Looking for trout water all to yourself and the possibility of catching fish over 10 pounds? Western Pennsylvania is the place to be and the time to go is now! August 2009)
August is the hottest month for Pennsylvania trout fishing in at least one way -- the daytime temperature is certainly up there! Yet, late summer can be an excellent time for trout anglers because they can expect to have a lot of water to themselves. By this time of year, most trout streams will not average one angler per week, and trout lakes do not get much more attention than that.
For anglers who look closely, opportunities abound. This is the time for flyfishermen to drift terrestrials where cool creeks flow through open meadows. At a few of the deeper lakes, anglers who understand the thermocline may find good fishing. And, at some cooler lakes, tributary streams provide enough cold water to hold trout through summer.
At Chapman Lake, a 68-acre man-made lake in central Warren County, anglers can catch trout toward the head of the lake even through the dog days of summer. Some flyfishermen use nymphs retrieved very slowly. Others cast spoons, spinners or stick baits. The action is sustained by the cool in-flow of water from West Branch Tionesta Creek.
Generally, fishing pressure here is light, although local anglers occasionally take advantage of the situation. Renovations have been underway at the state park, so there have not been many campers. But under normal circumstances, overnight anglers enjoy trout fishing in the lake and in the creek above the lake.
West Branch Tionesta Creek is stocked with trout and it is fed by small streams that hold wild brook trout.
The warmer the temperature the more trout tend to move upstream. Some trout move into tributaries that are so small they cannot turn around without bending, a fact verified by electro-shocking surveys.
These small tributaries are shaded by hemlocks, which helps keep their waters cool. The effect is felt all the way to the lake even though West Branch Tionesta Creek flows through a savannah-like valley where trees have not grown back since timbering followed the forest fires of the late 19th century. Throughout this open area, there are grasses along the banks where trout are accustomed to feeding on terrestrial insects. Large grasshopper patterns can be very effective, although small black ant patterns probably will catch more trout over the long run.
Anglers may get to Chapman State Park by turning on U.S. Route 6 east of Warren and then taking Chapman Dam Road at the only traffic signal light in Clarendon.
The park has a campground, but extensive renovations are underway and reservations are not available.
For current information, contact the Chapman State Park office, 4790 Chapman Dam Road, Clarendon, PA 16313; or call (814) 723-0250.
Another of the better summer trout fisheries in the Northwest Region is Lake Pleasant, a 60-acre lake in northern Erie County. It is glacial in origin, one of relatively few natural lakes in Pennsylvania. Nearly all of Pennsylvania's natural lakes are in the glaciated portions of the northwest and northeast corners.
Lake Pleasant is well off the beaten path. The best approach is along state Route 8 from the south or from Erie. Coming south from Erie watch on the right for Mark Road, which is about three miles south of Interstate Route 90. Turn right onto Mark Road and continue to the T-intersection. Turn left onto Lake Pleasant Road and follow it approximately five miles. The lake will be immediately to the right.
Swampy land borders much of the lake. There is limited development in the area. Much of the surrounding woodlands have been bought and are protected by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.
Although Lake Pleasant is quite deep, 44 feet at the deepest point with an average depth of 20 feet, there is only a narrow band of water where trout can survive through the summer because below the thermocline there contains insufficient dissolved oxygen.
The standard summertime trout-fishing tactic is fishing at night with a lantern. This begins in June and continues through August. Although the water may be deeper, most anglers keep their baits in 15 to 20 feet of water.
Lake Pleasant is unusual in that no motors of any kind may be used, not even electric motors.
There can be little doubt that the best inland summer trout fishery in the Northwest Region is the Allegheny River. It holds very good numbers of trout, including some that grow to more than 8 pounds.
However, because they are stocked as fingerlings, these fish are as wary as wild trout. And, some of them are wild because tributaries support breeding populations of brook trout, brown trout and rainbow trout. The largest concentration of streams that support wild rainbow trout populations are tributaries that flow directly into the Allegheny River between the Kinzua Dam and Oil City.
While the most popular stretch of the Allegheny River for trout fishing, from the Kinzua Dam downstream to the mouth of Conewango Creek at Warren, is a Special Regulations Section, the river downstream from Conewango Creek is managed under general statewide trout-fishing regulations. Trout are taken at least as far downstream as Tionesta and in isolated places such as the cooler creek mouths, so trout fishing is good all summer.
