Whether it’s walleyes and smallmouth bass from cold-running rivers or trout, largemouth bass and tiger muskies through the ice, Keystone State waters provide hardy anglers with plenty of opportunities each winter.
Regulations vary greatly by water and species. Many waters are open for catch-and-release trout fishing year ’round. Some are closed to the taking of trout as early as September and others have extended seasons for stocked trout that last all winter. For this reason, anglers should always check the most current regulations booklet, available wherever fishing licenses are sold or online at www.fish.state.pa.us/regs_fish.htm.
There’s just no way to talk fishing in Pennsylvania without a bow to Lake Erie, a premier hardwater destination for yellow perch. While Presque Isle Bay is just one section of the vast lake, it is the area known for giving up the majority of yellow perch taken through the ice each year.
Access is through Presque Isle State Park in Erie, off Peninsula Drive.
There are plenty of other species to be had, including smallmouth bass and steelhead trout. Anglers catch an average of 1.5 million fish here annually!
When venturing out during the winter months, stick to the big lake’s bays and coves. Lake Erie is the 11th largest lake in the world in surface area, and open water remains at its center pretty much year ’round.
Pennsylvania has about 500 miles of coastline along the Great Lake and access points are plentiful. Check DeLorme’s Pennsylvania Atlas and Gazetteer, maps 26 and 27, for details.
Anglers shouldn’t let Erie’s offerings dazzle them to the point that they overlook some excellent inland Northwest Region hardwater destinations. Pymatuning Lake is in Pymatuning State Park in Crawford County, offering anglers 17,088 acres in which to drill their holes. This is the largest inland lake within the Commonwealth, and sits within the largest state park (21,122 acres), as well.
Pymatuning is best known as an excellent largemouth bass fishery. Anglers can also expect to catch smallmouth bass, walleyes, muskellunge, crappies and perch here.
Check DeLorme’s PAG, Map 28, for area details.
Conneaut Lake in Crawford County is best known for giving up big pike though the ice. The lake is also home to muskies, bass and panfish that will keep younger anglers entertained for hours.
Access is off state Route 6/322 west of Interstate Route 79 in the town of Conneaut Lake.
Check DeLorme’s PAG, Map 28, for access details.
Other Northwest Region Hotspots
According to Al Woomer, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission biologist covering most of the Northwest Region, several other waters are worth checking out this winter, including Allegheny Reservoir in McKean and Warren counties for walleyes, northern pike and yellow perch; Edinboro Lake in Erie County for walleyes, muskies, bass and panfish; and Twomile Run Reservoir in Venango County for trout, muskies, bass, walleyes and panfish.
Allegheny Reservoir is managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The reservoir is managed primarily for walleyes. There are also muskies, smallmouth bass, white bass and yellow perch here.
Check DeLorme’s PAG, Map 31 for multiple access sites.
Edinboro Lake covers 245 acres in the town of Edinboro south of Erie. The lake is stocked with juvenile muskies and walleyes. Access is off U.S. Route 6N.
Check DeLorme’s PAG, Map 29, for more information.
Tim Wilson, a PFBC biologist in charge of the extreme northwest edge of the state, recommended that steelhead anglers target Lake Erie’s tributary streams, primarily Walnut and Elk creeks, this winter.
He also suggested Glade Run Lake for stocked trout, largemouth bass and panfish action. Glade Run is a 52-acre impoundment in Butler County. The lake is stocked with trout several times each year and is part of the Early Season Trout-Stocked Waters program.
The lake is also managed under Big Bass Program regulations.
Check DeLorme’s PAG, Map 57, for details.
For hardwater action in the North-Central Region, head for Foster J. Sayers Lake in Centre County. According to David Kristine, a PFBC biologist in Fisheries Management Area 3, Sayers has good numbers of crappies, yellow perch, bluegills, bass and channel catfish.
The lake is managed under special Panfish Enhancement regulations, so be sure to check the rulebook before heading out.
Access is through Bald Eagle State Park off state Route 150, about midway between Milesburg and Lock Haven.
Check DeLorme’s PAG, Map 48, for more information.
Rose Valley Lake in Lycoming County offers ice-anglers a shot at some big walleyes as well as muskies, pickerel, largemouth bass and panfish. Big Bass Program regulations are in effect here.
Access is off Route 15 north of Williamsport. Check DeLorme’s PAG, Map 50, for details.
Kristine said that anglers in the North-Central Region might also want to fish Glendale Lake in Cambria County.
“This is a very good lake for muskellunge, walleyes and northern pike during ice-fishing season,” he said. “The lake contains good numbers of largemouth bass and panfish as well.”
Check DeLorme’s PAG, Map 60, for multiple access sites.
Kristine’s other pick was the West Branch Susquehanna River between Williamsport and Sunbury, which has muskies, walleyes and smallmouth bass and is easily fishable during the winter months. Other good winter waters for these species toward the Northeast include the Delaware River and North Branch Susquehanna.
Ice-anglers would do well to drill a few holes at Lower Woods Pond in Wayne County. This 91-acre pond is known for its great bass and pickerel fishing, as well as for
fast panfish action.
Access to Lower Woods is via Route 371 between Cold Spring and Rileyville.
For more information on these waters, check DeLorme’s PAG, Map 40.
Lake Frances covers only nine acres, but provides hardwater anglers with some great winter bass action. The lake is within Nescopeck State Park in Luzerne County. Access is off Honey Hole Road onto Lake Frances Road.
For more details, check DeLorme’s PAG, Map 52.
Rob Wnuk, another Northeast Region area fisheries manager, said Lackawanna Lake in Lackawanna State Park, offers winter anglers good shots at opportunities for muskies, bass, bluegills, trout and crappies.
Ice-fishing is not allowed at the ice-skating area or under the bridge.
The 198-acre lake may be accessed via I-81 at Exit 199. Drive three miles west on state Route 524. Check DeLorme’s PAG, Map 39, for area details.
Beechwood Lake in Tioga County has bass, bluegills and crappies, plus the 67-acre impoundment has been stocked with walleye fingerlings and is stocked with trout. It is managed under the Early Season Trout-Stocked Waters program.
Stephen Foster Lake, covering 75 acre in Mount Pisgah State Park in Bradford County, has bass, bluegills and perch.
Access to the park is two miles north of U.S. Route 6 off Wallace Road.
Check DeLorme’s PAG, Map 37, for more information.