JEFF KNAPP: Area lakes offer good bass fishing
Summertime provides a great setting in which to enjoy bass fishing on a lake. Here’s a look at three good ones in the area.
KAHLE LAKE: Found on the Clarion/Venango county line, Kahle is proof — bass lake-wise — that good things do indeed come in small packages. Its largemouth bass fishery is one of the densest in the region.
At full pool, Kahle covers about 160 acres. For the past several years it’s been held about 6 feet less than full, due to a safety concern with the spillway structure.
[PHOTO: Gary Page displayed a nice Kahle Lake largemouth bass takem earlier this year. (Jeff Knapp/Gazette photo)]
Kahle is a clear-water lake. Barring turbidity from more-than-normal rains, one can expect to see bottom in 5 to 6 feet of water. Submergent vegetation grows out to depths of 8 to 10 feet most years. Milfoil is the predominate submerged greenery. Most of the lake’s littoral zone is rimmed with weed growth.
This lake fishes extremely well during the late spring and early summer. At this time bass are well spread out. Some fish can be caught close to the bank, up in shallow cover like cattail stems. Others will be relating to openings in the weed beds. Some of these openings are in the form of bluegill nests. In other spots, rocks provide clear spots in the growth.
Many bass will set up along the outside edge of the weeds, particularly the larger females that vacate the shallows following the spawn.
By mid to late summer Kahle can develop a significant algae bloom. If the “pea soup” is thick enough, it will cut down light penetration enough that weed growth starts to turn brown. Typically, come late summer or early fall, the algae breaks up and the weeds green up again.
There’s little argument that Kahle is an action lake, a place where one can expect plenty of action, but where big fish are few. Catches of 40 to 50 bass a day for two good anglers is pretty typical. Still, I fish Kahle a lot at this time of year, and it’s a rare day when a couple largemouths in the 2 1/2 - to 3-pound range aren’t boated. I’ve taken a half-dozen over the years between 5 1/2 and 6 pounds. Most, though, will run 10 to 16 inches.
SHENANGO RIVER LAKE: Located in Mercer County, this 3,500-acre Corps of Engineers flood-control lake contains a good population of largemouth and smallmouth bass, with bigmouths outnumbering bronzebacks by a 2-to-1 margin.
As a federal impoundment, Shenango has no horsepower restriction, though there is an extensive area limited to a maximum of 10 hp. Regular fall/winter drawdowns preclude much in the way of weed growth, so structure such as creek channel edges, and cover like brush piles/cribs and shoreline laydowns, are important in bass location.
Shenango is an ideal lake for deeper lure/presentation choices such as deep-diving crankbaits, drop-shot rigs and Carolina rigs. The lake features significant areas of causeway (both highway and railroad) bridging the lake. The drop-offs along these areas consistently hold summer bass.
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission recently surveyed Shenango. Personnel found excellent numbers of largemouth bass in excess of 15 inches.
Shenango’s bass fatten up on gizzard shad; currently the lake also holds significant numbers of young yellow perch, which are likely adding to the food source.
Shenango experiences a high level of recreational boating pressure, so plan your summertime fishing excursion in concert with off-peak boating times, such as early in the day and during rainy times.
LAKE WILHELM: Mercer County’s Lake Wilhelm is one of the finest largemouth bass fisheries in the state. And as luck would have it, midsummer is one of the best times to fish it.
That said, Wilhelm has been a tough nut to crack in recent years, not because of any lack of bass, but rather a glut of forage food. Gizzard shad populations exploded nearly a decade ago. Since then, bass have been well-fed and difficult to catch. Last season, though, catch numbers increased. And given the severity of last year’s winter, it’s likely gizzard shad numbers will take a hit. This might be a great summer on Wilhelm.
An impoundment of Sandy Creek, Wilhelm’s nearly 1,900 acres sit in a gently rolling valley surrounded by wooded and agricultural lands. The dark, rich water allows weed growth down to depths of around 5 feet. Several old roadbeds rise up from the lake bottom. Humps and shoals, some of which are formed by twisting creek channels, gather up summertime bigmouths
Deep-diving crankbaits are a top summertime option on Wilhelm. Choose baits capable of reaching the bottom of the humps, shoals and stumpfields.
Often it’s worth the effort of marking the edges of structure with marker buoys to serve as reference points, so that you’re accurately targeting your casts.
When bass are less active, and holding down off the edges of ledges, channels and humps, a good option is to use a drop-shot rig to present action-worm offerings like Roboworms and Yum Houdini Worms.
In recent years Wilhelm has featured abundant submerged weed cover — milfoil mostly — in shallow zones. Cuts and points in the weed edge make good targets for pitching skirted jigs; early and late in the day largemouths often respond well to soft swimbaits like Berkley’s Hollow Belly Minnow worked over the tops of the cover.
Four boat launches provide access to this state park (Maurice Goddard) lake. The horsepower limit is 20. The headwaters of the lake extend into State Game Lands 270. An off-limits propagation area is sandwiched between two areas that are open to fishing but under an electric or non-powered boat restriction.
Mercer County’s Tourism and Promotion agency can provide assistance for traveling anglers. Visit www.mercercountypa.org.