Don't let the heat and humidity stop you from going fishing this month. Some of Pennsylvania's biggest bass are taken in August, and these 10 hotspots are at the top of the summer hit list.
By Mike Bleech
Summertime can be a good time to catch trophy-sized bass, particularly largemouths. The year before last, the largest largemouth bass reported in the Fish and Boat Commission's Angler Recognition Program, a 9-pound, 8-ounce monster, was caught at Waynesboro Reservoir in August.
This also demonstrated that the biggest bass are often caught in the most unlikely places, as was the case last year when the second-largest bass (9 pounds, 5 ounces) was caught at Opossum Lake.
Here's a look at several quiet getaways for hot August bass fishing, some you might not have considered before, along with some where you can push the throttle of your bass boat all the way forward!
Shenango Lake, a 3,560-acre U.S. Army Corps of Engineers impoundment, has a good mix of largemouths and smallmouths, along with hybrid stripers. In a 2003 electroshocking survey by the Fish and Boat Commission, 31 percent of the largemouths and 8 percent of the smallmouths sampled were longer than 14.8 inches.
The lake is about halfway between Pittsburgh and Erie in Mercer County. From Pittsburgh, drive north on Interstate Route 70, exit west onto Interstate Route 80, and then north on state Route 18 to the lake. From Erie, take I-79 south to U.S. Route 322 at Meadville. Follow that south to Route 18 south to the lake. One of the six boat launch ramps on the lake is close to the Route 18 bridge.
Keys to finding Shenango's bigger bass during midsummer are sunken roadbeds and stumps along the edges of the sunken channels. One effective method is fishing along the edges of the sunken roadbeds and channels with large golden shiners. Trim the electric motor to the slowest speed for maintaining control and watch the sonar to keep your baits close to the edges of structure.
If you prefer to use artificial lures, try crankbaits that get down at least 8 feet, or tube jigs.
Photo by Ron Sinfelt
Bass in this lake are managed under the state's Big Bass Program. There is a 15-inch minimum size limit and a creel limit of four fish per day (combined largemouth and smallmouth bass) from June 14 to Dec. 31.
From Jan. 1 through April 16 and Oct. 1 through Dec. 31, the minimum size is 18 inches and the daily limit is two bass. No harvest is allowed during the period from April 17 through June 11, but bass fishing is permitted on a catch-and-release basis, and tournament fishing is not allowed.
The Shenango Recreation Area campground has hot showers, flush toilets and 330 campsites. Many sites have electric hookups.
Reservations for campsites may be made by contacting the National Recreation Reservation Service at (877) 444-6777. For daily lake and recreation information, phone (724) 962-4384.
Lake Arthur, a 3,225-acre impoundment in Butler County, has to be on any top 10 list of Pennsylvania bass lakes. Though fishing pressure is heavy, the lake continues to give up many of the biggest largemouth bass in the state.
Because of the intense fishing pressure, the obvious places get pounded here. Stay away from the banks. Look for midlake structure and cover. Success on bigger bass will depend on your ability to read and interpret your sonar.
Fish habitat structures have been placed throughout the lake. A map showing fish habitat project locations, water depths and features of the lake is available at the park office, marina office and at the gift shop at McDaniel's Boat Launch.
Drive north from Pittsburgh on Interstate Route 79, exit onto U.S. Route 422 and head east. Moraine State Park is bisected by Route 422 running east and west and state Route 528 running north and south. To access the South Shore Recreation Area, take the South Shore exit off Route 422.
To access the North Shore from Route 422 East, take the North Shore exit. There is no access to the North Shore from Route 422 headed east from I-79, so take the South Shore exit, get onto Route 422 West and then take the North Shore exit.
Lake Arthur is part of Moraine State Park. There are 10 boat-launching areas. A secondary office is open 24 hours a day April 15 through Oct. 30 at the Davis Hollow Marina on the north shore, where marina applications and general park information are available.
There are no campgrounds in the park; however, 11 modern cabins are available for rent year 'round. For park information, contact the Moraine State Park office, 225 Pleasant Valley Road, Portersville, PA 16051-9650; or call (724) 368-8811.
All cabins in Pennsylvania state parks can be reserved by calling (888) PA-PARKS Monday to Saturday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. except on state holidays.
Fishing is not permitted from boat docks, launching or mooring areas, or within 100 feet of these areas, anywhere in the marina coves at Davis Hollow or Watts Bay, in the Game Propagation Area, off bridges, within 100 feet of beaches, and where posted against fishing.
