Some of Pennsylvania's best fishing takes place in the dead of winter. Grab your cold-weather gear and head for these biologist-recommended waters for some hot angling action this season! (December 2009)
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.
Andrew Fedor, a Northeast Region area fisheries manager, suggested that anglers check out Frances Slocum Lake in Frances Slocum State Park in Luzerne County."This is a pretty good place for ice-fishing," Fedor said. "The lake covers 165 acres and has a variety of species including panfish, pickerel, trout, largemouth bass and walleyes. Big Bass regulations apply, and it also is an Approved Trout Water open to year-round fishing."
Check DeLorme's PAG, Map 52, for area details and multiple access sites.
David Arnold, a biologist in Fisheries Management Area 5, recommended Lake Minsi in Northampton County near Bangor for trout, yellow perch, bluegills and pumpkinseeds.
Check DeLorme's PAG, Map 68, for access details.
Arnold's other picks included Duck Harbor Pond in Wayne County for trout, yellow perch, walleyes, bass, chain pickerel, bluegills and pumpkinseeds; Hidden Lake in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreational Area in Monroe County for trout and panfish, and Long Pond, northwest of Honesdale in Wayne County for bass, chain pickerel, black crappies, bluegills and pumpkinseeds.
Promised Land State Park offers anglers two options: the 422-acre Promised Lake and 173-acre Lower Lake. Pickerel fishing is better in Promised Lake, while Lower Lake is an Approved Trout Water, stocked with brookies, browns and rainbow trout.
Both lakes hold yellow perch and panfish. The park is 10 miles north of Canadensis along state Route 390.
Check DeLorme's PAG, Map 54, for details.
Lake Wallenpaupack is a 5,700-acre manmade water body in Pike and Wayne counties. Ice-fishing here is excellent for big perch, crappies, brown trout and largemouth bass. The lake is also home to muskies, pickerel and some big walleyes. Striped bass have been stocked here as well.
Ice conditions may be unstable at times because of water level changes on the Lackawaxen River due to periodic releases from the nearby hydroelectric plant.
Check DeLorme's PAG, Map 54, for details.
Ice formation becomes an iffy proposition in the southern reaches of the Keystone State, but there are still plenty of excellent fishing destinations worth exploring this winter.
Youghiogheny Lake, in the Southwestern Region in Fayette County, is a 2,800-acre impoundment controlled by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Youghiogheny is known for it excellent fishing year 'round, but caution is required in winter because there is a flood control dam here and water depths can change, leaving the ice hovering above the water's surface.
Access sites are plentiful and include Jockey Hollow, Tubs Run, Breast Access, Somerfield North and Somerfield South.
Check DeLorme's PAG, Map 86, for more information.
Twin Lakes, county-owned waters north of Greensburg off Route 119 in Westmoreland County, provide fast fishing for panfish and stocked trout. Twin Lakes are managed under Panfish Enhancement regulations.
Yellow Creek Lake in Indiana County for bass, panfish and northern pike and High Point Lake in Somerset County for bass, panfish and northern pike are recommended by Rick Lorson, the PFBC's Area 8 fisheries manager in the Southwest Region. Laurel Hill Lake and Lake Rowena are also high on his list.
Yellow Creek Lake is in Yellow Creek State Park along the historic Kittanning Path (state Route 422) between the towns of Ebensburg and Indiana.
Check DeLorme's PAG, Map 59, for area details.
High Point Lake near Mount Davis is a 338-acre impoundment located at the highest point in the Keystone State. Panfish Enhancement regulations protecting yellow perch have been in effect here since 2000. The lake is also stocked annually with fingerling walleyes.
Access to the northern shore may be had off Shore Road. Access on the southern shore is off Mount Davis Road.
Check DeLorme's PAG, Map 87, for details.
Laurel Hill Lake is within Laurel Hill State Park in Somerset County. A good trout-fishing destination, the 63-acre lake offers anglers opportunities for bass, catfish, bluegills, perch and crappies.
Access is off Trent Road. Check DeLorme's PAG, Map 87.
Because of Lake Rowena's elevation and size, it is often one of the first waters to form safe ice. This Cambria County water covers 13 acres. In addition to trout, the lake offers fast action for panfish.
For winter walleye and tackle-busting tiger muskies in the South-Central Region, head for Lake Holman, also known as Little Buffalo Lake. This Perry County hotspot is in Little Buffalo State Park.
The 88-acre lake is stocked with trout and tiger muskies, and was stocked with walleyes up until 1997. It is also home to largemouth bass, yellow perch, crappies, rock bass, bullheads, bluegills and pumpkinseeds.
Access is off Route 34. Check DeLorme's PAG, Map 77, for more access details.
Weather conditions permitting, Lake Marburg is an excellent hardwater destination, especially for big pike. Marburg offers the potential for trophy-sized pike, muskies and tiger muskies, and is also home to trout, bass and panfish.
The lake is in Codorus State Park, three miles southeast of Hanover in southwestern York County.
Check DeLorme's PAG, Map 92, for details.
"Cowans Gap Lake in Fulton County and Canoe Creek Lake in Blair County offer good ice-fishing opportunities for trout and other species," said Kristopher Kuhn, a PFBC Area 7 fisheries manager. "Both lakes receive fall trout stockings and have good access in state parks. Additionally, both lakes are in our Early Season Trout-Stocked Water program."
Program waters are open to fishing form March 1 to March 31, providing open-water opportunities during mild winters when most waters are closed. Angers are permitted to harvest three trout per day with a minimum size of 7 inches under extended season regulations during this period. These lakes are then closed to fishing from April 1 to opening day of trout season.
"Additionally, Canoe Creek Lake is stocked with muskellunge and walleyes," Kuhn added, "and Cowans Gap is stocked with channel catfish. Other sport fish species present in Cowans Gap include black crappies, white crappies, bluegills, pumpkinseeds, brown bullheads, yellow bullheads, largemouth bass and yellow perch."
Canoe Creek Lake contains black crappies, bluegills, pumpkinseeds, rock bass, chain pickerel, channel catfish, largemouth bass, muskellunge, tiger muskellunge, walleyes, yellow perch, brown bullheads and yellow bullheads.
Kuhn noted that anglers will be short one popular South-Central Region bass destination this winter.
Opossum Lake in Cumberland County, which falls under Big Bass program regulations and is also part of the Select Trout-Stocked Lake program, has been drawn down for dam repairs and will likely not be refilled until 2011.
Marsh Creek Lake in the Southeastern Region freezes only during very cold winters. When it does, ice- anglers can look forward to catching largemouth bass, tiger muskies and panfish. This Chester County lake is in Marsh Creek State Park in Eagle.
Check DeLorme's PAG, Map 81, for details.
Ontelaunee Lake in Berks County is home to pike, muskies, catfish, bass, walleyes, panfish and numerous white perch. Fast fishing makes this a fun winter destination.
For more information, check DeLorme's PAG, Map 80.
An interactive map may be found at www.pfbc.state.pa.us/Fishing_Hotspots/Fishing_Hotspots.htm. Select "Ice/ Winter Fishing" from the Hot Spot Category box, and then click "Show." Good winter waters statewide will then be displayed with information about species and access points.
For a listing of Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission Area Fisheries Management offices, telephone numbers, license information, fishing regulations, fishing tips and more, call (717) 657-4518, or visit www.fish.state.pa.us/mPAG1.htm.