Our Top 10 Summer Trout Lakes

Our Top 10 Summer Trout Lakes

Hot weather often drives trout into deep water where conditions are more to their liking. Here's a look at 10 of Pennsylvania's hottest summer trout fisheries and how you can beat the heat this month.

Photo by Jim Spencer

By July, Pennsylvania lakes have become the prime target for bass anglers seeking their favorite quarry. The thought of pulling trout from the still waters of a summer lake is far from their minds. But for anglers who still yearn to feel the pull of a fighting trout, there are some excellent Pennsylvania lakes where they can find plenty of action at this time of year.

The most important element that a July trout lake must possess, which all Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission fishery managers agree upon, is a thermocline. What this means in reference to a July trout lake is the area of subsurface water where the oxygen level is high enough and the water temperature cool enough to allow trout to keep functioning in a manner where they will move about without stress to freely pursue food.

Unlike warmwater species, such as bass, catfish and panfish, which do well in warm waters with lower oxygen levels, trout need water temperatures in the 45- to 55-degree range with a steady supply of dissolved oxygen.

Not all Pennsylvania lakes that are stocked with trout have this feature in summer, but by the same token there are many that do. The following list briefly covers the picks of Pennsylvania's fisheries managers for the top 10 trout lakes in July:

LAKE MARBURGH

Found in the southwest corner of York County and within Codorus State Park, this 1,275-acre lake with 26 miles of shoreline is one of Pennsylvania's best bets for summer trout action. Mike Kaufmann, Area 6 fisheries manager for the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, said Lake Marburgh has undergone several different approaches by the Fish and Boat Commission through the years in an attempt to establishing good trout populations for year-round fishing.

"A few years back, we tried stocking fingerlings, but warmwater species in the lake preyed upon them," Kaufmann said. "Now we put 4,200 adult trout in the lake the first week of the season that average 10 to 12 inches in length. By the following year, there are many trout in the lake that average 15 to 18 inches in length. This stocking system, along with the abundant smelt population, keeps good numbers of big fish in the mix for anglers who choose to fish here."

To reach Lake Marburgh, take Exit 8 from Interstate 83, go 18 miles west on state Route 216 through Hanover, turn right (onto state Route 216 east), and go three miles to the park. This lake allows unlimited horsepower motors, has paved launching roads and large parking facilities.

LOCUST LAKE

In northern Schuylkill County, this 52-acre lake is within 1,089-acre Locust Lake State Park. This is one of the PFBC's "high-intensity" trout lakes and is stocked accordingly. That means the normal pre-season stocking of 2,900 brown and brook trout are only part of the total number stocked. Although final numbers are not available, Locust Lake will receive in-season stockings and fall-winter stockings.

This lake allows only electric motors, has ample parking and hard-surface launching facilities. It is seven miles north of the city of Pottsville and is two miles southwest of Exit 131A (Hometown) off Interstate 81.

LEISURE LAKE

When filled (it is in a current draw-down for dam repairs that are scheduled to be finished soon), this Lehigh County lake covers 117 acres. Nestled along the Blue Mountains on its northern edge, with fields of tall summer grasses along the rest of its perimeter, this Management Area 6 lake receives fall and winter stockings in addition to in-season stockings. It also received 289 brook trout and 2,520 rainbow trout in a pre-season stocking.

A special regulation is in effect on this Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission lake that makes it different from other lakes on this list. Fishing hours range from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Otherwise, the lake is off-limits from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. Electric motors are the only allowed means of propulsion. There are two paved launch areas and three very large parking areas.

Leaser Lake runs along state Route 143 north of the village of Jacksonville. To its north, Route 143 may be accessed from state Route 309. Route 143 may also be accessed from Interstate Route 78 by taking Route 863 north and then following it till it reaches state Route 143.

RAYSTOWN LAKE

Perhaps Pennsylvania's most famous in-state body of water, this enormous Huntington County lake is not classified as "approved trout water." That fact is deceiving, however. Each year, 150,000 fingerling lake trout are stocked here. This stocking has been going on for many years, and a good lake trout fishery may be found at Raystown.

Also, the Juniata River Raystown Branch receives trout stockings. This year, its pre-season numbers are 1,000 brook trout, with an in-season stocking to follow.

Dave Miko, Area 7 fisheries manager, said holdover trout from the river eventually make their way into the lake when the river warms.

"This may be a different fishing experience for most anglers because of the lake's size," Miko noted. "To fish here, you must search for the channels and underwater structure, and it helps to find the large populations of alewives and smelt if you want to locate trout. An underwater topographic map is a good start."

On the northern end of the lake is the Point Access launch site. This is a Fish and Boat Commission facility off U.S. Route 22 east of the town of Huntington. This round-the-clock surfaced ramp features a large parking lot. All other launch sites on the lake require a fee.

Unlimited horsepower motors are the rule at Raystown.

Route 26 runs along the western shore of the lake and may be accessed from the town of Huntington.

BELTSVILLE LAKE

This southern Carbon County lake is big, long and deep. At 949 acres, with 19.8 miles of shoreline, there are stretches where the depth exceeds 200 feet. Area 5 fisheries manager Dave Arnold said most trout fishing on the lake is done with downriggers.

"The primary target is brown trout, and the average size range is from 20 to 25 inches," Arnold said.

Each year, the Fish and Boat Commission stocks between 30,000 and 40,000 brown trout fingerlings.

Arnold also mentioned another unique feature of this lake.

"The lake has a dual thermocline and dual oxygen level. There is a low radiant oxygen level from 30 to 60 feet, then a more oxygen-enriched layer from 60 to 90 feet. These are the areas to target for the biggest browns."

Beltsville is east of Lehighton off U.S. Route 209. Take Exit 74 from the Northeast Extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike and follow the signs to Beltsville State Park.

