JANUARY – WALLEYES: LOWER ALLEGHENY RIVER
In all but the most severe winters there’s open-water walleye fishing within the 72 miles of the lower Allegheny River. This section features eight lock and dam systems. Walleyes begin collecting in the stretches a half-mile or so below these dams in late fall.
While some areas of the river will likely have ice cover, hardy anglers who locate access areas close to the dam tailrace areas can often reach these fish. A good example is the area below Lock and Dam 7 in Kittanning, where a boat ramp within the town’s riverside park is found nearby.
The action isn’t limited to boat fishing. Shore anglers also score, and sometimes have access to areas below the dams that are restricted to boats.
Other Options: If there’s safe ice behind Kinzua Dam, a trip to this massive Allegheny River reservoir might turn up some big northern pike. Another option is to try Monongahela River Sauger — if January is relatively mild, tailraces below Mon River locks and dams should be kicking out sauger.
FEBRUARY – TROUT: SPRING CREEK
Centre County’s Spring Creek is one of the state’s many high-quality trout streams. A spring-fed limestone stream, Spring Creek provides a more stable environment than freestone streams. Even in the dead of winter, Spring Creek will likely be ice-free, a great place to spend an afternoon when those unseasonably mild days push the mercury above the freezing mark.
Most of Spring Creek — 16.5 miles — is managed as All-Tackle, Catch-and-Release, meaning you can use fly or spinning gear; both natural and artificials are permitted. Save for some hatchery escapees, the fish are all wild, and mostly browns.
Central Pennsylvania is a trout hotbed, so you’ll likely see other anglers. The ‘canyon’ section — 4 miles of Spring Creek that runs between Benner Springs and Bellefonte — provides a place for secluded fishing for anglers willing to walk. You can park at the Fish and Boat Commission’s property at the Bellefonte or Benner Springs hatcheries and walk in from there.
Other Options: Hammond Lake’s stout crappies should be available this month, providing there is safe ice on this Northcentral lake. The trout season is open year around for stocked trout on the Shenango Lake outflow, but special regulations apply. Be sure to consult your regulations booklet for details.
MARCH – CRAPPIES: PYMATUNING
Pymatuning continues to be one of the top crappie lakes in the state, though special regulations now apply to this species, with a minimum length limit of 9 inches, and a daily creel limit of 20 in place. Expect to find the first crappie action in the north end of this massive, 16,000-acre lake. This portion warms first. Crappies move into shallow, dark-bottomed bays, often hovering near remaining lily pad stalks. Key areas include Stewart’s Bay, and the many extensive bays near the Wilson and Padanarum access areas. Pymatuning is a border lake, shared with Ohio. Pennsylvania anglers can legally fish Ohio waters, but need an Ohio license to fish from any Ohio shoreline.
Other Options: Tulpehoken Creek’s Delayed Harvest, Artificial-Lures-Only section below Blue Marsh Dam offers great wintertime trout action. Good trout fishing is also to be found on Lawrence County’s Neshannock Creek, which is also on the state’s Select Trout Waters program, where extra quality-sized trout are stocked.
APRIL – TROUT: PINE CREEK
Pennsylvania has lots of Pine Creeks, and many of them provide trout fishing. But the tallest “Pine” is the one that flows through Tioga County’s Pine Creek Gorge — also know as the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon.
The canyon section of Pine Creek begins near Ansonia. Leonard Harrison and Colton Point state parks are located on the ridges. Many anglers access this section by walking (or biking) in along the Pine Creek Trail.
Other Options: The free-flowing Delaware features the best American shad run on the east coast. These are hard-fighting fish in splendid surroundings. Sayers Lake crappies are abundant. Special regulations apply, as the creel limit is 10, of which only five can be greater than 9 inches.
MAY – SMALLMOUTH BASS: LAKE ERIE
By May Lake Erie’s bubba-sized smallmouth bass will be moving in preparation for the year’s spawn. This means lake fish will be in shallow water, which for Erie means anywhere from 5- to 30-feet deep. Rocky humps out in 25 to 30 feet of water should hold some fish, as well as rocky flats near shore. Many of the most productive near-shore spots will be near the larger feeder streams that enter the lake.
May is also the top month for smallie fishing within the comparatively protected waters of Presque Isle Bay. Check out the many hard-bottomed humps that lie south of the entrance to Marina Bay.
Other Options: Penns Creek Trout feed on the famed Green Drake mayfly hatch late this month. Kahle Lake Bluegills should be shallow and on beds this month.
JUNE – TROUT: LITTLE JUNIATA RIVER TROUT
The “Little J” is one of top trout waters in the state, boasting outstanding populations of trout, most of which are stream bred, or the result of fingerling stockings by the Fish and Boat Commission. Over 13 miles of the Little J are managed as All Tackle, Catch-and-Release. There is also DHALO section upriver of the Catch-and-Release waters, as well as a portion managed as put-and-take via the stocking of adult fish. The best June fishing is within the C&R section from Ironville down to the mouth.
