February 02, 2016
By Jeff Knapp
During today's busy lifestyles it makes sense to plan things out to get the most of your outdoor recreation time. With this in mind Pennsylvania Game & Fish presents its 2016 "Fishing Calendar," a look at 36 potential fishing trips that span the whole year.
Besides the top 12 choices, we've also listed two more picks for each month, ones that are also quality choices for the given time.
Lower Allegheny River Walleyes
The lower Allegheny River entails the 70-odd miles of river from East Brady downriver to Pittsburgh. Eight lock and dam structures impound this stretch, and serve as gathering points for winter walleyes. When river conditions are good — i.e., not extremely high, or iced over — the walleye fishing can be excellent.
The immediate tailrace areas of the dams are off limits to boat anglers. But shore anglers have some access to these areas. Lock & Dam 4, 5, 7 and 8 have small hydro-electric stations located on the shore opposite the lock chamber. These facilities feature fishing platforms. The best fishing from these areas is during periods of low flow.
Boat anglers will often find good fishing in the larger, deeper holes within two to three miles of the dam tailrace, as many fish will stage in these areas. Look for such spots on river bends, and above and below feeder waters.
While good fishing is available throughout the entire stretch, some of the best fishing often happens downriver of Lock and Dam 2 (the Highland Park Dam), with good access found at the Fish and Boat Commission's Sharpsburg Access.
Other options: During January big northern pike should be showing up through Kinzua Dam's ice; and sauger will be hitting on the Monongahela River.
Panfish On Promised Land State Park Lakes
Promised Land State Park is in the heart of Northeastern Pennsylvania's Pocono Mountains. While the 3,000-acre state park provides a host of wintertime activities, for the angler the attraction is the two lakes found there.
Promised Lake (422 acres) and 173-acre Lower Lake both offer excellent ice-fishing opportunities. Located on the Pocono Plateau (at an elevation over 1,800 feet), these two lakes tend to provide relatively long ice fishing seasons. Five boat access areas scattered around the two lakes provide ice-fishing access.
Both yellow perch and panfish are found under these lakes' ice-covered surfaces. Largemouth and smallmouth bass are also part of the mix; chain pickerel are found in the two lakes as well, and often provide hardwater action. The Fish and Boat Commission stocks brook, brown and rainbow trout in Lower Lake; trout are commonly available during the ice fishing season.
Promised Land State Park is located in Pike County. Call the state park office at 570-676-3428 for a report on ice-fishing conditions.
Other options: Trout in the tailrace section of Youghiogheny Lake; and panfish from the frozen surface of Lake Wilhelm.
Lower Juniata River Smallmouth Bass
The Juniata River, along with the lower portions of the Susquehanna River, have concerned anglers and fisheries managers. Poor survival rates of young smallmouth bass in recent years have provided fewer young bass. But decent numbers of adult bass remain; early spring, when bass are still in the wintering holes, provides some the year's best fishing for the river's biggest brown bass.
The availability of fishing opportunity relies on water levels. Higher flows, common in March, can benefit anglers as high water often squeezes fish into confined areas. But raging flows will preclude fishing.
Expect to find mallmouths in deep, slow pools. Once you do, you're on to something good, because bass tend to use them every winter. Lower Juniata access is good in many areas. Visit the Fish and Boat Commission's website (www.fishandboat.com) for more information.
Since they are concentrated in defined areas, river smallmouth bass are vulnerable at this time. Fortunately, this section of the Juniata is under catch-and-release regulations for smallmouth bass.
Other options: Lower Delaware River striped bass; Blue Marsh Lake outflow (multispecies).
Pymatuning Lake Walleyes
For well over a decade anglers have bemoaned the downward trend of walleye fishing on what had been the state's most productive inland walleye water, Pymatuning Lake. The cries have been answered, as a change in stocking practices has brought the sprawling Crawford County lake back to its former prominence.
The walleye fishery had historically been maintained by the stocking of fry-stage walleyes (and a low degree of natural reproduction). In recent years made it evident fry stocking was no longer cutting it. Both the Fish and Boat Commission and the Ohio Division of Wildlife embarked on an aggressive fingerling stocking program.
Thanks to this aggressive stocking program Pymatuning has been putting out good numbers of walleyes, including plenty of legal walleyes, for several years now. Several boat access areas are located on the Pennsylvania side of Pymatuning. Some of the better ones are Linesville, Espyville, Snodgrass and Jamestown.
Other options: Raystown Lake bass; Keystone Lake crappies.
Yellow Creek (Bedford County) Trout
Fly fishing enthusiast Rod Reeder suggests Bedford County's Yellow Creek as a May destination. Yellow Creek is a limestone stream that supports several significant hatches, and also has good access. If you go in May, says Reeder, which is Sulphur time, keep in mind that you're in Pennsylvania, and you're on a limestone stream. There will be other anglers. Be courteous.
"Because Yellow Creek is a limestone creek, and is fed by other, smaller limestone tributaries it holds its water temperature throughout the summer making for some excellent terrestrial fishing," he added.
Thanks to the combined efforts of several local Trout Unlimited chapters, there is a parking lot located at lower end of Maple Run which marks the beginning of the Catch and Release Fly Fishing Only section.
Other options: Salmon Creek (Allegheny National Forest) trout; Pymatuning crappies.
Lake Wallenpaupack is likely northeastern Pennsylvania's most heavily used lake, with its share of recreational boating pressure. But that doesn't seem to have a negative effect on the bass fishing, as the "Pack" continues to be one of the top bass fishing destinations in the state.
Wallenpaupack contains both smallmouth and largemouth bass. It's primarily a rocky lake, more conducive to smallies, but increases in vegetation in recent years have given largemouth bass numbers a boost.
