Summer hasn’t quite arrived, but it is right around the corner, and you can trust that everyone is antsy about the final day of school and is thinking about summer plans. If you want to spend some of your vacation days fishing but also want to share that time with your family, why not combine those two ideas?
We’ve selected a handful of destinations that lend themselves nicely to family fishing vacation plans. Each differs in its specific offerings, but all include friendly angling options for fishermen of all ages.
PYMATUNING STATE PARK
From glancing at a map, you’d assume Lake Pymatuning to be daunting. After all, of Pennsylvania waters, only Lake Erie is larger. In reality, this 17,088-acre reservoir is among the most “user friendly” fisheries you’ll find anywhere and is ideal as a family spot. Shoreline access is extensive from Pymatuning State Park, which has tracts all around the lake, including many areas with open, grassy banks, fishing piers and fish attractors within casting range of the shore. Plus, the lake’s countless coves and points, modest stain and shallow character combine to keep plenty of fish shallow and in predictable locations, especially during early summer.
Also, because of a 20-horsepower limit for motors, Pymatuning is a very good small-boat destination. Despite its large size, this lake “fishes small,” and you can do very well by working the shore and casting to visible cover and obvious structures from a canoe, kayak or johnboat.
Pymatuning is an outstanding multi-species lake, which is nice if your family includes anglers of widely varying ages and skill levels. Rig your littlest anglers with bobber rigs and worms for bluegills, green sunfish and other similar panfish or minnows for crappie, and let your older children roam the banks and cast grubs, inline spinners or small crankbaits for bass, walleyes and whatever else choses to bite. Use small with lures, and any given cast is apt to catch one of about a dozen different species.
the Pennsylvania/Ohio border, but the larger portion is in Pennsylvania. A reciprocal agreement allows anglers working from boats to fish anywhere in the lake with either license. Shoreline anglers must be licensed by the state they are standing in. Beyond providing excellent fishing access, Pymatuning State Park offers cabins and camping opportunities.
Along The Way
While you’re in the neighborhood, you need to go see the countless carp at the spillway, which is located just south of Linesville at the upper end of the lake. Bring a loaf of cheap white bread to feed the masses, and allow time to linger. Chances are good that neither you nor your children will be eager to leave! To learn more about the state park and the area, see visitcrawford.org
PRESQUE ISLE BAY
Speaking of big water and big opportunities, Presque Isle Bay, off Lake Erie, puts an enormous amount of family-friendly fishing for a variety of species within easy reach. Access points that range from fishing piers to park shores wrap around the bay in the town of Erie and along the peninsula in Presque Isle State Park and offer good shoreline prospects for many kinds of fish. Nearby parking provides quick access to many areas, and a bike trail connects virtually the whole waterfront in Erie.
Areas that provide shoreline bay access within Presque Isle State Park include boat ramps, the ferry dock, East and West piers, Perry Monument, lagoons and North Pier. Beyond several piers and city parks. A few areas that provide additional access in Erie are the East Canal Basin, Metro Machine, West Canal Basin, Erie Water Authority and Sommerheim.
Yellow perch, bluegill, crappie and largemouth bass are among the many species that are commonly caught from the shore out of Presque Isle Bay during the summer. Again, a simple float rig baited with a live worm is tough to top for inexperienced anglers seeking whatever bites. If you prefer to cast lures, use 2-inch grubs or hair jigs, either cast and swam back or suspended under a cork for slower presentations.
Bay waters also hold a lot of bullheads and channel catfish during the summer, and the cats offer easy fishing for anglers of any age. Use a sliding sinker rig (same as a bass fisherman’s Carolina rig) with just enough weight for comfortable casting and to hold bottom and bait small circle hooks with night crawlers or treble hooks with chicken livers. Cast the rigs out and let the cats come find them.
As much opportunity as Presque Isle Bay offers for bank fishing, the same waters also lend themselves wonderfully to a boat-fishing approach, and parts of the bay are often protected when the wind blows hard, making Lake Erie too rough to fish. Summer largemouth action can be outstanding if you want to target bass with traditional techniques. Downsizing allows you to target a nice mix of species.
Along The Way
Plan a day of play at Waldameer Park & Water World, which is one of the nation’s oldest amusement parks and features an outstanding wooden roller coaster, big water slides, shows, traditional midway games and much more. Waldameer is located close to the entrance to Presque Isle State Park. Beaches, bike trails, hiking trails and more provide additional non-fishing opportunities within the park. To learn more, check out visiteriepa.com.
LITTLE BUFFALO STATE PARK
Moving away from the big water, 88-acre Holman Lake in Little Buffalo State Park offers huge opportunities for fishing outings with the entire family. The lake is fully within park boundaries, and shoreline access is outstanding. Boating is also permitted, but only with electronic motors. Rental johnboats and canoes are available.
