Pennsylvania's deepest, coolest lakes offer excellent trout fishing this month. Go deep and slow to fool some of the biggest trout in the Keystone State. (July 2006)
By July, relatively few Keystone State anglers are thinking about trout. That's a pity, because some of the best trout fishing takes place during midsummer in our lakes and ponds.
Trout anglers need only adjust their fishing tactics at most lakes during midsummer. Trout must go relatively deep to remain in sufficiently cool water. This is the biggest challenge when fishing for trout in lakes.
Luckily, stratification makes it relatively easy to find trout at this time of year. Stratification is a phenomenon that is brought about by the warming of the water and the densities associated with water temperature. Most anglers are more familiar with the term thermocline, the particular stratum where the water temperature change is greatest. That's also the depth where trout tend to congregate, either just above, in or somewhere below, depending on the species of trout and the location of their prey.
Find the thermocline in any of our better trout lakes and, with the proper fishing tactics, you should enjoy some fine trout fishing this month.
Here is a look at some of Pennsylvania's better trout lakes, plus some tips to help you enjoy this summer's best trout fishing.
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission has a plan for increasing the number of larger trout at Harveys Lake. Since 1989, special regulations have been in effect from 8 a.m. on the opening day of trout season through March 31, reducing the daily limit to three trout. And only one of the three may exceed 18 inches in length. The lake is then closed to fishing from April 1 until 8 a.m. on the next opening day. This is designed to increase the number of trout longer than 18 inches.
"It's going well. There are a lot of trout out there for anglers to catch," said Rob Wnuk, a Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission fisheries technician.
The project has produced excellent results. A survey in November 2005 showed that since 1998, the number of trout longer than 18 inches has doubled. Since 1992, it has more than quadrupled.
Harveys Lake is primarily a brown trout lake. The main forage species is alewives, a key forage species for promoting good trout growth. These baitfish are actually too large for rainbow trout.
"We stock rainbows, but they don't do very well," Wnuk said.
Brown trout need high-protein forage such as alewives, rainbow smelts or shad to achieve optimum growth. The top end for Harveys Lake brown trout is about 12 pounds, but the lake has the potential to produce even larger fish if they can elude anglers.
Brown trout are stocked here as adults. A fingerling-stocking program was tried during the mid-90s, Wnuk noted, but it was unsuccessful due to heavy predation by walleyes.
For Pennsylvania lakes to hold trout year 'round, they must be quite deep and maintain sufficiently cool water at those depths. Harveys Lake has a maximum depth of about 100 feet. During summer, a thermocline sets up at between 18 and 30 feet, according to Wnuk. The favorite summertime fishing method, he said, is downrigging early in the morning.
Heavy pleasure-boat traffic makes fishing difficult during midday at this popular summer vacation lake.
Harveys Lake is the largest natural lake in eastern Pennsylvania with an area of 658 acres. Shore fishing is difficult because most of its nine miles of shoreline is privately owned, although there is one Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission access site.
Harveys Lake is close to the northern border of Luzerne County. From Wilkes-Barre, take state Route 309 west to Dallas and then state Route 415 west to Shawanese.
Visiting anglers can get information about local services from the Luzerne County Convention and Visitors Bureau, 56 Public Square, Wilkes-Barre, PA 18701; by calling 1-888-905-2872; or by e-mail at email@example.com.
Lake Winola is northwest of Scranton in Wyoming County northeast of state Route 307 on state Route 2031. It has a surface area of about 200 acres. A maximum depth of about 55 feet keeps water cool to hold trout through the summer. There is boat access and only electric-powered motors are allowed. A fishing pier for disabled anglers has been provided.
"It gets fished pretty good, at night primarily. Folks out there use bright lights to attract zooplankton and they use live bait to catch the trout," Wnuk explained.
Favored baitfish here include fathead minnows and golden shiners.
Rainbows are the predominant trout species in Lake Winola because of the forage base and typically reach a maximum size of 15 to 16 inches.
"In Winola, trout primarily eat zooplankton," Wnuk said. "It's chuck full of it, and that's why its rainbows are doing really well."
For information on local services, contact the Endless Mountains Visitors Bureau, 712 Route 6 East, Tunkhannock, PA 18657; call 1-800-769-8999; or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Several smaller lakes around the state will carry trout over through the summer months. One example in the Northeast Region is Quaker Lake, a deeper, oligotrophic lake that holds brown trout and rainbow trout.