June bass fishing on the 'Pack will find bass in various stages, from pre-spawn through post-spawn. The lake harbors quality-sized bass, smallmouth in particular. Night fishing is popular throughout the summer months.
PPL Electric Utilities, the utility company that owns the lake, provides four fee launches. The Fish and Boat Commission has a free access area found at Mangan Cove. Bass fishing guide service is available from longtime guide Bill Albright (www.billsguideservice.com).
Other options: Lehigh River trout; Edinboro Lake muskies.
Presque Isle Bay Largemouth Bass
Presque Isle Bay harbors one of the state's best largemouth bass fisheries. A unique 3,000-acre waterway, Presque Isle Bay is encircled by a 7-mile sandy peninsula, with a navigation channel that leads into Lake Erie found at its eastern end. July anglers can expect to find extensive weedy flats extending from the north (peninsula) side of the bay; the southern (commonly called "city") side of the bay fronts the port of Erie.
While there are weed flats on the southern shore, this area is well interspersed with breakwalls and other manmade structures that serve marinas and shoreline condominiums. While it's possible to catch largemouths in the 4-pound-plus category here, the main attraction of the PIB is that it contains an abundance of chunky largemouths in the 15-inch range.
Erie Bay, as it's also called, can be a busy place during weekends recreational boating pressure. Plan your trip during a weekday. The most popular access areas are Chestnut Street (on the city side) and Marina Bay (out on the peninsula).
Other options: Ohio River catfish; North Branch Susquehanna River smallmouth bass.
Lower Susquehanna River Catfish
The Susquehanna River has long been known as good catfish water, for channel catfish that is. During the last decade the lower portion of the river has also seen the presence of flathead catfish. Finding flathead cats here wasn't good news for the Fish and Boat Commission, as flatheads are not native to the river. They are efficient predators, and not a welcome newcomer to a river already with its share of issues.
Though they didn't receive a warm welcome, flatheads currently join channel cats as a fun species to catch on the lower Susquehanna; fish well over 20 pounds are currently being caught by anglers who understand how to fish for them.
Koinonia Guide Service targets catfish as part of its multi-species fishing service (www.koinoniafishingguides.com).
Other options: Little Juniata River trout; Monongahela River bass.
Conneaut Lake Bass
Northwest Pennsylvania's Conneaut Lake is a moody gem. Early fall is a good time to catch it in a good mood.
At just under 1,000 acres, Conneaut is packed with humps and points, and rimmed with quality aquatic vegetation.
Both smallmouth and largemouth bass are present. Largemouths tend to be found within submergent weeds, and along its edges. Weeds include coontail, milfoil and pondweed. The weeds are often cropped off a few feet below the surface by a harvester, so locate weed edges with a sonar unit.
Smallies mix in with green bass on weed edges. They are also found on hard-bottomed humps that top off in the 10 to 15 foot range.
Conneaut has a highly developed shoreline; boating pressure can be intense. Plan trips during the workweek, or during the morning hours on weekends. Recreational pressure doesn't usually get rolling until early afternoon. The Fish and Boat Commission has a free launch. There is also a fee launch at Fireman's Beach. Guide Darl Black runs fall trips on Conneaut Lake that target the lake's big smallmouth bass (www.blackwolfecommunications.com).
Other options: Pymatuning smallmouth bass; Yellow Creek Lake pike.
Spring Creek Trout
Centre County's Spring Creek is somewhat of a paradox. It harbors and outstanding population of stream bred trout. It's also found in one of the state's most rapidly developing areas.
About 17 miles of Spring Creek are managed as trout water, from near Boalsburg to the stream's mouth, where it joins Bald Eagle Creek. With the exception of the Fisherman's Paradise area — 0.8 miles that is managed as fly fishing only, catch and release — the stream is under an all-tackle catch and release regulation.
Fed primarily by underwater limestone aquifers, Spring Creek benefits from the fertility such provides, as well as relative stability in water temperatures and flows. Though it flows through State College and Bellefonte, aggressive work by concerned agencies and watchdog groups continues to help guard against stream degradation.
Other options: Kettle Creek (delayed harvest area) trout; Lake Arthur crappies.
Middle Allegheny River Smallmouth Bass
The Allegheny River's "middle" portion runs from the tailrace of Kinzua Dam down to the start of the navigable river at East Brady. While the first 10 miles below Kinzua are more conducive (due to colder water temperatures from the dam discharge) to trout, starting at Warren the river harbors plenty of brown bass.
By November expect to find smallmouth moving toward the slower, deeper pools that will hold them over the winter months. Since this is a time of year when all river species are looking for the stability provided by such water, it's not uncommon to catch walleyes, northern pike and muskies in the same general areas.
One of the more popular spots is found in Oil City, where a large, dredged pools draw large numbers of fish. There is excellent access here.
Guide service is available through Keystone Connection (www.keystoneconnection.com)
Other options: Erie tributary steelhead; upper Delaware River (including West Branch Delaware) trout.
Ohio River Sauger
While sauger don't attain nearly the size of its relative the walleye, theyquickly grow to the 12-inch legal length size,. Preferring more turbid water than the walleye, saugers tend to be the more dominant fish in stained rivers like the Ohio. Depending upon the success of recent spawns, they often outnumber walleyes 10 to one on the Ohio.
Within Pennsylvania's portion of the Ohio are three lock and dam systems, which like the lower Allegheny tend to concentrate fish at this time of year. Fishing action can be good in the general areas below the Emsworth, Dashields and Montgomery locks and dams.
The best access is found in the Montgomery Pool (between the Montgomery and Dashields dams), with launches found at Leetsdale and Rochester.
Other options: Lake Marburg walleye; Chapman Lake (Warren County) trout.