Motors are limited to 20 horsepower. No boating is permitted in the Game Propagation Area. Non-powered boats must have either a state park launching permit or state park mooring permit, which are available at most state park offices; or a current Pennsylvania boat registration.
Motorboats must display a current boat registration. Boats registered in other states must display a Pennsylvania state park launch permit or mooring permit in addition to a current registration.
Big Bass Program regulations apply.
CROSS CREEK LAKE
Two of the top five largemouth bass reported in Pennsylvania last year were taken from Cross Creek Lake, including an 8-pound, 13-ounce fish that placed third, and a 7-pound, 15.2-ounce bass that placed fifth.
Cross Creek Lake is in western Washington County near Avella. To get there, take Interstate Route 79 south from Pittsburgh, get off on Exit 11, and then take Pennsylvania Route 50 West.
The lake is in Cross Creek County Park. This 244-acre impoundment gets a lot of fishing pressure, but the Big Bass Program regulations are a major reason it produces trophy-siz
ed bass. The lake is also managed under Panfish Enhancement Program regulations. Boats are limited to electric motors.
For information about local services, contact the Washington County Tourism Promotion Agency, 273 South Main St., Washington, PA 15301; or call (800) 531-4114.
PRESQUE ISLE BAY
Lost to most anglers in the limelight of smallmouth bass fishing at Lake Erie, Presque Isle Bay offers some outstanding fishing for largemouth bass. During an electro-shocking survey conducted by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission in 2003, 37 percent of the largemouth bass caught measured over 11.8 inches, and 18 percent measured over 14.8 inches, the highest such numbers in 14 years.
Presque Isle Bay has plenty of excellent smallmouth bass action, though that fishing is best during spring, early summer and fall. The largemouth bass fishing remains very good through summer, though it is largely ignored.
Excellent bass habitat exists all around the bay. There are extensive weedbeds in many shallow areas, particularly at the head of the bay, and there is abundant manmade cover along the city-side shoreline. Largemouths can also be found in the lagoons on the peninsula, which is Presque Isle Sate Park.
Bass fishing here is managed under the same special regulations as Lake Erie. From April 17 through June 12, the minimum size is 20 inches, the daily creel limit is one bass (combined species), and tournaments are not allowed. From Jan. 1 through April 17 and from June 14 through Dec. 31, the minimum keeper size is 15 inches and the daily creel limit is four bass.
Presque Isle State Park does not have camping facilities, but there is a boat launch area. For more park information, contact the Presque Isle State Park office, P.O. Box 8510, Erie, PA 16505-0510; or call (814) 833-7424. For information about lodging in the area and other services, contact the Erie Convention and Visitors Bureau, 109 Boston Store Place, Erie, PA 16501-2312; or call (800) 524-3743.
Presque Isle State Park can be reached from points south by way of Interstate Route 79 north to Pennsylvania Route 5 and then west to Peninsula Drive, which ends in the park.
GEORGE B. STEVENSON RESERVOIR
George B. Stevenson Reservoir is getting quite a reputation for producing trophy-sized largemouth bass. Last year, an 8-pound largemouth was the fourth-largest fish reported in the Angler Recognition Program. In 2001, a 7-pound largemouth from Stevenson Reservoir was the eighth largest reported in the program. The lake's phenomenal bass growth can probably be attributed to the trout that are stocked here.
The lake is small, as it only covers 142 acres. Most of the bass fishing takes place near the boat launch at the upper end of the lake.
The lake is part of Sinnemahoning State Park, which has a 35-site campground. For additional park information, contact the Sinnemahoning State Park office, 8288 First Fork Road, Austin, PA 16720; or call (814) 647-8401. To reserve a campsite, call (888) PA-PARKS from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Boats are limited to electric motors. For boat registration and permit details, refer to the section on Lake Arthur.
Sinnemahoning State Park is in Cameron and Potter counties eight miles north on state Route 872 from its junction with state Route 120 in Sinnemahoning, or 35 miles south from the junction of Route 872 and U.S. Route 6 at Coudersport.
It is hard to beat Lake Wallenpaupack for a combination trip for largemouth bass and smallmouth bass in the eastern end of the state. Both species are abundant and grow big. Plus, the lake contains striped bass if you really want to get your line stretched. This is the largest lake in the region at 5,670 acres, and there are no motor restrictions.
Dave Arnold, area fisheries manager, called Lake Wallenpaupack "a good, consistent" producer of smallmouths to 17 inches.
Lake Wallenpaupack is along the border between Pike and Wayne counties. Take Interstate Route 476 north from the Philadelphia and Allentown areas to Interstate Route 81 north and Interstate Route 84. From here, head east to state Route 507, which follows the east side of the lake.
