lehigh river

[DIY] Guide to Fly Fishing the Lehigh River

The Lehigh River was featured in Eastern Fly Fishing (Volume 7, Number 6, November/December 2011) in an article by Beau Beasley aptly named, "Lehigh River, PA - Understanding an Underated Fishery". And underated it is.

The Lehigh River flows for over 100 miles through Pennsylvania and serves as the largest tributary to the Delaware River. 

Trout fishing on the Lehigh River consist of 20 miles of small, easy-to-wade water flowing through a series of glacial bogs and marshes surrounded by scenic state forest near Goulsboro, Pennsylvania, and a 35 mile stretch below the Francis E. Walter Dam from Whitehaven to Walnutport.

Lehigh River Fishing Map

loading map - please wait...

Lehigh River (Glen Onoko Access): 40.883632, -75.760161
Lehigh River (Jim Thorpe Access): 40.865223, -75.735210
Lehigh River (Walnutport Access): 40.750030, -75.600513
Lehigh River (Treichlers Bridge Access): 40.733268, -75.539454
Lehigh River (Laury's Station Access): 40.713644, -75.523693
Lehigh River (Gaging Station Access): 41.102379, -75.737900
Lehigh River (White Haven - I-80 Bridge): 41.059209, -75.772282
Lehigh River (Tannery Access): 41.038788, -75.760246
Lehigh River (Hayes Creek Access): 41.034760, -75.743652
Lehigh River (Leslie Run Access): 40.994897, -75.734897
Lehigh River (Rockport Access): 40.966579, -75.755013
Lehigh River (Packerton Yards Access): 40.851963, -75.710609
Lehigh River (Dunbars Access): 40.834213, -75.702583
Lehigh River (Lehighton Sewer Plant): 40.823025, -75.696770
Lehigh River (Pohopoco Creek Access): 40.815872, -75.672852
Lehigh River (Bowmanstown - Rt 895 Bridge): 40.798771, -75.670181
Lehigh River (Bowmanstown Boat Ramp): 40.792419, -75.657120
Lehigh River (Bowmanstown - End of the Road): 40.789631, -75.653252
Lehigh River (Palmerton Horseshoe): 40.796570, -75.619682
Lehigh River (Lehigh Gap Access): 40.782043, -75.606995
Lehigh River (Szokes Access): 40.778591, -75.607567
Black Creek, PA: 41.031387, -75.744446
Catasauqua Creek, PA: 40.647653, -75.468497
Hickory Run, PA: 41.010555, -75.733887
Little Lehigh Creek, PA: 40.597500, -75.447502
Monocacy Creek, PA: 40.615833, -75.372231
Nancy Run, PA: 40.631943, -75.331390
Pohopoco Creek, PA: 40.815556, -75.672775
Sand Spring Creek, PA: 41.172501, -75.598053
Saucon Creek, PA: 40.539290, -75.440960
Stony Creek, PA: 40.954723, -75.702499
Unt To Lehigh River (rm 58.09: 2nd dwn blck ck west bnk), PA: 40.921917, -75.743675
Unt To Lehigh River (rm 58.48: 1st dwn blck ck west bnk), PA: 40.927223, -75.745155
Unt To Lehigh River (rm 76.52: dnst fe walter gage), PA: 41.103912, -75.744339
LEHIGH RIVER AT LEHIGHTON, PA: 40.829259, -75.705189
LEHIGH RIVER AT WALNUTPORT, PA: 40.757040, -75.602964
LEHIGH RIVER AT BETHLEHEM, PA: 40.615376, -75.378791
LEHIGH RIVER AT GLENDON, PA: 40.669266, -75.236288
Lehigh River @ Drakes Creek: 40.971150, -75.713139
Lehigh River (Drakes Creek Rd Access): 40.971270, -75.712109
Lehigh River (Black Creek Access): 41.034707, -75.744017
Lehigh River (Hickory Run Access): 41.023247, -75.710844
Lehigh River (Tannery North): 41.045707, -75.767663
Lehigh River (State Game Land 91): 41.143344, -75.646529
Lehigh River (White House Run): 41.130737, -75.647393
Lehigh River (D&L Trail @ River Road): 40.720001, -75.526839
Lehigh River (Northampton Canal Park Access): 40.678073, -75.494047
Lehigh River (Rt 145 Roadside): 40.709938, -75.521790
Lehigh River (D&L Trail - Cementon): 40.689925, -75.505621
Lehigh River (Canal Street Park Access): 40.680337, -75.497553
Lehigh River (Hokey Access): 40.677282, -75.490290
Lehigh River (Aquashicola Creek): 40.793445, -75.613256
Lehigh River (Lehigh Gorge Trail @ Mud Run): 40.988370, -75.713890
Lehigh River (Mud Run): 40.989483, -75.712125
Lehigh River (Lehigh Gorge Trail - Mile 107): 40.881787, -75.763264
Drakes Creek: 40.971600, -75.711000
Lehigh River (Lehigh Gorge Trail - Mile 108): 40.894823, -75.755050
Lehigh River (Lehigh Gorge Trail - Mile 109): 40.899916, -75.741274
Lehigh River (Lehigh Gorge Trail - Mile 110): 40.907188, -75.741145
Lehigh River (Lehigh Gorge Trail - Mile 111): 40.918831, -75.740416
Lehigh River (Lehigh Gorge Trail - Mile 112): 40.930861, -75.742819
Lehigh River (Lehigh Gorge Trail - Mile 113): 40.944769, -75.746939
Lehigh River (Lehigh Gorge Trail - Mile 114): 40.952224, -75.732004
Lehigh River (Lehigh Gorge Trail - Mile 116): 40.954622, -75.703079
Lehigh River (Lehigh Gorge Trail - Mile 117): 40.969562, -75.712478
Lehigh River (Lehigh Gorge Trail - Mile 118): 40.968914, -75.729588
Lehigh River (Lehigh Gorge Trail - Mile 119): 40.969319, -75.745338
Lehigh River (Lehigh Gorge Trail - Mile 120): 40.971223, -75.753245
Lehigh River (Lehigh Gorge Trail - Mile 121): 40.977987, -75.736622
Lehigh River (Lehigh Gorge Trail - Mile 122): 40.985730, -75.719799
Lehigh River (Lehigh Gorge Trail - Mile 123): 40.992694, -75.722863
Lehigh River (Lehigh Gorge Trail - Mile 124): 41.006071, -75.731086
Lehigh River (Lehigh Gorge Trail - Mile 125): 41.018587, -75.739407
Lehigh River (Lehigh Gorge Trail - Mile 126): 41.031084, -75.744514
Lehigh River (Lehigh Gorge Trail - Mile 127): 41.036393, -75.759856
Lehigh River (Lehigh Gorge Trail - Mile 128): 41.048838, -75.770006
Lehigh River (Lehigh Gorge Trail - Mile 129): 41.062948, -75.772666
Lehigh River (Lehigh Gorge Trail - Mile 115): 40.955485, -75.715353
Lehigh River (5-Mile Stocking Club): 40.895480, -75.754104
Lehigh river: 40.835400, -75.701000
Easton pa: 40.690300, -75.202500
Stony Creek, PA: 40.954723, -75.702499