Of course, the Special Regulations Section does have the best trout fishing, on average. These Miscellaneous Special Regulations specify that from the opening of the regular trout season through Labor Day, the daily creel limit is two trout with a minimum length limit of 14 inches.
Good midsummer tactics include fly-fishing with caddis emergers and various nymphs and drifting night crawlers in deeper riffles. Drift-fishing is very good from the Big Bend Recreation Area off state Route 59 below Kinzua Dam and the Bonnie Brae Access upstream from Tidioute.
Hotspots for wading include the riffles around Dixon Island, the first large island below the dam and the riffles immediately above the uppermost bridge in Warren. These are most popular because assess is easiest. The river's many other riffles are every bit as good.
Phone (814) 726-0164 for river flow conditions. If the outflow from the dam is no more than 1,200 cubic feet per second (normal summertime flow), serious trout fishermen try wading.
In the Southwest Region, the Youghiogheny River holds the distinction as the top summer trout fishery. Although the tailwaters below the Youghiogheny Dam may be a popular trout-fishing hotspot, summertime trout anglers may fare better farther downstream.
A float between Confluence and Ohiopyle is a great summer trout fishing adventure, however, proceed with caution and be absolutely certain to pull out well above Ohiopyle Falls.
A nine-mile stretch of the Youghiogheny River, from the mouth of Ramcat Run downstream to the state Route 381 bridge at Ohiopyle, is managed under Trophy Trout regulations. Trout fishing is allowed year 'round. From 8 a.m. on the opening day of the regular trout season until Labor Day, the daily limit is two trout with a minimum size limit of 14 inches. After Labor Day, all trout must be immediately released.
That section of the river flows through State Game Lands 111 and Ohiopyle State Park. Camping is available in the park.
For information about camping and floating the river, contact the Ohiopyle State Park office, P.O. Box 105, Ohiopyle, PA 15470-0105; or call (724) 329-8591.
To reach the park approaching from the west on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, take Exit 91 at Donegal, turn left onto state Route 31 east, go about two miles and then turn right onto state Route 711/381 south. Go 10 miles to Normalville and turn left onto state Route 381 south, where it's 11 miles to Ohiopyle.
Approaching from the east on the turnpike, take Exit 110 at Somerset on state Route 281. Continue south 25 miles to Confluence, and then go three miles uphill to the church. Turn right onto Sugarloaf Road and continue nine miles to Ohiopyle.
Float-fishing trips can be launched at Ramcat Launch Area and Trailhead, which is in the park.
The Youghiogheny River is relatively infertile. Nonetheless, it has a reputation for producing some large trout. In 2008, the second-largest rainbow trout reported in the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission Angler Recognition Program, a 13- pound, 1-ounce fish, was caught here during October. The previous year, two Youghiogheny River rainbow trout made the top five: an 11-pound, 14-ounce rainbow trout that ranked second and a 10-pound, 1-ounce rainbow trout that ranked fourth. In 2006, three of the top four brown trout came from the Youghiogheny River, including an 11-pound, 12-ounce fish that ranked first.
Better than either the Allegheny or the Youghiogheny River, Lake Erie is the best summertime trout fishery in western Pennsylvania. Although this has been mainly a steelhead and a lake trout fishery since salmon stocking ceased, there is a new brown trout program underway that holds great promise.
The top five steelhead and the top five lake trout all were caught from Lake Erie. The number five lake trout was taken by the author, and the number four lake trout was caught by his fishing partner, Larry Snavley, that same day.
Last year, four of the five largest brown trout entered in the Angler Recognition Program were caught from tributary creeks, three from Walnut Creek and one from Elk Creek. The largest reported was a 13-pound brown trout caught by Herb Wagner of nearby Warren. All of the top brown trout were caught during fall or winter.
The summertime brown trout fishery is lightly utilized. Probably the best technique during midsummer is trolling where the thermocline meets a long structure on the east side of the city of Erie known as The Mountain, where depths drop from 45 to 60 feet down to more than 100 feet in a relatively short distance.
To enhance this fishery, stocking is being increased by cooperative nurseries, but later the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission will start adding fish directly to this effort.