Paved launches and large parking facilities are found here, although on weekends the lake can become very crowded in July due to its unlimited horsepower rating.

UPPER WOODS POND

Another Area 5 lake that is a good bet for July trout action is Upper Woods Pond. This is one of the few naturally formed lakes found in Pennsylvania. A deep, natural glacial lake that covers 80 acres, this wonderful body of water receives many stockings of adult trout throughout the year. Some 4,000 rainbows were stocked pre-season and at least 8,000 fingerling rainbow trout are also stocked each season.

This lake is within State Game Lands 159 two miles north of Cold Springs Corner along Route 371 in northcentral Wayne County. Route 247 runs north and south to the west of the lake, and Route 191 is on the east side. Only electric motors are allowed. The lake has a small paved launch facility and a modest parking area.

JUSTUS LAKE

Located in northwestern Pennsylvania, this Venango County body of water is a good coldwater lake throughout the year, according to Allen Woomer, Area 2 fisheries manager for the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission. Fed by underground springs with good water depth, the lake has the ingredients that produce summer trout. Some 430 brook trout and 3,870 rainbow trout were stocked in pre-season, and in-season stockings also occur. Woomer said to target the bottom half of the lake come July, the area toward the dam.

The lake is in the Two Mile Run State County Park on state Road 417 between the towns of Franklin and Oil City. Road 417 may be accessed from Route 322 in Franklin and Route 6 coming from Oil City.

This is an electric motor-only lake with a paved launch area and a large parking lot.


Of course, July trout anglers must be prepared to reach that cold water with a bait or lure to enjoy any measure of success.
 

POE LAKE

This Centre County Lake is small at 25 acres, but its location between the rugged mountains of Bald Eagle State Forest, secluded setting within Poe Valley State Park and its cold water more than compensate for its small stature, according to Bruce Hollender, Area 3 fisheries manager.

"You cannot find a more perfect area to be away from the busy world around us than Poe Valley," Hollander said.

Poe Lake received a pre-season stocking of 290 brook trout and 2,610 rainbows, and will receive an in-season stocking as well. With good fish retention throughout the year, this lake is a good choice to spend some time on a July day.

From Potter Mills, go east on U.S. 322 for 1.5 miles to near the top of the Seven Mountains Scenic Area, and then follow the marked State Forest Road for 10 miles to Poe Valley. From the town of Millwheel, go west on state Route 45 for 1.5 miles, and then follow the signs south for 12 miles to the park.

Poe Lake has two small launching areas, limited parking and allows the use of electric motors only.

HUNTERS LAKE

This 117-acre lake is within the mountains of southwest Sullivan County and also Fisheries Management Area 3. The lake received 370 brook trout and 3,330 rainbow trout in pre-season stockings.

Surrounded by 2,000 acres of woodlands owned by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and managed by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, this beautiful setting is off state Route 42 between the towns of Muncie Valley and Eagles Mere.

Electric motors are the only allowed means of boating power. There are surfaced launch ramps, a large parking area and plenty of places to fish from shore.

HARVEYS LAKE

Robert Moase, Area 4 fisheries manager, rounds out our list with his top choice of a good July trout lake within his management area.

Harveys Lake is eastern Pennsylvania's largest natural lake at 658 acres. It is owned and managed by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.

This body of water falls under the Fish and Boat Commission's Miscellaneous Waters with Special Regulations category. On Harveys Lake, the daily limit on trout is three fish. Only one trout over 18 inches in length may be harvested. The season on this lake runs from 8 a.m. on the opening day of trout season through March 31. This lake receives both winter stockings and in-season stockings, plus 4,300 adult brown trout were released in a pre-season stocking. Some big brown trout swim within its confines.

Located in Luzerne County, the lake is northwest of Wilkes-Barre off state Route 415. Route 415 may be accessed off Route 309 north from the city of Wilkes-Barre.

This lake allows unlimited horsepower motors, large parking lots and paved launch facilities.

If there is one common thread that ties all these lakes together, it is their locations. All are off the beaten path in scenic landscapes between large mountains, and the thick, surrounding forest cover helps protect their cool water status. Many of these lakes are found in state parks or on Pennsylvania game lands or Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission-managed regions.

They are also bodies of water with significant depth, another important factor in maintaining water temperatures cold enough for trout to remain active in July.

Of course, July trout anglers must be prepared to reach that cold water with a bait or lure to enjoy any measure of success. Trolling with downriggers or drifting lures and baits within the thermocline is the established method of fishing for July trout, thus making fishing from a boat the best choice for seeking July trout. But even shoreline fishing may be successful if anglers come equipped to access the thermocline.

All area fishery managers agree that when fishing cold water in a summer lake, the focus is on points, coves, deep dropoffs, stream or river channels and spring water inflows with proper oxygen levels. All of these come into play if you are going to be successful at July trout fishing. The best tactic remains the one that enables you to know the water you are fishing from the bottom up.

So do not hesitate to visit one of these appealing summer trout hotspots. You will not have to worry about the bass-fishing crowd.

For addition

al information on Pennsylvania's July trout lakes, call the following Area Fishery Management offices: Area 2 at (814) 755-3890, Area 3 at (814) 359-5118, Area 4 at (570) 477-5717, Area 5 at (570) 588-6388, Area 6 at (610) 847-2442 or Area 7 at (717) 776-3170.

Or call the state headquarters of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission at the Harrisburg office at (717) 705-7800. You can also visit the Fish and Boat Commission's Web site at

www.fish.state.pa.us.

To plan a trip near one of these lakes, visit the Pennsylvania Tourism Promotional Agency's' Web site at

www.state.pa.us. For additional general information, contact the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) at (888) 727-2757

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