Download the DIY Fly Fishing App to get turn-by-turn directions to access points shown on the map above. 

Spend less time looking for places to fish and more time fishing!

Download on the App Store
Get it on Google Play

Lehigh River Tailwater Below Francis E. Walter Dam

The dam, built in 1961 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is managed primarily for flood control and whitewater rafting and as a result the lower Lehigh River see significant fluctuations in temperature and depth. Both take a toll on the wild trout and aquatic insect population.

Despite this, the river contains a robust population of wild browns and rainbows, that is augmented by a number of private organizations that stock the river, most notably the Lehigh River Stocking Association. In addition to trout, the Lehigh River also contains a healthy population of smallmouth bass that fight like hell and are a blast to catch.

Lehigh River Access Points

The Lehigh River is a formidable river filled with slick bowling ball sized boulders and is treacherous to wade in some locations and darn near impossible to wade in others. Caution is advised. With that in mind, there are ample locations along the river from Whitehaven to Walnutport that provide access to the wade fisherman.

Wade access points include the Francis E. Walter Dam, I-80 Bridge in White Haven, Tannery, Hayes Creek, Leslie Run, Rockport, Glen Onoko Boat Ramp, Jim Thorpe Boat Ramp, Packerton Yards, Dunbars, Lehighton Sewer Plant, Pohopco Creek, Bowmanstown Boat Ramp, Palmertown Horseshoe, Lehigh Gap Boat Ramp, Szokes and the Walnutport Canal Boat Ramp.

The Lehigh Coldwater Fishery Alliance put together a nice map detailing the location of wade access points and fishing tips for each location that is incorporated into the map above.

Lehigh River Boat Ramps

The Lehigh River is well known for whitewater rafting through the Lehigh Gorge but there are also a number of excellent float trips that are well suited to fishing, in particular from Jim Thorpe to Walnutport.

The Wildlands Conservancy has put together an excellent guide to floating the Lehigh River called the Lehigh River Water Trail that details boat ramp locations, river reach maps and detailed descriptions of major rapids (these are particularly handy when us fisherman are trying to avoid them).

This information is included in the map above. Click on the map icons for more information and river mileage to the next boat ramp for planning float trips.

Lehigh River Stream Guages

There are three USGS stream gauges on the Lehigh River from the Francis E. Walter Dam downstream to Walnutport, the river reach of most interest to trout fisherman. As you can see in the graphs below, the river picks up volume from a number of tributaries along the way. USGS stream gauges are marked with a dark green icon on the map above.

