Hot Spots for Pennsylvania Fishing in 2012

Hot Spots for Pennsylvania Fishing in 2012
Art Hamley caught this lower Allegheny River walleye in the Kittanning area. The Route 422 Bridge is in the background. Photo by Jeff Knapp.

Your boat might be a snowy, tarp-covered bump in the backyard; your boots well-dried from their last adventure. Don't despair! While you re-spool line and replace hooks we've put together a 12- month slate of Pennsylvania fishing adventures sure to keep you busy this year.

JANUARY

Lower Allegheny River

Walleyes

The lower Allegheny River stretches  over 70-odd miles from East Brady downriver to Pittsburgh. Eight lock-and-dam structures impound this stretch, and tend to serve as gathering points for wintering walleyes. When river conditions are reasonable — i.e., not extremely high, or completely iced over — excellent walleye fishing can be enjoyed.

The immediate tailrace areas of the dams are off limits to boat anglers. But shore anglers have some access to these areas. Lock & Dam 4, 5, 7 and 8 have small hydroelectric stations located on the shore opposite the lock chamber. These facilities feature fishing platforms. The best fishing from these areas will be had during periods of low flow, as excess current will move the fish out.

Boat anglers will often find good fishing in the larger, deeper holes within 2 to 3 miles of the dam tailrace, as many fish will stage in these areas. Look for such spots on sharp river bends, and both immediately above and below feeder waters.

While good fishing is available throughout the entire stretch, some of the best fishing often happens downriver of Lock and Dam 2 (the Highland Park Dam), with good access found at the Fish and Boat Commission's Sharpsburg Access.

FEBRUARY

Promised Land State Park

Panfish On Ice

Promised Land State Park is located in the heart of Northeastern Pennsylvania's Pocono Mountains. While the 3,000-acre state park provides a host of wintertime activities, for the angler the attraction is the fishing to be had in the two lakes that are found in the state park acreage.

Both the 422-acre Promised Lake and 173-acre Lower Lake offer excellent ice-fishing opportunities. Located on the Pocono Plateau (at an elevation over 1,800 feet), these two lakes tend to provide relatively long ice fishing seasons. Five boat access areas scattered around the two lakes provide ice-fishing access.

Both yellow perch and panfish are found here, and are the focus of many ice fishers. Largemouth and smallmouth bass are also part of the mix; chain pickerel are found in the two lakes as well, and often provide hardwater action. The Fish and Boat Commission stocks brook, brown and rainbow trout in Lower Lake; trout are commonly available during the ice fishing season.

Promised Land State Park is located in Pike County. Call the state park office at 570-676-3428 for a report on ice-fishing conditions.

MARCH

Lower Juniata River

Smallmouth Bass

The Juniata River, along with the lower portions of the Susquehanna River, has been the focus of concerned anglers and fisheries managers. Poor survival rates of young smallmouth bass in recent years have provided fewer young bass. But decent numbers of adult bass remain; in early spring, when bass are still in the wintering holes that provided them with the necessary habitat to survive the cold months, some the year's best fishing for the river's biggest brown bass can be had.

As with almost all early spring flowing water venues, the availability of fishing opportunity relies on water levels. Higher flows are common at this time, and can actually benefit anglers as high flows often squeeze fish into highly confined areas. But raging flows will preclude fishing.

Expect to find smallmouth bass in deep, slower pools. Bass tend to use them each winter, so once you find a good spot one year it's apt to be good the next year. The lower Juniata flows through Perry County; river access is good in many areas. Visit the Fish and Boat Commission's website for more information.

Since they are concentrated in defined areas, river smallmouth bass are vulnerable at this time. Fortunately, this section of the Juniata is under catch-and-release regulations for smallmouths.

APRIL

Pymatuning Lake

Walleyes

For well over a decade anglers have bemoaned the downward trend of walleye fishing on what had been the state's most productive inland walleye water: Pymatuning Lake. The cries have been answered, as a change in stocking practices has brought the sprawling Crawford County lake back to its former prominence.

