February's Top Western Region Trout Lakes

Here's a look at where to find some great hardwater trout fishing in western Pennsylvania this month. (February 2006)

Photo by Michael Skinner

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission stocks 59 lakes during January and February under its Early-Season Stocking program. More than half of these lakes are in western region counties. Extended Trout Season rules are in effect, permitting anglers to keep up to three trout at least 7 inches in length or greater daily.

All of Pennsylvania's Approved Trout Waters are open to trout fishing through Feb. 28. Lakes and rivers in the Early-Season Trout-Stocked Waters Program are also open to trout fishing from March 1 through March 31. This special season, which allows trout fishing when most of our trout waters are closed to fishing, provides some of the best ice-fishing of the winter.

Stockings that most affect the ice-fishing season started back in November. Some stockings do not put trout in the water until late February. In order to get the best trout fishing, we should pay attention to stocking dates for both winter and early-season stocking programs. Also, anglers should consider the likelihood of trout holding over from winter stockings, which will largely depend on lake size and depth and also fishing pressure.

HARBOR ACRES LAKE

For example, the first stocking for the Early-Season Program took place Jan. 5 at Harbor Acres Lake in Butler County, more than a month before most other lakes in this program. Trout numbers are knocked down quickly at a small lake like this, located on State Game Lands 95 in northern Butler County off state Route 138 east of West Sunbury.

Three other western Pennsylvania lakes, Brady Run Lake, Lower Hereford Manor Lake and Raccoon Lake, are scheduled for stockings on the last day of January. All are in Beaver County.

Raccoon Lake is the largest of these at 101 acres, which means it has the greatest potential for holding fish over between stockings. This lake is in Raccoon Creek State Park. It can be reached from the west on U.S. Route 22 and U.S. Route 30, or from the north and south on state Route 18, which passes directly through the park.

In addition to trout, Raccoon Lake holds panfish, muskies and bass.

Jig through a series of holes drilled in a direct line from shallower water into deeper water. Establish a pattern that includes trout and sunfish and you can often enjoy reasonably steady action.

Five western Pennsylvania lakes get trout stockings both in the winter and early-season programs. These make great choices for ice-fishing anytime during winter because of the numbers of trout going into these lakes. Of course, there will be some holdover from the first stockings. Also, note that the early-season stockings in these particular lakes take place during the first half of February, so there should be plenty of time for ice-fishing barring an unusually warm winter.

LAKE ROWENA

Lake Rowena was scheduled for stocking last year on Dec. 13 and again on Feb. 14, which should result in good numbers of trout all through the ice-fishing period. However the lake is small, just 13 acres, and shallow, with a maximum depth of about 15 feet, so trout can be caught quickly after stockings.

Lake Rowena is in Cambria County off Route 22 on Lake View Road in Ebensburg.

CLOE LAKE

Cloe Lake is in southern Jefferson County, far enough from Pittsburgh to mean somewhat lighter fishing pressure. It is east of Punxsutawney on state Route 36 and then north at Cloe.

Like most of Pennsylvania's stocked trout lakes, Cloe is small at just 30 acres. It was scheduled to be stocked Dec. 14 and again on Feb. 1

Quite often anglers use the same tactics at these small lakes that are fished primarily by local anglers. Word spreads quickly about the most successful fishing tactic. The trick to catching fish between stockings may be doing something different. For starters, fish in a different area or at a different depth. Use different jigs or different colors. Try different baits, maybe one of the artificial jar baits, and try baits of various colors.

TWIN LAKES

Lower Twin Lake was scheduled for stocking Dec. 13 and again on Feb. 7, the same day as the one stocking at Upper Twin Lake. These two narrowly separated lakes are in Twin Lakes Park, a Westmoreland County park near Greensburg. Take U.S. Route 30 toward Greensburg, turn onto Donohoe Road at the traffic light in front of Westmoreland, follow this to the right through a traffic light and two stop signs, and then turn left and follow the signs to Twin Lakes Park.

The total area of these two lakes is 52 acres.