By June water flows are often ideal for quality fishing. During the springtime, there’s often too much flow for easy fishing and wading. Most anglers consider flows of 300 cubic feet/second (measured at the USGS gauge at the town of Spruce Creek) to be best.
Other Options: Pymatuning Walleye anglers had a subpar harvest last spring — which means there should be plenty of legal walleyes for this year. Key in on Big Spring Creek’s the special trout regulation areas for wild browns.
JULY – LARGEMOUTH BASS: MARSH CREEK LAKE
Chester County’s 535-acre Marsh Creek Lake is one of the top destinations for southeastern Pennsylvania bass anglers. It has a substantial number of fish over 15 inches. Fish and Boat Commission surveyed Marsh surveys revealed several year classes of largemouths, indicating good natural reproduction. The lake is limited to electric motors only. Two launch ramps are provided.
Other Options: Rose Valley Lake, which is owned by the Fish and Boat Commission, supports one of the better yellow perch fisheries in the Northcentral region. Juniata River Smallmouth Bass offer excellent sport for thousands of anglers.
AUGUST – YELLOW PERCH: LAKE ERIE
For Lake Erie’s yellow perch anglers, the good action begins around mid-summer and extends into late August, even September. Typically, locating Erie perch isn’t difficult — schools of perch will be marked by the flotilla of anchored boats hovering about them. Good sport can be enjoyed from all the popular ports, including Walnut Creek, Erie and North East. The magic depth runs from 50 to 60 feet. There tends to be lots of fish, so don’t crowd anyone. Just anchor a respectful distance from others. If you lack the boat to fish for Erie perch, head boat fishing is available on the party boat Edward Johns.
Other Options: French Creek channel cats ban be found by plying the deeper holes of French Creek in Crawford/Venango County. The Youghiogheny River around Connellsville offers good wade- and float-fishing for summertime bronzebacks.
SEPTEMBER – FLATHEAD CATFISH: LOWER SUSQUEHANNA RIVER
The lower reaches of the mighty Susquehanna River have witnessed the establishment of a flathead catfish population during the past decade. Come fall the flatheads will begin stacking up in the larger, deeper holes below dams. Whereas summer fishing tends to be exclusively nighttime, in fall flatheads often bite well during the daylight.
Come prepared with heavy tackle — these fish easily top the 30-pound mark — as well as quality live bait such as sunfish or chubs/suckers. Those not set up for big cats might consider a guided trip with Koinonia Guide Service.
Other Options: The West Branch of the Delaware features great fly-fishing for big wild browns and rainbows. Special regulations apply. Allegheny River trout fishing is good from the Kinzua outflow down to Warren, with plenty of oversized fish. Again, special regs are in place.
OCTOBER – SMALLMOUTH BASS: MIDDLE ALLEGHENY RIVER
By October the middle Allegheny‘s dropping water temperatures translate to a shift in fish location. They’ll be vacating the faster current or the slower, protected areas. Fine smallmouth bass fishing is set in a background of brilliant foliage. Good fishing occurs all along the free-flowing middle Allegheny, from Warren down to East Brady (where the influence of locks and dams, i.e. the lower Allegheny, begins). As the water cools into the 50s more quality-sized fish tend to show up.
Other Options: Conneaut Lake’s lunker largemouths and smallmouth begin showing up with greater regularity come fall in this natural lake. Slate Run Trout: Wild browns are the attraction on this delightful Northcentral PA tributary to Pine Creek.
NOVEMBER – MUSKIES: LAKE ARTHUR
Though the Fish and Boat Commission’s most recent trap-net survey collected fewer muskies than in past years, the effort still revealed a quality musky fishery, including fish up to 51 inches. Under the best conditions, muskies aren’t easy to catch. This is particularly true in Lake Arthur, which has a glut of food fish. Muskies can also be more aggressive during the fall, likely in preparation for the coming winter.
Other Options: Lake Erie tributary steelhead are a top draw when rain descends on Erie County. Head north to steelhead to take advantage of the good flows. Lake Wilhelm largemouth bass are abundant and feed well in moderating fall temperatures.
DECEMBER – SAUGER: OHIO RIVER
The 30-odd miles that flow from Pittsburgh to the Ohio/West Virginia border — doesn’t offer the most aesthetically friendly view. But the sauger fishing can be good, especially when the populations are on the upswing. Some of the best fishing occurs from the Dashields Lock and Dam downriver to the mouth of the Beaver River, some 10 miles. Along this reach there are several incoming streams, such as Little and Big Sewickley creeks, that form the gravel bars that collect fish.
Other Options: Saucon Creek wild trout thrive in this limestone stream. Raystown Lake Outflow walleyes are among many species available in the outflow area below the reservoir’s dam.