Our Best Family Fishing Vacations
October 05, 2010
Here's a look at where to go for some great family fishing vacations in the Keystone State this summer.
Photo by Ron Sinfelt
It's not always easy to find a family vacation destination that has something for everyone -- especially if a great camping and fishing experience is part of the game plan.
Fortunately, Pennsylvania, home to the Hershey Bar, Gettysburg and the King of Prussia Mall, is also home to 17 million acres of forest and 83,000 miles of wilderness rivers and streams, making it the ideal family vacation spot for everyone with an outdoor spirit.
The family can get in loads of historical education, amusement park thrills and unique shopping opportunities in a land that boasts 160,000 acres of inland waterways along with 470,000-acre Lake Erie. Pennsylvania's streams are jumping with trout, steelhead and salmon. Fish the Keystone State's rivers for bass, walleyes, pike, muskies and catfish, or go deeper, fishing lakes full of muskies, pike and trout.
Every corner of the state offers a unique combination of fine fishing and family fun. Here's a roundup of some of the best places to go for your 2005 Pennsylvania vacation.
THE ERIE EXPERIENCE
No trip to Pennsylvania would be complete without a visit to Erie -- the city and the lake! Lake Erie is known as the "Walleye Capital of the World," and is a top-rated spot for smallmouth bass and yellow perch. State-record chinook salmon, coho salmon, lake trout and palomino trout have all been pulled out of Lake Erie.
While in Erie, stop by the ExpERIEnce Children's Museum, the Erie Zoo and Botanical Gardens or the Erie Art Museum in Discovery Square.
Other family fishing hotspots in the northwestern corner of the state include Edinboro Lake in Edinboro, Pymatuning Lake near Linesville, Woodcock Creek Lake near Saegertown, Lake Wilhelm near Sandy Lake and Justus Lake near Franklin.
Family-friendly lodging may be found near all of these fishing holes. Pymatuning State Park has 657 campsites spread over the Jamestown, Linesville and Tuttle areas, making it an ideal base camp for fishing and family fun throughout the region. There are also 25 cabins available.
For information about reservations in any of Pennsylvania's state parks, call (888) PA-PARKS or visit
Common species of fish in the lake include walleyes, muskellunge, carp, crappie, perch, bluegills, largemouth and smallmouth bass. There are three Pennsylvania-based boat marinas where float boats, motorboats, rowboats, canoes and motors may be rented. Pymatuning has four beaches for day use in addition to one for campers in the Jamestown area.
There are several privately-owned campgrounds in the region. The Hills Family Campground near Presque Isle has full hookups, a game room and is adjacent to a golf course. For more information, call (814) 833-3272. Or check out Sara's Beachcomber Campground in Erie at
www.sarascampground.com, or call (814) 833-4560.
Many other state parks in the Erie region are worth a visit. Stop by Presque Isle State Park to take a dip at any of several beaches, including the only surf beach in the state.
Learn about the world's first commercial oil well while visiting Oil Creek State Park. The Drake Well Museum, at the north end of the park, highlights the region's oil heritage. Visit
www.drakewell.org for details.
The Oil Creek and Titusville Railroad operates excursion trains through the state park. Call (814) 676-1733 for information.
For more information about attractions in northwestern Pennsylvania, contact the Erie Area Chamber of Commerce at (814) 454-7191.
The Susquehanna River flows through the valleys of central Pennsylvania and is home to world-class smallmouth bass fishing. The state's largest sauger was pulled from its currents, and nearby Penns Creek is reputed to be one of the best trout streams in America.
The region boasts some excellent fishing holes, campsites and favorite family destinations.
Kettle Creek State Park has 71 campsites in two areas. The park is ideal for boating, hiking, horseback riding, swimming and, of course, fishing. The 167-acre Kettle Creek Reservoir is noted for its trout and bass fishing, and brown bullheads and panfish can be hooked there as well. Kettle Creek Lake, near the lower campground, is another popular fishing area. Several excellent native trout streams surround the park.
Hyner Run State Park is known for its outstanding trout fishing. Brook and brown trout are stocked annually, and native brook trout inhabit its upper reaches. Hyner has 30 rustic campsites and one cabin. The camping area features a large swimming pool and children's playground. While in the area, stop by Hyner View State Park, where the claim to fame is great hang gliding!
Ravensburg State Park is nestled in a steep-walled gorge carved by the Rauchtown Run through the side of Nippenose Mountain. The Run and its tributaries offer excellent coldwater fishing for native brown and brook trout. Warmwater species may be had just a short drive away at the West Branch Susquehanna River, Bald Eagle Creek and Blanchard Lake. The park has 21 rustic, tent-only sites and is known for its interesting geological formations and hiking trails.