Westmoreland County might arguably be the capital of Pennsylvania trout ice-fishing with six stocked lakes. In addition to the Twin lakes, Donegal Lake, Keystone Lake, Mammoth Dam and Northmoreland Lake are scheduled to be stocked on Feb. 7.

JUSTUS LAKE

Justus Lake was stocked with trout on Nov. 1, in plenty of time for open-water fishing. Another stocking is scheduled for Feb. 6, well into the ice-fishing season.

This is a relatively large stocked trout lake at 144 acres, and quite deep, so there is a good likelihood of trout holding over. In fact, the lake holds trout year 'round and occasionally 20-inch trout are taken. Anglers are much less subject to the ups and downs of ice-fishing activity related to stocking dates here than in most other western Pennsylvania lakes.

You can take a couple of different approaches to ice-fishing for trout here, going for the recently stocked fish or targeting the larger holdover trout.

Stocked trout tend to remain close to stocking points for a while. The larger holdover trout are more likely to be in deeper water, although not necessarily near the bottom. Certainly, they are more elusive. Using sonar gear to spot signs of suspended activity can help.

For starters, try tip-ups baited with 5-inch shiners set about 5 feet under the ice.

Justus Lake is in Twomile Run County Park off state routes 417 and 428 between Franklin, Oil City and Titusville.

CHAPMAN LAKE

Chapman Lake was stocked Dec. 13 and is scheduled for another stocking Feb. 6. This is consistently one of the best lakes in the Northwest Region for ice-fishing. It is a medium-sized stocked trout lake covering 66 acres with depths of less than 8 feet in most areas, except for one short, narrow channel

near the water control device.

The better ice-fishing tends to be where the trout are stocked (in this case by a parking area at the head of the lake), along the steeper shoreline, and close to the breastwork of the dam.

From Route 6 between Warren and Kane at Clarendon, turn at the traffic light and go straight to Chapman State Park.

ERIE COUNTY LAKES

Erie County, our northernmost county, gets plenty of good ice and folks in the area love its trout fishing.

The county has four lakes or ponds that are stocked in the Early-Season Program: East Basin Pond, West Basin Pond, Upper Gravel Pit and Lake Pleasant.

East Basin Pond and West Basin Pond are in Presque Isle State Park. These are small ponds and stocked fish are thinned quickly. Both are scheduled to be stocked Feb. 1.

To get there, exit Interstate Route 90 at Peninsula Drive and follow the signs to the park.

Upper Gravel Pit is near Fairview. Feb. 2 is the scheduled stocking date here. Exit I-90 onto Route 98 north.


The best ice-fishing for trout at the Allegheny Reservoir is generally in the midsection, which is between Warren and Bradford off state Route 59.

 

Lake Pleasant is the premier stocked trout lake in the northwest corner. A natural glacial lake, it covers 64 acres and is quite deep.

Feb. 21 is the scheduled stocking date.

To find this lake, take I-90 to the Route 8 (Hammett) exit, follow Route 8 south and look on the right for Mark Road (about three miles); turn right onto Mark Road and follow it to the T-intersection, and then turn left onto Lake Pleasant Road for about five miles. The lake is on the right.

BESSEMER LAKE

Bessemer Lake is north of Bessemer near state Route 317. Stocking is slated for Feb. 21 at this 29-acre Lawrence County lake. It also holds panfish. At any of our stocked trout lakes, anglers should carry an assortment of jigs in a variety of colors. Changing from a yellow jig to yellow-and-red jig can make all the difference between a washout and a great day of ice-fishing.

DUMAN DAM

Duman Dam is a 21-acre Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission lake that is next to Duman Lake County Park, three miles north of Belsano on state Route 271 in Cambria County. Stocking is scheduled here for Feb. 14.

Rig with a slightly heavier leader because the lake also contains pickerel. They will hit the same terminal rigs as trout, including minnows and jigs.

GLADE RUN LAKE

In southern Butler County about halfway between Butler and Pittsburgh, near the intersection of state routes 8 and 228 close to Glade Mills, Glade Run Lake is convenient to many ice-fishermen. Feb. 21 is the scheduled Early-Season Program stocking date.