It has a maximum depth of about 40 feet. Bolstering its ability to hold over trout is that it gets relatively light fishing pressure.
The use of motors in excess of 7.5 horsepower is prohibited. The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission has an access ramp off state Route 4002 that is suitable for shallow-draft boats or canoes. A fishing pier accessible to handicapped anglers is nearby.
Quaker Lake is in northern Susquehanna County. Exit Interstate Route 81 at New Milford, go west on U. S. Route 11, take state Route 706 to state Route 29, go north to Lawsville Center and then west to Laurel Lake. Quaker Lake is north of Laurel Lake on state Route 4002.
Information on local services is available from the Endless Mountains Visitors Bureau (see above).
Lake Wallenpaupack is a gem for trophy trout anglers. With its solid forage base of alewives, this lake is one of very few lakes in Pennsylvani
a that are capable of producing brown trout in excess of 20 pounds -- and it has them. The biggest drawback to summertime fishing here is the heavy pleasure-boat traffic. But on the plus side, there's ample access and plenty of places to look for those big browns.
Don't expect to catch a lot of trout here. This lake is best suited to serious anglers focused on seeking the biggest trout in the commonwealth.
Wallenpaupack is a fairly deep lake. Look for big browns close to the thermocline, probably in or along the upper edge. Even more important is the presence of alewives. Watch your sonar for schools of these oily fish, then for the big marks around them. Get spoons or stick baits down to those "big marks" with downriggers or trolling sinkers.
Brown trout are the wariest of all trout species. Run lures at least 100 feet behind downrigger balls (farther is better) and use line no heavier than 12-pound-test from the release to the lure. Downrigger releases can be hard on lighter lines, however; so heavier running line is recommended.
Lake Wallenpaupack has a surface area of 5,700 acres and is situated along the Wayne County/Pike County border. Head east from Scranton on I-84 then exit north on PA Route 507.
Get information about local services from Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau, Inc., 1004 Main Street, Stroudsburg, PA 18360. Contact them at 1-800-762-6667 or via e-mail at email@example.com, or visit their Web site at www.800poconos.com.
For a copy of the Lake Wallenpaupack Boating Guide, which provides an overview of the state's rules and regulations for Lake Wallenpaupack trout fishing, call 1-800-354-8383 or write to PPL Lake Office, P.O. Box 122, Hawley, PA 18428-0122.
UPPER WOODS POND
This smaller lake in Wayne County is worth checking for summer trout action. Upper Woods Pond is a natural glacial lake covering about 80 acres. It's quite deep, though, with an average depth of 29 feet and a maximum depth of nearly 73 feet. State Game Lands No. 159 surrounds it. The Fish and Boat Commission maintains a boat access with a surfaced launch ramp. Boats are limited to electric-powered motors.
This lake is stocked with both adult and fingerling brook trout and rainbow trout.
Upper Woods Pond is the perfect place to use portable downriggers to get lures into cold water. Rainbow trout generally prefer smaller lures than do brown trout of similar size.
For information about local services, contact the Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau, Inc. (see above).
Because of its excellent forage base, Raystown Lake has developed into a fine lake trout fishery. This is a big lake with a lot of deep water, so you may have to spend some time locating the trout. Concentrate on finding schools of forage fish in deeper water, generally down-lake from Seven Points.
Lake trout tend to be a lot more cooperative that the other trout. Once you find them, it should be easy to catch them -- with the right tactics. Most lake trout anglers troll spoons off downriggers. Stick baits or wobbling lures can sometimes be more productive. Adding spinner rigs or dodgers ahead of lures can help, but these detract from the enjoyment of playing caught fish.
Get information about local services through the Huntingdon County Visitors Bureau, RD #1, Box 222-A, Seven Points Road, Hesston, PA 16647; or call 1-888-RAYSTOWN.
Lake Erie is a trophy trout angler's dream come true, our link to a superb Great Lakes trout fishery. It holds hoards of steelhead, huge lake trout and some brown trout, yet midsummer fishing effort is light.
New York's state record lake trout, weighing 41 pounds, 8 ounces, was caught at Lake Erie just a few miles from the Pennsylvania border.
Pennsylvania has about 45 miles of Lake Erie shoreline. The city of Erie, in the approximate center of the Keystone State's lake border, roughly divides the central basin from the deeper eastern basin.