Pymatuning's walleye fishery had historically been maintained by the stocking of fry-stage walleyes (and a small boost from some natural reproduction). In recent years the lack of recruitment to adult fish made it evident fry stocking was no longer cutting it.

Both the Fish and Boat Commission and the Ohio Division of Wildlife (Pymatuning is a border lake) embarked on an aggressive fingerling stocking program. Last spring walleye anglers experienced outstanding catches of both legal and sublegal walleyes. Given the numbers of 13 to 14 inch walleyes seen last year, 2011 should be an outstanding year.

Several boat access areas are located on the Pennsylvania side of Pymatuning. Some of the better ones are Linesville, Espyville, Snodgrass and Jamestown.

Visit page two for May, June, July and August

MAY

Yellow Creek

Trout

Bedford County's Yellow Creek, a limestone stream that supports several significant hatches and also has good access for anglers, is the top May trout-fishing choice of Spruce Creek Fly Company guide Rod Reeder.

If you go in May, which is Sulphur time, says Reeder, keep in mind that you're in Pennsylvania, and you're on a limestone stream. There will be other anglers. Be courteous.

"Because Yellow Creek is a limestone creek, and is fed by other, smaller limestone tributaries, it holds its water temperature throughout the summer making for some excellent terrestrial fishing," he added.

Thanks to the combined efforts of several local Trout Unlimited chapters, there is a parking lot located at lower end of Maple Run, which marks the beginning of the Catch and Release Fly Fishing Only section.

JUNE

Wallenpaupack

Bass

Lake Wallenpaupack is likely northeastern Pennsylvania's most heavily used lake. With excellent access, this 5,700-acre lake sees its share of recreational boating pressure. But that doesn't seem to have a negative effect on the bass fishing, as the 'Pack continues to be one of the top bass fishing destinations in the state.

Wallenpaupack contains both smallmouth and largemouth bass. It's primarily a rocky lake, more conducive to smallies; but increases in vegetation levels in recent years have given largemouth bass numbers a boost.

June anglers on the 'Pack will find bass in various stages, from pre-spawn through post-spawn. The lake harbors quality-sized bass, smallmouth in particular. As might be expected on a heavily-used lake, night fishing is popular throughout the summer months.

PPL, the utility company that owns the lake, provides four fee launches. The Fish and Boat Commission has a free access area found at Mangan Cove. Bass fishing guide service is available from guide Bill Albright.

JULY

Presque Isle Bay

Largemouth Bass

Presque Isle Bay harbors one of the state's best largemouth bass fisheries. And while it's hardly overshadowed by Lake Erie's abundance of fishing opportunities, sometimes it does get overlooked.

A unique 3,000-acre piece of waterway, Presque Isle Bay is encircled by a seven-mile sandy peninsula, with a navigation channel that leads into Lake Erie found at its eastern end. July anglers can expect to find extensive weedy flats extending from the north (peninsula) side of the bay; the southern (commonly called "city") side of the bay fronts the port of Erie. While there are weed flats on the southern shore, this area is well interspersed with breakwalls and other manmade structures that serve marinas and shoreline condominiums.

While it's certainly possible to catch largemouths in the 4-pound-plus category here, the bay contains an abundance of chunky largemouths in the 15-inch range, ones that average around 2 pounds.

Erie Bay, as it's also called, can be a busy place during weekends as it sees recreational boating pressure as well as a steady procession of traffic heading out into Lake Erie proper. If you don't like crowds, plan your trip during a weekday. The most popular access areas are Chestnut Street (on the city side) and Marina Bay (out on the peninsula).

AUGUST

Lower Susquehanna River

Catfish

The Susquehanna River has long been known as good channel catfish water. During the last decade, however, the lower portion of the river has also seen the presence of flathead catfish. Finding flathead cats in the Susquehanna wasn't good news for the Fish and Boat Commission, as flatheads are not native here and are highly efficient predators. A decade ago the agency called for anglers to kill all flathead they caught.

