August is the hottest month for Pennsylvania trout fishing in at least one way — the daytime temperature is certainly up there! Yet, late summer can be an excellent time for trout anglers because they can expect to have a lot of water to themselves. By this time of year, most trout streams will not average one angler per week, and trout lakes do not get much more attention than that.
For anglers who look closely, opportunities abound. This is the time for flyfishermen to drift terrestrials where cool creeks flow through open meadows. At a few of the deeper lakes, anglers who understand the thermocline may find good fishing. And, at some cooler lakes, tributary streams provide enough cold water to hold trout through summer.
At Chapman Lake, a 68-acre man-made lake in central Warren County, anglers can catch trout toward the head of the lake even through the dog days of summer. Some flyfishermen use nymphs retrieved very slowly. Others cast spoons, spinners or stick baits. The action is sustained by the cool in-flow of water from West Branch Tionesta Creek.
Generally, fishing pressure here is light, although local anglers occasionally take advantage of the situation. Renovations have been underway at the state park, so there have not been many campers. But under normal circumstances, overnight anglers enjoy trout fishing in the lake and in the creek above the lake.
West Branch Tionesta Creek is stocked with trout and it is fed by small streams that hold wild brook trout.
The warmer the temperature the more trout tend to move upstream. Some trout move into tributaries that are so small they cannot turn around without bending, a fact verified by electro-shocking surveys.
These small tributaries are shaded by hemlocks, which helps keep their waters cool. The effect is felt all the way to the lake even though West Branch Tionesta Creek flows through a savannah-like valley where trees have not grown back since timbering followed the forest fires of the late 19th century. Throughout this open area, there are grasses along the banks where trout are accustomed to feeding on terrestrial insects. Large grasshopper patterns can be very effective, although small black ant patterns probably will catch more trout over the long run.
Anglers may get to Chapman State Park by turning on U.S. Route 6 east of Warren and then taking Chapman Dam Road at the only traffic signal light in Clarendon.
The park has a campground, but extensive renovations are underway and reservations are not available.
For current information, contact the Chapman State Park office, 4790 Chapman Dam Road, Clarendon, PA 16313; or call (814) 723-0250.
Another of the better summer trout fisheries in the Northwest Region is Lake Pleasant, a 60-acre lake in northern Erie County. It is glacial in origin, one of relatively few natural lakes in Pennsylvania. Nearly all of Pennsylvania’s natural lakes are in the glaciated portions of the northwest and northeast corners.
Lake Pleasant is well off the beaten path. The best approach is along state Route 8 from the south or from Erie. Coming south from Erie watch on the right for Mark Road, which is about three miles south of Interstate Route 90. Turn right onto Mark Road and continue to the T-intersection. Turn left onto Lake Pleasant Road and follow it approximately five miles. The lake will be immediately to the right.
Swampy land borders much of the lake. There is limited development in the area. Much of the surrounding woodlands have been bought and are protected by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.
Although Lake Pleasant is quite deep, 44 feet at the deepest point with an average depth of 20 feet, there is only a narrow band of water where trout can survive through the summer because below the thermocline there contains insufficient dissolved oxygen.
The standard summertime trout-fishing tactic is fishing at night with a lantern. This begins in June and continues through August. Although the water may be deeper, most anglers keep their baits in 15 to 20 feet of water.
Lake Pleasant is unusual in that no motors of any kind may be used, not even electric motors.
There can be little doubt that the best inland summer trout fishery in the Northwest Region is the Allegheny River. It holds very good numbers of trout, including some that grow to more than 8 pounds.
However, because they are stocked as fingerlings, these fish are as wary as wild trout. And, some of them are wild because tributaries support breeding populations of brook trout, brown trout and rainbow trout. The largest concentration of streams that support wild rainbow trout populations are tributaries that flow directly into the Allegheny River between the Kinzua Dam and Oil City.
While the most popular stretch of the Allegheny River for trout fishing, from the Kinzua Dam downstream to the mouth of Conewango Creek at Warren, is a Special Regulations Section, the river downstream from Conewango Creek is managed under general statewide trout-fishing regulations. Trout are taken at least as far downstream as Tionesta and in isolated places such as the cooler creek mouths, so trout fishing is good all summer.
Of course, the Special Regulations Section does have the best trout fishing, on average. These Miscellaneous Special Regulations specify that from the opening of the regular trout season through Labor Day, the daily creel limit is two trout with a minimum length limit of 14 inches.
Good midsummer tactics include fly-fishing with caddis emergers and various nymphs and drifting night crawlers in deeper riffles. Drift-fishing is very good from the Big Bend Recreation Area off state Route 59 below Kinzua Dam and the Bonnie Brae Access upstream from Tidioute.
Hotspots for wading include the riffles around Dixon Island, the first large island below the dam and the riffles immediately above the uppermost bridge in Warren. These are most popular because assess is easiest. The river’s many other riffles are every bit as good.
Phone (814) 726-0164 for river flow conditions. If the outflow from the dam is no more than 1,200 cubic feet per second (normal summertime flow), serious trout fishermen try wading.
In the Southwest Region, the Youghiogheny River holds the distinction as the top summer trout fishery. Although the tailwaters below the Youghiogheny Dam may be a popular trout-fishing hotspot, summertime trout anglers may fare better farther downstream.
A float between Confluence and Ohiopyle is a great summer trout fishing adventure, however, proceed with caution and be absolutely certain to pull out well above Ohiopyle Falls.
A nine-mile stretch of the Youghiogheny River, from the mouth of Ramcat Run downstream to the state Route 381 bridge at Ohiopyle, is managed under Trophy Trout regulations. Trout fishing is allowed year ’round. From 8 a.m. on the opening day of the regular trout season until Labor Day, the daily limit is two trout with a minimum size limit of 14 inches. After Labor Day, all trout must be immediately released.
That section of the river flows through State Game Lands 111 and Ohiopyle State Park. Camping is available in the park.
For information about camping and floating the river, contact the Ohiopyle State Park office, P.O. Box 105, Ohiopyle, PA 15470-0105; or call (724) 329-8591.