The Lehigh fishes best at 200 to 300 cfs up near the dam and up to 750 cfs as you head downstream toward Lehighton and Walnutport.

Lehigh River Below Francis E. Walter Dam Near Whitehaven, PA

Lehigh River at Lehighton, PA

Lehigh River at Walnutport, PA

Francis E. Walter Dam Water Release Schedule

As noted above, flows on the Lehigh River below White Haven are controlled by the Francis E. Walter Dam. White water releases typically put the fishing off and these days are best avoided. If you do fish, go early before the wave of water and boaters arrives. If you study the USGS stream gauge data (see above) during a white water release you will be able to predicted when water levels will start to increase in the location you wish to fish.

Below are excerpts of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Francis E. Water Reservoir Recreation Operations Plan for 2019. You can read the full plan here.

The plan, developed in partnership with Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, lists dates and release amounts for whitewater and fisheries releases for the recreation seasons. Water will again be allocated to ensure whitewater releases from July to late August and fisheries releases from July to early September. Seasonal precipitation and water accumulation will be used for releases later in the season (late August through mid-October).
In 2019, the Army Corps will hold a total of 22 fishing releases and 24 whitewater release dates (four of which are dependent on additional precipitation along with fisheries enhancement releases on all other days during the recreation season). 

All dates are dependent on hydrologic conditions and the absence of the need for flood control operations.

Whitewater Release Schedule

The whitewater release schedule includes 24 dates (4 of which are dependent on sufficient water storage and not including final October weekend).

Planned whitewater release dates are:

  • May: 11, 18, 25, 26
  • June: 8, 9, 22, 23
  • July: 6, 7, 20, 21, 27, 28
  • August: 3, 4, 10, 11, 17, 18, 24*, 25*, 31*
  • September: 1*
  • October: as provided by end of year releases around the weekend of 12-13 October**

* Dependent on additional water accumulation in reservoir

** The October weekend release is intended to provide a means of releasing any excess water that may have accumulated during the recreation season.

This is the last added increment for the 2019 recreation plan. Fisheries releases through the season will be assured before the final weekend (12-13 October) release will be considered. This release is intended to release all excess water.

Note: You want to avoid fishing on Whitewater Release Days!

Fisheries Release Schedule

Planned dates (22) for fishing releases (target 400 cfs)* are:

  • March: 2, 3, 9, 10, 16, 17, 23, 24, 30, 31
  • April: 6, 7, 13, 14, 20, 21, 27, 28
  • May: 4, 5, 12, 19
  • October: as provided by end of year release around the weekend of 12-13 October

* Release will be set to match inflow with a target release up to 400 cfs. Inflow will not be augmented by use of storage to satisfy the 400 cfs target.

It is also important to note that once the water level in the reservoir reaches the target pool height for the recreation season, water is released to match outflow with inflow. So if there is a large rainfall event double check the stream gauges before you head out even if there is not a whitewater release planned.

Lehigh River Wade Chart

The Lehigh Coldwater Fishery Alliance put together a handy flow and wade chart for the Lehigh River. Use the USGS flow gauge data and wade chart to determine when it is safe to wade or float the river. Heed the warnings in the chart. The Mighty Lehigh is extremely dangerous at high flows!

Lehigh River Wading Chart

Lehigh River Hatches

The Lehigh supports an impressive variety of mayflies, caddisflies and stoneflies.

Little Black Stoneflies begin in early-April and can hatch in tremendous numbers. The end of April will see Little Black Caddis, Grannoms and Hendricksons, along with a number of Caddis species.

May and June are "Prime Time" on the Lehigh and the March Brown, Grey Fox, Sulphur and Caddis hatches can be phenomenol. Hatches of Blue Wing Olives, Light Cahills and Isonychias begin in earnst in June.

As summer begins, Caddis still hatch in good numbers along with small Blue Wing Olives, Isonychias and summer Stenonemas (Sulphurs). Mornings can produce good hatches of Tricos in the Lehighton to Bowmanstown stretch.

Come fall Isonychias and evening hatches of Sulphurs can be outstanding. Caddis and Blue Wing Olives will be the flies the fish will key on as late fall approaches. Fishing with streamers and Wooly Buggers can be quite productive during this time of year as well. In fact, Wooly Buggers and streamers fished with a sinking line will produce fish all year long.

The LRSA has published one of the better hatch charts for the Lehigh River (reproduced below).

Lehigh River Hatch Chart

If you haven't fished the Lehigh River give it a chance the next time you are in the area - you just might be surprised at how well it fishes.

Visit our DIY Guide to Fly Fishing in Pennsylvania for information on other fly fishing destinations in Pennsylvania.

About the Author Ken Sperry

Ken is an avid fisherman of 40+ years who loves to explore and is on a quest to map the best places for fly fishing in America. He created the DIY Fly Fishing App to share this information and help you find new places to fish.