This midsized stocked trout lake covers 52 acres and also holds largemouth bass, bluegills and yellow perch in reasonable numbers.

FAYETTE COUNTY LAKES

Fayette County has a pair of lakes that will be stocked Feb. 28, just in time for Early-Season Program regulations to begin. Drive west from Uniontown on U.S. Route 40 to New Salem Road, and then turn right onto Stoney Point Road to Dunlap Creek Lake. Virgin Run Dam is one-half mile north of Flatwoods on township Road 701, eight miles west of Connellsville on PA Route 201.

DUKE LAKE

Duke Lake is in Greene County close to the West Virginia border. Stocking here takes place Feb. 28. The lake is part of Ryerson Station State Park. The park is on both sides of Bristoria Road off state Route 21 three miles from Wind Ridge.

This 52-acre lake also holds some respectable crappies, so bring some small minnows to use if the trout fishing slows down.

LAUREL HILL LAKE

In Somerset County, Laurel Hill Lake is a 63-acre impoundment in Laurel Hill State Park. From I-76 Exit 110 (Somerset), drive west on state Route 31 for eight miles, turn left onto Trent Road and follow the signs to the park.

This lake also holds crappies, yellow perch and bluegills of good size. A brightly colored jig tipped with grubs might catch trout or any of these panfish species.

EAST BRANCH LAKE

Perhaps the most unusual trout ice-fishing opportunity in the western counties is at East Branch Lake, where lake trout are the target species. Success rates are actually quite good, although the trout seldom are large. Most are less than 20 inches in length.

This lake is not very fertile, which is one of the reasons it holds lake trout, but it has good oxygen content in the depths.

One of the best areas to ice-fish for lake trout is directly across from the U.S. Corps of Engineers boat access at the lower end of the lake. Fish close to the bottom. Depths exceed 100 feet here and anglers may have to go this deep to find lake trout, so be sure every tip-up is spooled with plenty of line. Farther up the lake, concentrate ice-fishing efforts over the old river channel.

Use live minnows for bait or try jigging spoons. Lake trout jigs should be tipped with minnows, pieces of minnows, or use an appropriate scent.

ALLEGHENY RESERVOIR

If you want to catch really big trout through the ice, the best place to go in western Pennsylvania is the Allegheny Reservoir, where trout are typically 16 inches to 24 inches long and there's the real possibility of catching one that weighs more than 10 pounds. This is not high-percentage fishing and few anglers specifically target trout because walleyes are more popular. It seems logical, however, that anglers who want to specialize in ice-fishing for big trout might do well here.

The best ice-fishing for trout at the Allegheny Reservoir is generally in the midsection, which is between Warren and Bradford off state Route 59.

Anglers who ice-fish here often set at least one of their tip-ups specifically for trout. Trout tip-ups are generally set to catch fish a few feet under the ice. Even over deep water, trout apparently cruise just under the ice. Emerald shiners, a species found in abundance in this lake, are the preferred bait.

TRY THE RIVERS

There are numerous lakes where trout anglers can ice-fish in western Pennsylvania, providing an interesting variety of fishing situations ranging from regular stocked trout to trophies.

Two rivers, the Shenango River and the Youghiogheny River, are also stocked during winter. Both of these are dam tailrace fisheries.

The Shenango River,

in Mercer County close to Sharpsville, is scheduled to be stocked Feb. 3. The Youghiogheny is scheduled to be stocked Feb. 1. It is in Somerset County north off U.S. Route 40 on state Route 281.

Be sure to read your regulations summary to determine the details of special regulations. If you need more information, contact the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, P.O. Box 67000, 1601 Elmerton Avenue, Harrisburg, PA 17106-7000; or call (717) 705-7800.

For more information about accommodations in the region, contact the Pennsylvania Office of Tourism, Room 404, Forum Bldg., Harrisburg, PA 17120; or call (717) 232-8880 or (800) VISIT-PA.

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