Though they didn't receive a warm welcome, flatheads currently join channel cats as a fun species to catch on the lower Susquehanna: Fish well over 20 pounds are currently being caught by anglers who understand how to fish for them. They help fill a void created by the downward trend of smallmouth bass fishing on this fabled river.

Koinonia Guide Service targets catfish as part of its multi-species fishing service.

Visit page three for September, October, November and December

SEPTEMBER

Conneaut Lake

Bass

Northwest Pennsylvania's Conneaut Lake is a moody gem, giving up its bounty willingly some days, much more begrudgingly on others. Early fall is a good time to catch it in a good disposition.

At just under 1,000 acres, glacially-formed Conneaut is the state's largest natural lake. It's packed with humps and points, and rimmed with quality aquatic vegetation.

Both smallmouth and largemouth bass are present. Largemouths tend to be found within submergent weeds, and along its edges. Weeds include coontail, milfoil and pondweed. The weeds are often cropped off a few feet below the surface by a harvester, so it's necessary to locate weed edges with a sonar unit. Smallies mix in with green bass on weed edges. They are also found on hard-bottomed humps that top off in the 10- to 15-foot range.

Conneaut has a highly developed shoreline; boating pressure can be intense during nice weather. Plan trips during the workweek, or during the morning hours on weekends. The boating craziness doesn't usually get rolling until early afternoon.

The Fish and Boat Commission has a free launch. There is also a fee launch at Fireman's Beach.

OCTOBER

Spring Creek

Trout

Centre County's Spring Creek is somewhat of a paradox. It harbors and strong population of stream-bred trout, but it's also found in one of the state's most rapidly developing areas.

About 17 miles of Spring Creek are managed as trout water, from near Boalsburg to the stream's mouth, where it joins Bald Eagle Creek. With the exception of the Fisherman's Paradise area — 0.8 miles that is managed as fly fishing only, catch and release — the stream is under an all-tackle catch and release regulation. Fed primarily by underwater limestone aquifers, Spring Creek benefits from the fertility limestone provides, as well as relative stability in water temperatures and flows. Though it flows through State College and Bellefonte, aggressive work by concerned agencies and watchdog groups continues to help guard against stream degradation.

NOVEMBER

Middle Allegheny

Smallmouth Bass

The Allegheny River's "middle" portion runs from the tailrace of Kinzua Dam down to the start of the navigable river at East Brady. While the first ten miles below Kinzua are more conducive (due to the overall colder water temperatures from the dam discharge) to trout, the remainder of the river, starting at Warren, harbors plenty of brown bass.

By November expect to find smallmouths moving toward the slower, deeper pools that will hold them over the winter months. Since this is a time of year when all river species are looking for the stability provided by such water, it's not uncommon to catch walleyes, northern pike and muskies in the same areas that hold smallmouth bass.

While smallmouth bass can be caught throughout this 100-mile-plus portion of river, one of the more popular spots is found in Oil City, where large, dredged pools draws large numbers of fish. The area also has an excellent access area.

DECEMBER

Ohio River

Sauger

The sauger is a closely related cousin of the walleye. While it doesn't attain nearly the size of its popular relative, saugers quickly grow to the 12-inch legal length size, often within a couple years of hatching. Preferring more turbid water than the walleye, saugers tend to be the more dominant fish in stained rivers like the Ohio. Depending upon the success of recent spawns, they often outnumber walleyes 10 to 1 on the Ohio.

Within Pennsylvania's portion of the Ohio are three lock and dam systems, which like the lower Allegheny (described in the January section), tend to concentrate fish at this time of year. Fishing action can be good in the general areas below the Emsworth, Dashields and Montgomery locks and dams. The best access is found in the Montgomery Pool (between the Montgomery and Dashields dams), with launches found at Leetsdale and Rochester.

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