January 26, 2015
In today's hectic world, planning your life seems to be a necessary requisite, not only for the required day-to-day commitments but your leisure time as well. We can't do much for the first part, but the 2015 Pennsylvania Fishing Calendar will help with latter, providing a monthly look at a dozen of the state's best angling options, along with a tip or two for each top choice.
And if the number one monthly pick doesn't appeal to your interests, we've included two other options for each — 36 potential adventures in all. Read on and let the new year's fun begin!
Ohio River Saugers
If I'm not out grouse hunting I try to be on the water during the first day of the year. Many times this outing takes place on the Ohio River, with sauger being the target species. Sauger, a close cousin of the walleye, flourish in turbid rivers such as the Ohio.
Naturally, the weather of the year will dictate the availability of this option. If winter weather closes in early and sticks around, which it did last year, there may be little opportunity. But most years this isn't the case.
Some of the best fishing, as well as the better boat access, is on the Montgomery Pool, which extends from the tailrace of the Dashields Lock and Dam down to the Montgomery Lock and Dam, a distance of 18 miles. Saugers (and walleyes) will congregate below the dam, but much of this area is within a restricted zone where the both the law and common sense dictate that boats keep out.
The eddies found in front of feeder streams such as Big Sewickley Creek and Little Sewickley Creek will gather up sauger. The location of many of these spots are evident — navigational buoys (red or green) mark the gravel bar that forms the eddy. The mouth of the Beaver River, located at Rochester, is another consistent hotspot. Boat access is available at Leetsdale and Rochester.
Other options: Anglers can find good walleye fishing on the Monongahela River, and good fishing found below Allegheny Reservoir's Kinzua Dam, where big trout, walleyes and muskies can all be targeted.
Lake Erie Tributary Steelhead
What a better way to warm up a cold February day than to hook up with a chrome-sided Lake Erie steelhead?
Like the Ohio River sauger adventure, you'll need to abide by what the weather allows, understanding that when those windows of opportunity open — comparatively mild weather coupled with ice-free flows — you'll need to jump through them.
The primary angling effort for Erie steelhead happens during the fall. Fishing pressure drops off dramatically during the winter months, so if you're like me, and have no interest in the sharing a pool with a dozen other anglers, this is a time of year when you're likely to have some room. The fish should be well scattered in the streams, too, rather than being more concentrated in the lower ends of the tributaries as they often are during the fall months.
Elk and Walnut creeks are the two most popular (and largest) streams west of the City of Erie. Conneaut Creek, which flows from Pennsylvania into Ohio, also has a significant steelhead run, and is stocked by both states. East of Erie, 20 Mile Creek is an important steelhead water.
Whether it's fall, winter or early spring, Erie steelhead fishing is sensitive to water conditions and flows. Savvy anglers establish contacts with area sports shops to garner the most recent reports; USGS stream flow gauges, viewable online, are also most helpful.
Other options: In February walleyes on the lower Susquehanna River (below Harrisburg) and trout on the Tulpehocken Creek below Blue Marsh Dam are both high quality fisheries.
Middle Allegheny Northern Pike
It's interesting how anglers will lay down thousands of dollars in hard-earned cash to travel to the northern reaches of Canada to fish for northern pike, but ignore them in their home state. We have some good pike fishing in our home state, and it's largely ignored.
Not only are they overlooked, pike are one of the first fish available when the waters begin to open up in March. The middle portion of the Allegheny, from the Kinzua outflow down to the East Brady area — over 100 miles of river — supports plenty of northerns.
Expect to find pike in the slower, deeper pools. It's not at all uncommon to catch pike right along with walleyes, even the occasional musky. The addition of a heavy fluorocarbon leader — one in the 50-pound test range — will help ensure that the toothy critters make it all the way to the boat.
Good access areas along the middle Allegheny can be found near Warren, West Hickory, Tionesta, Oil City, Franklin, Parker and East Brady. Early in the season anglers should be prepared for ramps will covered with ice and/or snow. Shore anglers can also enjoy early season pike action by focusing on areas where tributaries join the main river.
