations for crappies measuring at least 13 inches and of which 81 represented catches from Pymatuning.
And while the ubiquitous “farm pond” claimed the greatest number of Fish Ohio crappie entries at 504, Pymatuning's 81 still ranked second behind Mosquito Reservoir with 132 entries.
The reason is simple, says both Hillman and Wilson.
That being, Pymatuning has an abundance of forage a crappie can choose from when looking at the lake's menu.
At Pymatuning, says Wilson, a crappie can gobble down spot-tail shiners, brown silver-side shiners, small yellow perch, blunt-nosed minnows, small gizzard shad, as well as small alewives.
“Pymatuning has a real fantastic forage base,” Wilson says.
Which translates into lots of protein for crappies.
In terms of crappie size, Hillman says also, Ohio's test-netting points to an average of 10.8 inches for black crappies (Pymatuning's more populous crappie clan) and 11.1 inches for white crappie.
What's more, says Hillman, is that the average size for Pymatuning's other panfish species likewise are good to exceptional. These species include yellow perch and sunfish.
“As a fisheries manager these good average sizes would be scary because it would show poor recruitment but that's not the case at Pymatuning,” Hillman says.
Likewise, good natural recruitment means that neither Ohio nor Pennsylvania needs to stock Pymatuning with little crappies in order for them to grow up to frying-pan size.
Indeed, the last time Ohio stocked Pymatuning with either brand of crappies were the World War II years of 1942 and 1943, said Hillman.
And so with more than 75 years of jointly managing Pymatuning Lake's fisheries resources, biologists with their respective Ohio and Pennsylvania agencies believe they have evolved a good working relationship.
Still, Hillman did note that when the two states hold their annual fisheries management pow-wow this winter no doubt they'll discuss some potential fine-tuning strategies.
“Pymatuning's fisheries management is more complex because of two states being involved but it works out well because we work well together,” Hillman said.
- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn