Pennsylvania's Finest July Trout Rivers

Pennsylvania's Finest July Trout Rivers

Here's where to find some of the best summertime trout fishing in the Keystone State. (July 2008)

Photo by Andy Martin.

Come July, water temperatures start hitting summer highs, and trout fishing often is regarded as less than "hot." Rising temperatures will often concentrate trout in declining areas of suitable habitat.

As is so often the case, the secret to success largely rests with knowing where to go.

In a state where anglers direct so much attention toward trout fishing, it's hard to imagine that any good trout rivers are left undiscovered.

But yes, there are a few.

Here's a look at some of our best trout rivers, plus a look at one river that's still so lightly fished it could be considered a secret.

CLARION RIVER
The Clarion River is one of the most lightly fished of our state's trout rivers, maybe because it flows through sparsely populated counties.

Or maybe because its old reputation still lingers for poor water quality. But that has changed considerably, and today's Clarion River rates as one of the finer trout rivers in the eastern U.S.

It has all of the necessary ingredients: big trout, good access, a stretch that's large enough to be float-fished -- as well as Special Regulations sections to provide a variety of fishing experiences.

There are three of these Special Regulations sections on the Clarion River and its main branches.

On the East Branch Clarion River, starting 100 meters below the outflow of the East Branch Clarion River Dam downstream for 1.15 miles, is a Delayed Harvest, Artificial Lures Only, Special Regulations section.

Cool discharge from the dam keeps this section in excellent shape for trout through the summer.

The West Branch Clarion River has a 0.5-mile Catch and Release, Fly-Fishing Only, Special Regulations section, from a wire across the stream to the intersection of state Route 219 and state Route 4003.

The Clarion River's main stem has a Catch and Release, All Tackle, Special Regulations section that extends 8.5 miles from the confluence of the East and West branches to the confluence of Elk Creek.

From Ridgway downstream to Cook Forest State Park, float-fishing is popular. Canoe rentals are available at Ridgway and at the park.

Cook Forest State Park has 226 tent and trailer camp sites. For park information, contact the Cook Forest State Park office, P.O. Box 120. Cooksburg, PA 16217; or call (814) 744-8407.

DELAWARE RIVER
The Delaware River is world-renowned for its fabulous fishing for wild brown and rainbow trout. It's quite possible to catch specimens of either species more than 20 inches long.

The Delaware River's trout fishery can be divided into two sections. The upper section is the eight-mile miscellaneous Special Regulations section of the West Branch Delaware River, which forms Pennsylvania's extreme northeast border with New York. This is primarily a wild brown trout fishery, with some rainbows.

This Special Regulations section is an Artificial Lures Only stretch from Oct. 16 through 8 a.m. on opening day of the regular trout season.

There's good trophy trout fishing for another 30 miles below the confluence of the West Branch and East Branch Delaware River at Hancock, N.Y. On this main stem of the Delaware River, rainbow trout become increasingly abundant.

Most of the land along the Delaware River is privately owned. Float-fishing can be the best way to reach most of it.

Information about launch sites is available through the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission and through the National Park Service.

Information about Delaware River flows is available through a telephone hotline at (845) 252-7100. More information about the river, including a very useful map, is available at the National Park Service's Web site, www.nps.gov/upde.

LACKAWAXEN RIVER
The Lackawaxen may be at its best during summer when water temperatures rise because it attracts trout from the warmer Delaware River.

Suitable water temperature is maintained by water releases from Lake Wallenpaupack through Wallenpaupack Creek. The better fishing is between Hawley and Lackawaxen where it meets the Delaware River.

Access is the most significant obstacle to fishing the Lackawaxen River. Virtually all of it is bordered by private land. Be sure to pay attention to posted signs and park only at established pull-offs.

Outflows through the Lake Wallenpaupack Hydroelectric Station have a great influence on water flow in the Lackawaxen River.

To get updates on the outflow, log on to lakelevelppl.com, or phone 1-800-807-2474.

For local information for either the Delaware or Lackawaxen rivers, contact the Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau, 1004 Main Street, Stroudsburg, PA 18360.

Call 1-800-762-6667, or log on to www.800poconos.com.

LEHIGH RIVER
Eastern Pennsylvania has a pleasing assortment of trout rivers. The Lehigh River has developed into a top fishery for trophy trout, notably for rainbows. Deep, fast-flowing pools seem ideal for rainbow trout.