Halfway Lake is the jewel of R.B. Winter State Park, which covers 695 acres within Bald Eagle State Forest. It is stocked with brown, rainbow and brook trout. Camping options include 59 sites that can accommodate tents, trailers and motor homes, and rental cottages are available.
The 78-acre Shikellamy Overlook section of Shikellamy State Park is on the western shore of the Susquehanna River and overlooks the confluence of the West and North branches. If that weren't enough to keep anglers busy, the 3,060-acre Lake Augusta (as this section of the river is known) is a popular bass and walleye fishery.
The park is also worth a day visit for the two overlooks, which are 360 feet above the river confluence and offer spectacular views of Sunbury, Northumberland and the surrounding areas. Paved and unpaved hiking and biking trails offer visitors a peek at wildlife, songbirds and local flora. Unique geological formations may be studied in the park and on the eastern boundary cliff trail extension.
While in central Pennsylvania, be sure to watch the Altoona Curve, the Double-A farm team of the Pittsburgh Pirates. At the right time of year, you may get to see the team in action. If not, Lakemont Park, Altoona's 30-ride amusement complex, is just a short drive away. Visit the Railroader's Memorial Museum in Altoona and see Horseshoe Curve, a national landmark train track that was the target of attempted sabotage during World War II.
For a taste of local history, visit Boalsburg, birthplace of Memorial Day and home to the Pennsylvania Military Museum.
For more information about area attractions, contact the Susquehanna Valley Visitor's Bureau at (800) 525-7320 or online at
NOT JUST FOR HONEYMOONERS
The mountainous northeast region of the state is best known as the Poconos, the traditional honeymooner's paradise. The area's old hemlock forests, 22 scenic waterfalls, miles of hiking trails and great fishing waters make it a paradise for families, too.
Want to spend your vacation some place so quiet it seems like the end of the world? Try one of the 70 campsites or 19 cabins at World's End State Park. The cold mountain water offers good fishing most of the year, and Loyalsock Creek is stocked with trout.
A small dam on the creek forms a swimming area. Other than this spot, the creek is open for whitewater boaters. The park offers hands-on activities, guided walks and evening programs to help visitors gain appreciation, understanding and develop a sense of stewardship toward natural and cultural resources.
The 165-acre horseshoe-shaped Frances Slocum Lake is the focal point of the state park of the same name. The lake offers anglers a wide variety of warmwater species including crappies, bluegills, perch, bullheads, muskellunge, pickerel, largemouth bass and walleyes. The campground has 15 walk-in tent sites and 85 tent-trailer sites available.
Swimming, boating and hiking make this park vacation-worthy. The Frances Slocum loop trail begins and ends at the boat rental area, and passes through beautiful wooded sections along the way. The interpretive Deer Trail has three loops that allow hikers to go for a short jaunt or a four-mile hike. The Lakeshore Trail, which follows the lake for 1.4 miles, is popular with anglers.
The Boulder Field, a national landmark, is just one attraction at Hickory Run State Park. This large park has over 40 miles of hiking trails, three state park natural areas and miles of trout streams.
Anglers can find action in the many streams and lakes within the park, especially Fourth Run and Sand Spring Run, which are stocked with brook trout and brown trout. Warm-water game fish, trout and panfish swim the Lehigh River.
The Francis E. Walter Dam, just outside the park, provides boating and angling for trout and warmwater game fish.
The park's campgrounds offer both modern tent/trailer sites and rustic sites. Hickory Run has a sand beach, an extensive outdoor education program and over 43 miles of hiking trails.
Lake Erie is known as the "Walleye Capital of the World," and is a top-rated spot for smallmouth bass and yellow perch.
Promised Land State Park is exactly that -- the promised land. This 3,000-acre park sits on the Pocono Plateau, 1,800 feet above sea level, and is surrounded by 12,464 acres of Pennsylvania's Delaware State Forest. Promised Lake, at 422 acres, and the 173-acre Lower Lake, are great places to wet a line.
Common fish species include largemouth and smallmouth bass, pickerel, muskellunge, yellow perch, sunfish and catfish.
Lower Lake is stocked with brook, brown and rainbow trout.
Nearby Lake Wallenpaupack is owned by the Pennsylvania Power and Light Company and is open to public fishing and boating. The lake contains many species of warmwater fish in addition to trout. For more information, call (570) 226-3702.
All four of the park's campgrounds offer swimming, boating and hiking opportunities. Cabins are also available adjacent to Lower Lake. Bicycling, mountain biking and horseback riding are available here.