Other options: Two fisheries worthy of attention this time of year involve muskies on Crawford County's French Creek and trout on Centre County's Spring Creek.
Pine Creek Trout
Pennsylvania has a lot of Pine creeks. Many of them support trout fisheries. But for most folks the mention of Pine Creek trout fishing means the big brawling creek that tumbles out of Potter County to flow through Tioga and Lycoming counties.
Some of the best action on Pine Creek happens during April and May, before the warming weather of summer chases trout into feeder streams, and "hatches" of rafts, kayaks and canoes become more common.
Pine is stocked with trout from the confluence of Genesse Forks in Potter County to the mouth of Little Pine Creek in Lycoming County. It features two Delayed Harvest/Artificial Lures Only special regulations areas. The first is in Tioga County, and extends one mile from Darling Run to slightly below the confluence of Owassee Slide Hollow. The second is in Lycoming County, and runs 1.2 miles from Slate Run downstream to about 150 meters upstream of the mouth of Naval Run. At the time of this writing, the Fish and Boat Commission was considering extending the lower boundary of this special regulations area an additional 1.6 miles to the mouth of Bonnell Run. Check the regulations before you go.
Pine Creek offers easy to access at bridge crossings, and more remote fishing for those willing to walk. Pine Creek Trail — a rails-to-trails — provides a good means to do so.
Other options: One might also consider largemouth bass fishing on Pinchot Lake and crappies on Shenango Lake.
Lake Erie/Presque Isle Bay Smallmouth Bass
Lake Erie's smallmouth bass fishery may not be what it once was, but it's still one of the top places in the country to catch smallmouth bass, particularly big ones over 4 pounds.
May is an excellent time to target bronze bass in the Erie area. The fish will be moving shallow in preparation of the annual spawn. This means fish in the main lake will begin showing up in 10- to 25-foot depths; there will also be an influx of brown bass in the 3,000-plus acres of Presque Isle Bay.
Anglers can access the bay from ramps located within the City of Erie such as the Walnut Street facility. Out on the peninsula (Presque Isle State Park) Niagara and Marina Bay provide good access.
Other options: Also in May, native brook trout will be biting in many of the small streams that flow through the Allegheny National Forest. The shallows of Raystown Lake will also be teaming with bass.
Pymatuning Lake Walleyes
Pymatuning is a premier destination for walleyes. Typically the main focus takes place in April and May, when the fish are in the shallows to spawn (Pymatuning is open to walleye fishing year around). However, early summer often provides more consistent walleye fishing on the big lake, after weather conditions have stabilized. During the past couple of springs highly unsettled weather has led to unreliable action during that time.
By this time walleyes will have finished spawning and will be scattered throughout the lake, in both deeper water and the shallow zones. Though the bulk of the fish will likely be in the deeper basins, some fish will use the submerged weeds, which grown out to about 5 feet of water.
Other options: Hybrid striped bass fishing on Lake Arthur is another good June fishery, as is the sport provided by big, stream-bred trout on the West Branch of the Delaware River.
Little Juniata River Trout
One certainly doesn't need to wait until July to fish the Little J for trout. The peak hatches happened in May and June. But as a trout stream it continues to fish well in the summer months, often at reduced flows that are more kind to the wading angler.
By July the fly fisher should be prepared to mimic caddis, both subsurface and on top. Terrestrials will also be an important part of the mix. Much of the Little J is managed as All Tackle/Catch and Release, so spin anglers can also get in on the action. There is a Delayed Harvest/Artificial Lures Only project near Tyrone. From the DHALO area the river picks up numerous limestone feeders and functions as a "limestone influenced" trout water. Most of its trout in this section are stream-bred browns.
Access is good in many areas, including the sections around the towns of Spruce Creek and Barree.
Other options: Big flathead catfish will be biting on the lower Susquehanna River, as will largemouths on Lake Nockamixon.