Last year, the largest rainbow reported in the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission's Angler Recognition Program -- a 13-pound, 9-ounce fish -- came from the Lehigh.

The Lehigh River has been deemed navigable, but has been the subject of court battles with landowners who would claim it for themselves, in a situation similar to another of our top trout rivers, the Little Juniata.

For more information about this area, call the Lehigh Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau at 1-800-747-0561

Or write the Bureau at 840 Hamilton Street, Suite 200, Allentown, PA 18101.

LACKAWANNA RIVER
The Lackawanna River is another river in the Olyphant and Winton areas with good trout-fishing potential. It holds brown trout to at least 20 inches, though it was last surveyed in 20

00.

There is a 5.2-mile Trophy Trout Special Regulations section from the Gilmartin Street Bridge in Archbald downstream to the Lackawanna Avenue Bridge (state Route 0347) in Olyphant. Excepted is a mid-section area extending .7 miles from the Depot Street Bridge in Jessup downstream to the footbridge in Robert Mellow Park.

For details, write the Lackawanna County Convention and Visitors Bureau, 99 Glenmaura National Boulevard, Scranton, PA 18507. Or phone 1-800-22-WELCOME, or log on to www.visit nepa.org.

ALLEGHENY RIVER
Two sections of the Allegheny River are trout fisheries. The headwaters of the Allegheny River in Potter County is a stocked trout stream. At some point before the river swings north into New York the water becomes too warm to support trout through the summer.

This is a fine section of trout water, though not the section that has earned the Allegheny its reputation as one of the top trout rivers in the eastern U.S.

Not until several miles downstream, starting at the outflow of the Kinzua Dam in Warren County that it becomes a famous trout river.

The section of the Allegheny River starting at the Kinzua Dam is managed by rainbow trout fingerlings and brown trout fingerlings being stocked on a regular basis.

About 200,000 fingerlings are stocked annually.

The proportion of brown versus rainbow trout fingerlings varies. Over the past few years, it has been weighted toward rainbow fingerlings. A few brook trout also enter this fishery from tributary streams. Several tributaries in this section are stocked with adult trout; some also support wild populations of all three trout species.

The Allegheny River is the top fishery for trophy trout in Pennsylvania, though not as dominantly as it was a decade ago. This is due not to any decline in the Allegheny's trout fishery, but rather a result of successful Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission trout programs.

Trout in the 14-inch to 22-inch class are common in the Allegheny River. Occasionally 10-pound trout are caught, but often these go unreported because some of the better fishing -- especially for larger trout, occurs during the time when only catch-and-release fishing is allowed.

Miscellaneous Special Regulations apply to the Allegheny River from the Kinzua Dam downstream 8.75 miles to the confluence of Conewango Creek in Warren.

From 8 a.m. on the opening day of regular trout season through Labor Day, the daily creel limit is two trout, with a minimum-size limit of 14 inches. During the remainder of the year, no trout may be killed or had in possession.

One thing that makes this Special Regulations section of the Allegheny River special is that it may be float-fished. Flows are suitable through summer for canoes or shallow-draft boats. Jet boats are quite popular among local anglers. Canoe rentals are available at Warren.

As on all of our trout rivers, you should observe caution during periods of high flow. It's prudent to avoid boating on the river when outflow from the Kinzua Dam is more than 5,000 cubic feet per second.

Outflow information is available by calling (814) 726-0164.

Information about local services is available through the Warren County Visitors Bureau, 2883 Pennsylvania Avenue Extension, Warren, PA 16365. Or call 1-800-624-7802, or log onto the agency's Web site at www.northern alleghenies.com.

LITTLE JUNIATA RIVER
The Little Juniata River flows through the central part of the Commonwealth and has been in the news several times over the past few years because of court battles over who has the right to fish it.

A superb trout fishery, developed through stocking of fingerlings, attracted wealthy landowners who tried to claim it for themselves. They may claim the land around the river, but any navigable river is open to public traffic.

For more information, contact the Huntingdon County Visitors Bureau, R.D. No. 1, Box 222-A, Seven Points Road, Hesston, PA 16647. Call 1-888-729-7869, or log onto raystown.org.

YOUGHIOGHENY RIVER
The Youghiogheny River has a longer history as a trout river than most rivers in Pennsylvania. Year-round stocking of adult trout by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission has made the outflow of the Youghiogheny Dam a popular area.

Though a lot of good trout fishing is available through a long stretch of the Youghiogheny, the primary fishery is in the outflow area.

The Youghiogheny is one of only two rivers that receive year-round adult trout stockings. The other river, the Shenango, should not be classed among Pennsylvania's "best" trout rivers because its only significant trout fishery is in the tailwaters of the Shenango Dam, where the cool water discharges maintain suitable water temperatures. Elsewhere, the Shenango River does not contain good trout habitat, so this is essentially a put-and-take fishery.

While adult trout stocking in the Youghiogheny River is conducted to maintain a year-round, put-and-take trout fishery, there is a long stretch of river where trout hold over.

The Youghiogheny River is not as fertile as some of Quaker State's other top trout rivers. But last year, it gave up two of the top five rainbows reported in the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission's Angler Recognition Program -- including the 11-pound, 14-ounce fish that ranked second and a 10-pound, 1-ounce fish that ranked fourth.

The scenery along the river is unsurpassed, which helps to make it a first-class trout-fishing experience.

On the Youghiogheny River, there are three Special Regulations sections: a nine-mile All-Tackle Trophy Trout stretch from the confluence of Ramcat Run downstream to the Route 381 bridge at Ohiopyle, and two sections that include the river sections listed under "Miscellaneous Special Regulations."

Information about local services is available from the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau, 120 East Main Street, Ligonier, PA 15658. Log on to www.laurelhighlands.org, or call 1-800-333-5661.

SCHUYLKILL RIVER
Last, but hardly least, is a virtually undiscovered trout fishery within a couple hours' drive from millions of people. The Schuylkill River doesn't look like a typical trout river. It flows through some of Pennsylvania's heaviest-developed land.

In a state where anglers direct so much attention toward trout fishing, it's hard to imagine that any good trout rivers are left undiscovered.

But yes, there are a few.

The river's lower reaches are not prime trout habitat, but as with so many of o

ur flowing waters, its water quality has improved over the past few decades. Today it supports some respectable trout.

Wild brook trout and brown trout exist upstream from State Game Lands No. 286 in Schuylkill County. These are bolstered by stockings of fingerling browns and rainbows.

"The stretch from the state game lands downstream from Schuylkill Haven in Schuylkill County upstream to Pottsville is the most productive," said Michael Kaufmann, the PFBC's area fisheries manager. "Above Pottsville and from Pottsville to Middleport, there are trout present, and we do stock it. But trout are not nearly as abundant as they are down below.

"In the stretch from Pottsville up to Middleport, There are mostly brook trout, although some of the fingerling browns and rainbows that have worked their way upriver, and anglers will find some adult browns and rainbows up there as well.

"I would say the typical brook trout is going to measure between nine and 11 inches, which is considerably bigger than the fish you're going to get out of the mountain streams," said Kaufmann.

Below Pottsville, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission has concentrated on stocking brown trout and rainbow trout fingerlings. To date, the Schuylkill it is still not a trophy fishery, but the trout are respectable. Rainbow trout grow to about 16 inches, and the browns top out at nearly 20 inches.

Access is very good, even though this river flows through mostly private land. At present, there is little posting.

Though the Schuylkill runs along a narrow band of trees along the river, the scenery can be a pleasant surprise, forming a greenbelt through a mix of rural and suburban lands.

The sounds of the river block out much of the racket of civilization that surrounds it. And considering that it is close to the most densely populated part of Pennsylvania, fishing pressure is not at all heavy.

"No, it's not, and that's the interesting thing," Kaufmann said. "Anglers could have had the whole place to themselves. But if they wait much longer to fish it, they're going to be complaining it gets fished so much!"

Information useful for visitors to the area may be obtained from the Schuylkill County Visitors Bureau, 200 East Arch Street, Pottsville, PA 17901. Call 1-800-765-7282, or log on to www.schuylkill.org.

For more information about trout- fishing opportunities in the Keystone State, contact the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, 1601 Elmerton Avenue, P.O. Box 67000, Harrisburg, PA 17106-7000. Log on to www.fish.state.pa.us, or call (717) 705-7800.

For more information about traveling in Pennsylvania, contact the Pennsylvania Office of Tourism, Room 404, Forum Building, Harrisburg, PA 17120. Telephone 1-800-VISIT-PA (800-847-4872); or log on to www.visitPA.com, the agency's Web site.

Find more about Pennsylvania fishing and hunting at PAgameandfish.com

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get the top Game & Fish stories delivered right to your inbox every week.