Holman Lake’s fish population provides diversity and a good mix of fish that offer extra good prospects for young anglers. Headlining the best bets for youngsters are bluegills and perch. Both species are plentiful and grow to good sizes in Holman Lake. During the summer, bluegills might be anywhere along the lake’s edges. Perch tend to sit a little deeper. Waxworms or small wigglers work well for either.
The lake’s warm-water species offerings also include a high-quality largemouth bass fishery. In fact, the lake is managed with “big bass regulations,” meaning a four-fish daily limit and a 15-inch minimum size. Holman produces good numbers of quality bass and occasional trophies, including fish up to 8 pounds.
Speaking of trophy fish, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources annually stocks Holman Lake with tiger muskie, and some of those fish grow big. If someone in your crew favors an “all or nothing” approach, committing to seriously big baits could yield seriously big results.
Finally, the lake gets regular doses of catchable-size rainbow and brown trout, which add to the fishing fun. Walking the shore and throwing a little crankbaits like a Rebel Teeny Wee-Crawfish or Micro Crawfish will produce trout and has good potential to attract bass, bluegills and other kinds of fish.
Along The Way
No swimming is allowed in the lake, but that’s okay. The park’s pool covers nearly 1/2 acre and features 11- and 17-foot waterslides and a “sprayground.” Other park highlights include 8 miles of hiking trails, a butterfly garden and a bunch of cool historical structures, including a mill, a covered bridge and an old tavern that now houses a museum. Overnight options include camping, rustic camping cabins and modern cabins.
LACKAWANNA STATE PARK
Lackawanna State Park lacks nothing as a family fishing trip destination. Located in the Poconos region, the park and its 198-acre lake provide striking scenery. More importantly, the fishing is really good, varied in opportunities, and very well suited to family outing. Making a good thing even better, 3-acre Trostle Pond, which is located in the northern part of the park, is open only to anglers age 12 and youngers and offers good prospects for a mix of warm water species.
Lackawanna Lake is located fully within the state park, so its 7.5 miles of shoreline are all on public land, and roads and trails provide access to several areas around the lake. Because boaters may only use electric motors, the lake is also very well suited to small boat fishing, and boat rentals are available.
The species mix in Lackawanna Lake is also quite conducive to successful family outings. Yellow and brown bullheads, black and white crappie, bluegills, yellow perch, green sunfish and pumpkinseeds all lend themselves to very simple approaches and fishing from the bank or around obvious shoreline structure from a boat. A live worm fished close to the bottom beneath a cork or on the bottom with a split shot rig is likely to catch anything other than the two crappie species. A micro jig is apt to attract all except the bullheads.
In addition to plentiful panfish, Lackawanna supports a good population of largemouth bass and gets stocked with walleyes, muskellunge and trout. Collectively, this lake offers something for every angler.
Along The Way
With 15 miles of hiking trails, 18 miles of mountain bike trails, a brand new pool (scheduled to open this year) that’s complete with a sprayground and its own concessions area, Lackawanna’s 1,445 acres provide plenty of places to play. The park also has a campground and yurts. Ten miles south of the park, the city of Scranton offers the Steamtown National Historic Site and other sites where you can explore the area’s rich industrial history.
The centerpiece of Nockamixon State Park, 1,450-acre Lake Nockamixon offers outstanding opportunities to chase a variety of fish species in a location that’s convenient to a lot of people. The park, which covers 5,286 acres, is rolling and mostly forested and located an hour or so north of Philadelphia.
The lake is large enough for good boat fishing and has six boating access points, but a 20-horsepower limit keeps wakes to a minimum and makes this a good small-boat destination. If you don’t have a boat but would like to cover more of the lake than you can reach from the shore, the park offers canoe and johnboat rentals. That said, shoreline access is also very good in places, so you don’t to go in a boat to find success.
For the non-boating approach, there is a fishing pier south of the park office off Route 563 that allows you to get away from the bank, and a trail between the pier and the marina provides access to several coves with good shoreline fishing. Other good places to fish from the bank are between the 563 Bridge and the Haycock boat access and on the south side of the dam. Bluegills, crappie and channel catfish offer easy opportunities for family fishing from the shore. Flashy lures thrown from the same areas are apt to produce largemouths or chain pickerel.
If you have young children, you might also want to try the small fishing pond near the marina. The pond doesn’t produce trophy fish, but it offers easy access to good fish-catching action.
Larger game fish species in Lake Nockamixon include a strong population of largemouth bass, some smallmouth bass, walleyes, stripers and muskies, so you have plenty of options if you want to cast lures. Largemouth fishing tends to be best in the shallow, weedy upper end of the lake while more smallmouth get caught from deeper water in the lower end of the lake.
Along The Way
Base your travel in Nockamixon State Park, and you’ll find all you need for family fun in a single place. The park has a pool with two waterslides, a disc golf course and an extensive system of trails that provide opportunities for hiking, biking and horseback riding. Also, along with the fishing boats, the marina rents paddle boat, pontoons and kayaks. Lodging options include cabins and a campground.