Susquehanna River Channel Catfish
While the main stem of the Susquehanna River continues to experience serious problems with its smallmouth bass fishery, it remains a great catfish river. Flatheads, a relatively newcomer to the river, are most common in the lower portion of the river. But channel cats are well distributed, growing to good sizes in excess of 20 pounds.
Anglers can expect to catch channel cats in the river's deeper pools, such as those found near the Dauphin Narrows section near Fort Hunter. Many of the river's guides, such as Koinonia Guide Service (www.koinoniaguideservice.com) currently run successful trips targeting channel cats. Since channel cats can be caught throughout the daylight hours (as opposed to the mostly nocturnal flathead) one need not lose sleep, literally, fishing for them.
Other options: Anglers from the western part of the state can fish the Ohio River for cats, both flatheads and channels. Curwensville Lake, and impoundment of the West Branch of the Susquehanna River, has a nice black bass population worthy of an August trip.
Clarion River Smallmouth Bass
The Clarion River is a resource that in large part goes unnoticed by anglers. Yet much of the Clarion supports a solid smallmouth bass population.
The stretch from State Route 36 at Cooksburg down to the headwaters of Piney Dam is a good section to try for fall smallmouth. Many of the float trips end at Cook Forest State Park, just above the Route 36 bridge, so there's less recreational rafting in this part of the river.
A few miles downriver there's another bridge crossing in the form of the Gravel Lick Bridge. The road parallels the river for about a mile, providing good access. Further downriver Old State Road can be used to reach the river just above the Piney Dam backwaters.
Other options: Some good river smallmouth action can also be enjoyed this month on the North Branch of the Susquehanna River. Also, consider a trip to Youghiogheny River Lake for both largemouth and smallmouth.
Keystone Lake Largemouth Bass
Armstrong County's Keystone Lake holds a good bass population, one comprised of both largemouths and smallmouths. During October the largemouth fishing can be first rate.
One of this lake's primary bass attractors is its abundant submergent vegetation. Its clear waters see stands of milfoil, coontail and pondweed extend out into 15 or more feet of water. Expect most of the largemouths, which grow in excess of 5 pounds in this lake, to be close to the weeds. Even in mid- to late fall there will be green weeds.
The lake has two main access points, the Atwood and NuMine boat launches. Long points extend out from the mouths of many of the lake's main bays and coves. Watch your sonar unit for weeds along these structures, as a lot of the cover doesn't grow to the surface. Focus your efforts along the outside (deep) edge of these weeds.
Other options: Try setting your sights onlake Arthur muskies or Pymatuning yellow perch.
Penns Creek Trout
The largest limestone stream in the state, Penns Creek, certainly gets its share of attention from trout anglers. This is especially true during the much-anticipated Green Drake hatch around Memorial Day.
By November, though, the Green Drake and the accompanying army of anglers will be just a memory. One can expect plenty of solitude at this time. And the fall season's crop of fallen leaves should be well flushed from the stream.
The portion of Penns Creek that's managed as All Tackle/Trophy Trout has water that's easily accessible, as well as a section that can be reached only by way of an abandoned railroad grade and also a public access at Ingleby. This section, as witnessed by recent Fish and Boat Commission survey work, holds a fine population of nice-sized wild brown trout.
Other options: Walleyes school up in Kinzua Lake at this time of year, making a trip there one with good potential. And the big smallies should be biting jigs on the middle Allegheny River.
Spring Creek Trout
Although its spring-fed waters are productive throughout the year, Spring Creek makes a great place to catch a few wild browns in an attempt to get away from the madness that seems to envelop the holiday season.
Anglers are fortunate to have good access to this highly popular trout stream. A good stretch to hit during a December trip is from the Fish and Boat Commission's Bellefonte hatchery (where the Fisherman's Paradise stretch is found) downstream to the town of Bellefonte. Most of this area is open to fishing, with several parking areas conveniently located.
Other options: Try fishing for walleyes on the lower Allegheny River, and panfish on Kahle Lake.