By Christopher Holland • The Current Contributing Writer
The five mile stretch of the Lehigh River from the Route 903 Bridge in Jim Thorpe upstream to the confluence of Bear Creek has some of the most scenic beauty in the area. It also has some of the best trout fishing waters, thanks to the local organization The Five Mile High Stocking Club.
Founded in 2010 by a group of anglers who wanted to improve the trout fishery in the Lehigh River in Carbon County, the organization has stocked thousands of fish into the river since its inception and later this month it will be adding even more.
Five appointed trustees oversee the efforts of the club, and they’re looking for more people to get actively involved with the more than 100 member strong organization and help stock trout on Saturday, April 27.
The members of the stocking club concentrate their efforts on raising money to purchase trout to be stocked in the five mile section of the river. This is done through selling memberships (which are $20 per year), donations and holding a limited number of fundraisers each year.
In 2015, the club was fortunate to receive a $500 grant from the Carbon County Hotel Rental Excise Tax Grant Program in recognition of its efforts to promote tourism in the area. In order to maximize its financial effort, operating costs are kept to a bare minimum with much of the required time and material items being donated by its members.
The trout are purchased from Sand Spring Hatchery in Jim Thorpe and most fish every year are well above 16 inches. The club tags some of these fish each year to track their movements and plan for future stockings.
Parking to access the area that it starts the stocking efforts can be located at the Carbon County parking lot in Jim Thorpe, or the Glen Onoko access point in Lehigh Gorge State Park. Biking and hiking trails run along the river from either of these parking areas.
For the more adventurous, the river can also be accessed via suitable watercraft, including rafts, pontoon boats and kayaks. Should you decide to access the river by watercraft, the club suggests checking with the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources regarding rules and regulations before entering.
For those that are unfamiliar with fishing the Lehigh River, there are many deep “holes” that may run 10 to 25 feet deep and sometimes 50 or more yards long. There are also drop-offs along the edges in places, so caution should be exercised. A few scouting trips and some cautious time spent on the river is recommended.
The river changes from year to year, depending on the water extremes. Many areas are perfect for fly fishing by wading out from shore. A different mental attitude is required for those used to small stream fishing.
The organizers of the club meet at the Mauch Chunk Rod & Gun Club in Jim Thorpe on the last Tuesday of every month at 6:00 p.m. The membership list, financials, minutes and other information are available at every meeting.
There are no membership cards, buttons, websites or newsletters for the club. The streamlined approach helps support the goal of putting every dollar contributed into purchasing fish. The club says that each new member translates into three or four additional fish stocked in the river.
The club also says that they encourage catch-and-release fishing, and that every fish released unharmed will help ensure the river becomes a greater resource in years to come.
To become a member of the organization, you can mail a $20 check to The Five Mile High Club at P.O. Box 4000, Jim Thorpe, PA, 18229.
More information on how to volunteer can also be obtained by visiting the Mauch Chunk Rod & Gun Club.