For a unique experience, try the beginner and intermediate orienteering courses offered near the Rock Oak Ridge Trailhead, near the Pines Campground.
While in the region, stop by Archbald Pothole State Park, home to the world's largest glacial pothole. Or visit Jim Thorpe, a town that took its name from a famous American Indian Olympic athlete. While there, learn more about the region's history at the Asa Packer Museum, a 20-room Italianate mansion.
Visit the Pocono Mountains Vacation Bureau Visitors Center, located in the former New Jersey Central Railroad Station, which also serves as the landing area for the Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor.
Stop in Scranton, where anyone interested in trains will want to see the Lackawanna Railroad Depot, the Steam Town National Historic Site and the Lackawanna Coal Mine tour.
For a faster pace, visit the Pocono Raceway, home to two NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Races each season. Also, check out the Tunkhannock Viaduct, billed as the "Ninth Wonder of the Modern World," a span of 1,040 feet that rises 240 feet above the creek bed.
For information on these and other area attractions, call the Pocono Mountains Vacation Bureau at 800-POCONOS, or on the Internet visit
SWEET SUMMERTIME FUN
Not many families could resist a vacation that includes the peaceful Pennsylvania Dutch countryside, the historic grandeur of Gettysburg and the chocolate capital of the world in Hershey! Throw in some really great fishing and Pennsylvania's South-central Region becomes a major outdoor vacation hotspot.
Camping is available at several of the 19 state-run parks and centers in the region, in addition to a number of private campgrounds. Codorus State Park is home to 1,275-acre Lake Marburg. This warmwater fishery offers up yellow perch, bluegills, northern pike, crappies, largemouth bass, catfish, muskellunge and tiger muskellunge.
The 198-site campground has spots suitable for tents or recreational vehicles up to 50 feet in length. Thirteen walk-in sites are available for tents only. The park has more than six miles of mountain bike trails, a seven-mile bridle trail system and a 36-hole golf course.
French Creek State Park has two lakes -- Hopewell and Scotts Run. A variety of warmwater species swim the depths of Hopewell, including northern pike, chai
n pickerel, bass, walleyes, muskellunge and panfish. This lake is designated as a Big Bass Lake and special regulations apply. For coldwater species, head to Scotts Run, where trout are stocked several times each year.
The park has 201 campsites and several cabins available. There are 40 miles of hiking trails, a swimming pool and two disc golf courses at the park.
If that doesn't keep the family busy, how about some world-class lessons in the ways of map and compass? French Creek has developed a permanent self-guided orienteering course for use by visitors of all ages and experience levels. The objective is to locate markers in the park with the aid of a map and a compass. The park is reputed to be the "Orienteering Capital of North America."
Colonel Denning State Park is in Doubling Gap, so named by the "S" turn where Blue Mountain doubles back on itself. For views, visit the Doubling Gap Vista in adjacent Tuscarora State Forest. The park has 273 acres of woodland and a 3.5-acre lake that is full of trout.
The campground offers 52 tent and trailer sites. The hiking trails are what set this park apart. The Flat Rock Trail leads to beautiful views of the Cumberland Valley. Hikers will enjoy the one-mile, self-guided Doubling Gap Trail.
The Hiking and Nature Trail Guide is available at the park office and features a map and detailed description of the hiking trails in the park and surrounding forestlands. In addition to the 18 miles of hiking trails, the park is a trailhead for the 105-mile Tuscarora Trail.
A visit to this region would not be complete without seeing some of its many attractions. For a serenely unique experience, visit Berks and Lancaster counties, where thousands of Amish and Mennonites reside. Steam past their farming communities on the Strasburg Railroad, or share the road with horse and buggy. Drive the 20-mile stretch known as the "Antiques Highway" or visit the Quilt and Textile Museum in Lancaster.
Reading, known as "The Original Outlet Capital of the World," is a shopper's paradise. Designer and brand-name outlets offer clothing, home accessories and sporting goods. Nearby Hamburg is home to Cabela's, where outdoor enthusiasts will find 250,000 square feet of sporting goods showroom.
For a history lesson, visit the National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg or drive the 26 miles of park roads that pass 1,400 monuments at the site of a pivotal Civil War battle in Gettysburg.
Visit Hershey, where the air smells of chocolate all day long. The chocolate factory here, the world's largest, produces more than 1 billion pounds of candy each year. Take a free tour at Hershey's Chocolate World, complete with free samples. Later, relax at Hersheypark, where you can spin and splash through a number of amusement park rides.
For more information about things to do in this region, contact the Convention and Visitor's Bureau in Gettysburg at (800) 337-5015, in Hershey at (717) 231-2985, or the Pennsylvania Dutch region at (800) PADUTCH.