Local information is available through the Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau, Inc., 1004 Main Street, Stroudsburg, PA 18360; or call (800) 762-6667.
A Fish and Boat Commission electroshocking survey in 2003 led to a report that stated Lackawanna Lake was the place to be for the opening of bass season. Showers shortened the survey, yet in 50 minutes, the PFBC team recorded 120 largemouth bass that ranged in length from 5 inches to 22 inches.
This is a small impoundment at 198 acres. Watch the contour of the surrounding land for clues to underwater structure. Also, follow the points into deep water.
The lake is stocked with trout, so if big bass are your goal, it may pay to use lures with trout-like color patterns. Jigs in natural colors, leaning heavily to the brown shades, are good producers. Lines of no more than 10-pound-test are the best choice.
The lake is part of Lackawanna State Park, which offers a campground with hot showers. For park information, contact the Lackawanna State Park office, R.R. 1 Box 230, Dalton, PA 18414-9785; or call (570) 945-3239. For campground reservations, call (888) PA-PARKS Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Lackawanna State Park is in Lackawanna County north of Scranton. Drive north on Interstate Route 81 to Exit 199, and then continue three miles west on state Route 524.
Boats are limited to electric motors. For information about boat registration, refer to the section on Lake Arthur.
Big Bass Program regulations apply. The lake is closed to all fishing from April 1 through 8 a.m. on the opening day of the general statewide trout season.
Although the major claim to fame for the Auburn Dam is a former state- record crappie, it is also a fine bass lake. An electroshocking survey of the lake in 2003 revealed a good population of large-sized largemouth bass. While the total catch rate was below average for the Southeast Region, the catch rate for fish longer than 12 inches was almost double the average, and for bass over 15 inches, it was more than twice the average.
The Fish and Boat Commission maintains a boat-launching ramp.
This small lake, just 163 acres, is an impoundment on the Schuylkill River. Banks are generally steep.
The lake is in southern Schuylkill County upstream from the community of Auburn.
To get there from the Allentown area, drive west on Interstate Route 78 to Hamburg, and then take Route 61 to state Route 895 at Deer Lake and turn left to Auburn.
Information about local services is available through the Schuylkill County Visitors Bureau, 200 East Arch St., Pottsville, PA 17901; or call (800) 765-7282.
Holman Lake is in Little Buffalo State Park, a short drive from Harrisburg. At just 88 acres, this is the perfect place to teach the kids the finer points of largemouth bass fishing.
The lake does not hold many big bass (at least none that have been reported), but a 2003 Fish and Boat Commission electroshocking survey found a total catch rate of bass that was considerably higher than the average for the Southeast Region.
Little Buffalo State Park does not have camping facilities. There are two boat launches. Boats are limited to electric motors. Refer to the Lake Arthur section for information about boat registration. Big Bass Program regulations apply.
For park information, contact the Little Buffalo State Park office, 720 Gill Hill Road, Newport, PA 17074; or call (717) 567-9255.
From the Harrisburg area, drive northwest on U.S. Route 322, exit at Newport and then follow state Route 34 south through the town of Newport. One mile from town, turn right onto Little Buffalo State Park Road and proceed to the park.
One of Pennsylvania's larger state park lakes at 451 acres, Shawnee Lake is between the mountains of Bedford County.
A Fish and Boat Commission electroshocking survey conducted in 2003 showed that this lake holds many very nice largemouth bass. The overall capture rate was well above the state average, but the majority of the fish surveyed ranged from 13 inches to 18 inches. Big Bass Program regulations apply.
The lake is in Shawnee State Park, which has 293 campsites, including 65 sites with electric hookups. To reserve a campsite, call (888) PA-PARKS from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday.
There are three launch areas, and boats are limited to electric motors. Refer to the Lake Arthur section (above) for rules on boat registration.
The park is 10 miles west of Bedford. U.S. Route 30 and Pennsylvania Route 96 pass through it. From the Pittsburgh area, drive east on the Pennsylvania Turnpike; from the Harrisburg area, drive west on the Turnpike, exit at Bedford, and then drive west on Route 30 to the park.
For park information, contact the Shawnee State Park office, 132 State Park Road, Schellsburg, PA 15559-7300; phone 814-733-4218.
For further information about traveling in Pennsylvania, phone 1-800-VISIT-PA, or visit their Web site at www.experiencepa.com.
For more information about fishing for bass in Pennsylvania, contact Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, P.O. Box 67000, 1601 Elmerton Ave., Harrisburg, PA 17106-7000; phone 717-705-7800.
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