Steelhead may be found on both sides of Erie. One of the better areas called "The Trench" is west of Erie, a few miles off the Walnut Creek Access. Another is along the outer slope of "The Mountain," a steep slope a few miles offshore on the east side of Erie that is accessible from the North East Marina.
Steelhead are generally found in the thermocline or above it. Sometimes they can be seen chasing shiners on the surface, even during summer.
Lake trout are mostly found in the eastern basin, with the best fishing close to the New York border, which is the deepest portion of Pennsylvania's share of the lake. Lake trout inhabit the cold water beneath the thermocline, feeding on smelts and other coldwater baitfish.
Anglers must possess a Lake Erie Stamp or a Combination Stamp to fish at Lake Erie, Presque Isle Bay or the Lake Erie tributaries. Boats on Lake Erie must comply with both Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission and U. S. Coast Guard regulations.
For information on local services, contact the Erie Convention and Visitors Bureau, 109 Boston Store Place Erie, PA 16501-2312; call 1-800- 524-3743; log onto www.eriepa.com; or e-mail Eriefirstname.lastname@example.org.
Here's a tip on a summer trout lake that virtually no one knows about: Tionesta Lake, which is in Forest County outside of Tionesta, holds trout in its deeper water through the summer. The lake is not stocked with trout, but Tionesta Creek and several tributaries do receive fish, and those trout migrate down into the lake.
The main reason why few anglers know about the lake's "hidden" trout population is that trout tactics are seldom used in the deeper water. This is not a necessarily a hot fishery, but it's worth exploring.
Concentrate on the area around a major point opposite the Glasner Run Camping Area and down-lake. One good tactic is fishing live shiners along the point.
There are two boat access camping areas along the lakeshore. For information about the lake, contact the Resource Manager, Tionesta Lake, Tionesta, PA 16353; or call (814) 755-3512.
Perhaps the most overlooked trophy trout fishery in Pennsylvania is Allegheny Reservoir. This 12,000-acre lake is along the Warren County-McKean County border. About a third of the lake extends into New York. It is a deep lake, about 130 feet near the dam, with water adequately deep and cool enough for trout during summer. The best trout fishing starts roughly off Sugar Bay and goes to the log boom near the dam.
A couple of the better areas to troll for trout are off the mouth of Sugar Bay and from the mouth of the Kinzua Creek Arm to the log boom.
Brown trout provide the bulk of t
he trout fishery here, although there is a good number of rainbows. Some lake trout are stocked periodically from the Allegheny National Fish Hatchery, which is at the base of the dam. Some of the lake trout stocked into the lake are large breeders that have outlived their usefulness. Top end on brown trout is probably about 14 pounds.
Shiners are the main trout forage here. Use slender spoons or stick baits. During midsummer, expect to get these lures down at least 22 feet.
There are several campgrounds around the lake. Some offer boat access. On Allegheny Reservoir, everyone in boats less than 16 feet in length must wear an approved PFD life jacket at all times.
Get information on the area by contacting the Allegheny National Forest Vacation Bureau, 80 East Corydon Street, Suite 114 Bradford, PA 16701; call 1-800-473-9370. Log on to the agency's Web site at http://www.allegheny-vacation.com, or e-mail email@example.com.
Another of the places where summertime trout populations are minimally exploited is at George B. Stevenson Dam. This 142-acre impoundment has water deep enough to hold trout through the summer. But because boats are limited to electric motors, there is little hard-core summertime trout fishing. There is deeper water near the dam, but a steep hillside limits shoreline access in this area.
Even in the upper and shallower areas, the water is sufficiently cool because this lake is fed by a stocked trout stream that remains cool through the summer months.
The land around this U. S. Corps of Engineers lake is part of Sinnemahoning State Park. Camping is available here. This is one of the most scenic and remote parts of Pennsylvania and a good place to escape the heat of midsummer.
For more information, contact Sinnemahoning State Park, 8288 First Fork Road, Austin, PA 16720-9302. Call (814) 647-8401, or e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The 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 state Route 872 with U.S. Route 6 in Coudersport.
For more information about traveling in the state, contact the Pennsylvania Office of Tourism, Room 404, Forum Building, Harrisburg, PA 17120; call (717) 232-8880, or 1-800- VISIT-PA.
For more information about trout fishing, contact the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, P.O. Box 67000, 1601 Elmerton Avenue, Harrisburg, PA 17106-7000; call (717) 705-7800, or visit the agency's Web site at www.fish.state.pa.us.
Find more about Pennsylvania fishing and hunting at: PAgameandfish.com