The boat launch ramps nearest this area are the North East Marina and the new Shade's Beach Access, both off state Route 5 east from Erie.
Open-water trout fishing can be good in the Shenango Dam tailwaters. This section of the Shenango River is stocked year 'round. The outflow from the lake keeps the water at a suitable temperature for trout all through summer.
The Shenango Dam tailwaters are on the north side of Sharpsville.
Laurel Hill Creek
In the Southwest Region, the better summertime trout fishing is either high in the mountains or in streams fed by cool mountain flows. One of the best examples is Laurel Hill Creek, which flows southward along the east side of Laurel Ridge beginning near the Pennsylvania Turnpike and ending at the confluence with the Youghiogheny River at Confluence.
The creek flows through Laurel Hill State Park, which has camping available.
For information on the park, contact the Laurel Hill State Park office, 1454 Laurel Hill Park Road, Somerset, PA 15501-5629; or call (814) 445-7725.
Anglers may drive to the park by exiting from I-76 at Somerset, driving west on state Route 31 from Somerset for eight miles, and then turning left onto Trent Road and following the directional signs.
Two sections of Laurel Hill Creek are managed under Delayed Harvest Artificial Lures Only special regulations: a 1.2-mile section from the footbridge on State Game Lands 111 Road in Humbert downstream to Paddytown Hollow Run, and a 2.2-mile section from Laurel Hill State Park at the Boy Scout Camp downstream to T-364.
These special regulations greatly improve midsummer trout fishing.
Trout fishing is open year 'round, but trout may be kept only from one hour before sunrise on June 15 through one hour after sunset on Labor Day, when the daily limit is three trout with a minimum size limit of 9 inches.
Some stocked lakes in the southern part of the Commonwealth hold trout through summer. Duman Dam is a 21-acre impoundment owned by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission. Take state Route 271 for three miles north from Belsano in Cambria County. This is one lake where you may find some trout still holding on through summer.
Duman Dam is adjacent to Duman Lake County Park. Boats are limited to electric motors.
Gillhouser Run is a success story worth noting. This small tributary of Yellow Creek held a wild brook trout population until the fish nearly disappeared (due to high acidity) by the late-1980s. The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission made recommendations on rehabilitating the stream in 1991; and then in 1993, the Ken Sink Chapter of Trout Unlimited began restoration efforts by adding limestone sand to the streambed.
To enhance the wild brook trout's restoration, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission and Ken Sink TU worked together to collect 43 wild brook trout from Shannon Run in Westmorelan
d County and released them in Gillhouser Run.
This work has paid considerable dividends. By 2008, when the stream was surveyed by the PFBC, Gillhouser Run once again had a fair population of legal-sized wild brook trout.
More than a third of Gillhouser Run flows through public land. It may be accessed at State Game Lands 79 southeast from Yellow Creek State Park.
East Branch Reservoir
A little known and lightly fished summertime trout fishery is East Branch Reservoir in Elk County. This is primarily a lake trout fishery, but there also are some brown trout and a surprising number of brook trout. Trout here tend to be of modest size, though a 6-pound lake trout and at least one 10-pound brown trout have been reported.
East Branch Reservoir is an infertile, alpine-like lake. It is a U.S. Corps of Engineers flood control reservoir with mostly steep sides and reaches a maximum depth of about 140 feet near the dam. The Corps of Engineers maintains a campground and a boat launch near the dam.
Catching these lake trout is relatively easy because they can be spotted on sonar. Catch them either by trolling with downriggers or by vertical jigging with heavy jigging spoons. For the best results, add scent to trolled lures and tip jigging spoons with minnows.
Lake trout often can be spotted off steep points and over the sunken river channel.
For more information about accommodations in Pennsylvania, contact the Pennsylvania Office of Tourism, Room 404, Forum Building, Harrisburg, PA 17120; call (800) VISIT-PA (847-4872), or visit www. visitPA.com.
For more information about trout fishing in Pennsylvania, contact the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, 1601 Elmerton Avenue, P.O. Box 67000, Harrisburg, PA 17106-7000; call (717) 705-7800, or visit the agency's Web site at www.fish.state. pa.us. Also, check the Web site for the latest trout stocking schedule.