Harveys Lake History

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Part 2:  Lake Trout

Lake Trout (salvelinus namaycush) were the most prized of Harvey’s Lake fisherman.  The Lake Trout was originally native only in Lake Erie and Silver Lake, in Susquehanna County.  They can thrive in deep, cold lakes and were introduced into Harvey’s Lake in the 1880s.  The Pennsylvania State record is a 36 inch, 27 pound fish, caught in Lake Erie in 1996.  (Currently, lake trout are severely depleted at Harvey's Lake).

An extensive account of Lake fishing in the early years which notes lake trout was written by John Q. Creveling, an area lawyer, in 1952:


Harvey’s Lake is one of the finest and most picturesque lakes in Pennsylvania and as a natural body of water has principally spring water in it.  It is one of our deepest lakes and its water is cool, being fed mostly by underground springs.

Since about 1890 it has grown into a large and beautiful summer resort, having no equal in Pennsylvania. Its pure water has been the home of splendid fish.  Before artificial stocking began, the chief species were pickerel, sunfish, perch and catfish.  Other species were planted including lake trout, bass, wall-eyes, rockbass, crappies, blue gills, and now brook trout. The chief attractions of the summer resort are its amusements.  These are the picnic amusements, swimming, boating and fishing.

While not the chief amusement, fishing has been indulged in the lake to a considerable extents for many years, and many people have participated in it.  In the course of a year many fish are taken.  The finest fish have been the lake trout and wall-eyes, also called pike perch.

Pickerel, Bass Plentiful

I have caught fish in Harvey’s Lake since 1890. After the Lehigh Valley Railroad was built I would take the forenoon train and spend the afternoon fishing on the westerly shore, usually catching bass and pickerel, returning in the evening by train.

In the early days bass and pickerel were plentiful and easily taken.  The fisherman became more numerous as the Summer resort grew and gradually it became more difficult to catch a dozen fish, and it soon became evident that the lake needed stocking.  However, not much of it was done until about 1910, and thereafter, although I was informed that lake trout had been stocked in it back in 1883.

After the Wilkes-Barre Camp of United Sportsman of Pennsylvania had been formed in 1911, the camp began to secure fish from the State hatcheries to stock the Lake.  The camp got shipments of young wall-eyes, bass, lake trout, crappie, perch, blue gills and catfish in large numbers, and deposited them in the lake from year to year.  The camp also stocked all the open waters of the county with fish from State and National hatcheries for many years.

32-Inch Wall-eye

It is remarkable the great number of small fry it takes to stock the depleted waters.  The first stocking of wall-eyes in Harveys Lake that I remember was 50 cans in about 1910. Each can was said to contain 2,000 fish.  Those little fish were less than an inch long.  Nevertheless, after they had been stocked three years people began to catch them.  They were then about eight inches long.  I saw one wall-eye taken from the lake that was 32 inches long and weighed eight pounds and some ounces. The stocking by the sportsmen’s camp was continued from year to year up to the present.  In the year 1915 the camp stocked Harveys Lake with about 400,000 small fry.  In 1916 the State Fish Commission cleaned out one of its hatcheries, and that year sent to Luzerne county a large number of fish for stocking the lakes, streams and ponds in this county.  One-hundred-and-four members of Camp 103, United Sportsmen of Pennsylvania (the Wilkes-Barre camp) engaged in planting them.

The biennial report of the Fish Commission covering the year 1916, shows there were shipped that year to Luzerne county2,565,000 fish for stocking the waters of the county, and I know that number were planted in lakes and streams.  I mention this to show what a great number of small fry are necessary to restock depleted waters in order to provide and maintain public fishing.

Lake Trout Stocked In 1883

Elderly people informed me that Harveys Lake formerly had brook trout in it.  I never found any there, but in a case ofunlawful fishing which I tried in court as a lawyer, I called a wit-ness who testified that the lake was formerly inhabited by brooktrout.  Benjamin Dorrance, with whom I fished, informed me thathe assisted in planting lake trout in Harveys Lake as far back as 1883.  [Editor note:  Another account states 1889]Lake trout thrived in the lake and a large number of thosevery beautiful fish have been taken.  During the earlier years fish-ing for lake trout was done mostly by outlines, ice fishing, spearing,gill netting and trolling.

It took much effort to get the sport reduced to trolling, butit has now, after 40 years, almost reached that point.  Last year theState Fish Commission made a survey of the fish life in HarveysLake and it is going to restock lake trout there.  This year the commission stocked brook trout and rainbow trout there, and thatprovided some new fishing.  It may be possible to establish the rainbows.  I know two lakes in the State where stocked rainbowshave grown to a good size.

I think the fish in Harveys Lake, with the exception ofblack bass, are the best of our lake fishes, and the lake trout thevery best of all its fishes.  The brook trout in my opinion doesnot exceed the goodness of the lake trout when properly pre-pared for eating.  I think the depth of the water and its purityadd to the goodness of the fish.

Pollution Problem

I have noticed, however, too many disturbing sub-stances entering the lake.  This should be prevented.  It is a shame to pollute this beautiful lake.  I called the attentionof the Sanitary Water Board of the State to it at one time.  Theboard sent an investigator to report on it.  I met him at the lakeand after making an investigation he said to me:  “Don’t expectanything to be done about it.  I will report it correctly, but Iwas told before leaving the office to go slow and don’t stir uptrouble.”  That was some year ago.  Something has since been done but not enough.

I noticed during the period while the new road at the lake was first repaired and paved, that a large number of thelake trout died.  I examined many of the dead ones and con-cluded that they starved to death.  The mud from the new roadran into the lake, an all summer long the water in the deep por-tions remained muddy.  The lake trout came out into the shallowwarm water, and that not being their element, they died.I saw a great many dead ones during that period.  It resulted in the lake losing almost all of its best fish.  Many thousands of bait fish were stocked in order to restore the loss.  This stocking would be noticeable for about three years after-ward; and then they would disappear.  Now it appears they areincreasing in the lake.

Annual Stocking Necessary

I believe there is too large a amount of gasoline on thewater during the hatching period for these bait fish to increase,and stocking with bait fish will have to be continued annually.As to the quantity of fish taken from Harvey’s Lake over the years, the amount is not known.  However, in one year,about 1915 or 1916, I tried to furnish the Fish Commission withas accurate an account as possible of lake trout taken in thatyear.  The commission had stocked the lake with 50,000 laketrout fingerlings, up to five inches in length when planted. They had grown two years after planting and when then caughtweighed about two pounds each.

I inquired of all persons I knew who had caught them and my total count exceeded for that one year’s catch more than1,500 fish – of an aggregate weight of a ton of half.The lake is large and it furnished a large amount of fish-ing.  I counted 80 fishing boats on the first day of an open season.It is the finest body of water in the State and if properly takencare of will furnish a large amount of fishing and many splendidfish to a large number of fishermen who enjoy the sport.The catching of a lake trout of 10 or 12 pounds in ourPennsylvania lakes will give you a thrill.  You have a beautiful fish and splendid food.                  

The Lake Trout population was severely stressed during the extremely hot Summer of 1966 due to low oxygen levels in the Lake.  The Fish Commission, however, continues stocking of Lake Trout.  In an earlier time expert fishermen trolled the Lake’s deep waters for this special fish.  Among them was Amos Kitchen (1867-1951), a descendent of the Lake’s pioneer settlers.  His son, the late Glenn Kitchen, recounted his father’s fishing days at the Lake in a 1989 interview with Stan Sowa, outdoor writer for the Citizens’ Voice:


Glenn says Harveys Lake was a favorite fishery for many anglers, including his father, the late Amos M.Kitchen.  Amos was born at the Alderson and of the lakeon Nov. 18, 1867, and spent his entire life there until hepassed away in 1951 at the age of 84 years and 11 months.He was an ardent fisherman and, as Glenn puts it, “My dadknew the bottom of the lake like a book.”  Not so surprising,since he fished the lake on and off for more than 80 years.According to Glenn, Amos operated his own businessas a building contractor and constructed numerous summerhomes, boat houses and docks at the lake during his life-time.  He was considered by those who knew him well tobe the most experienced lake trout angler that ever fishedthe lake.^^When Glenn reflects on days past, he recalls his dadtelling him about the countless experiences he had while fish-ing for big lake trout.

It seems Amos used to row a boat to work at differentlocations at the lake before he bought his first Model “T” Ford.During one of his trips to work across the lake he took hislake trout rig along to try his luck while one of his carpentersrowed the boat.  The fish were hitting so well he never did get to work that day, but he did manage to catch lake trout.

The two trout in the accompanying photo were caughtby Amos in July of 1938.  They weighed six pounds, two ouncesand five pounds and 14 ounces, and were 26 and 28 inches inlength, respectively.  These were the last lake trout caught by Amos because at that age he was slowly loosing his eye sightto glaucoma.  He continued to enjoy still-fishing until he was 84 years of age, although he was totally blind by then.Amos was also an avid walleye and smallmouth bassangler during the years he fished the waters of Harveys Lake, but he was particularly fond of lake trout.  Most of the lakerswere caught in deep water (50 to 110 feet in depth) with a copper line and a large spoon with a large single hook.  The line had swivels at 20-foot intervals to prevent tangling.  Hishome-made reel was built from a spool of round stock about 8-inches long and 4-inches in diameter with a crank on one end, and it was suspended between two uprights on a small base of wood about 16-inches long.  No fancy outfit, but justthe tickets for catching the big lake trout that lurked beneath the waters of Harveys Lake back then.

In 1951 the Pennsylvania Fish Commission found twenty-two species of fish in the Lake.  The following fourteen are listed in order of abundance at that time:  (1) Bluegill (2) Golden Shiner (3) Rock Bass (4) Pumpkinseed Sunfish (5) Brown Bullhead  (6)  Yellow Perch  (7)  Yellow Pikeperch (Walleye) (8)  Chain Pickerel (9)  Smallmouth Bass (10)  White Sucker  (11)  Lake Chubsucker  (12)  Largemouth Bass  (13)  Black Bullhead and (14)  Lake Trout.  Additional species in the Lake were Creek Chub; Spotted Sunfish; Fourspine Stickelback; Spotted Shiner; Bluntnose Minnow; Banded Killifish; Johnny Darter; and Blacknose Dart.

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Copyright 2006-2008 F. Charles Petrillo