JEFF KNAPP: Angling options will soon heat up on northwest lakes
Winter is begrudgingly releasing its icy grip on our region. Soon we’ll have a host of angling options to choose from. The state’s northwest region boasts a lot of them, particularly for warm-water species like bass, walleyes and crappies, such as the ones detailed here.
PYMATUNING LAKE WALLEYES AND CRAPPIES: Until the past couple years, Pymatuning had gone through a rough patch, walleye-fishing wise. Poor return from stocked fry resulted in a marginal walleye population throughout the first decade of the new millennium, at least in terms of what anglers were accustomed to catching on this sprawling Crawford County reservoir, which is shared with Ohio’s Ashtabula County.
Gone were the days when a boatload of anglers could drift across the lake, drag a jig-n-minnow, and put dozens of ’eyes in the boat, albeit often small ones. The dynamics of the walleye population shifted from one of numerous, smaller fish, to one of larger, but far fewer big ones. Anglers that adjusted their tactics continued to catch fish.
About seven years ago the Fish and Boat Commission, along with the Ohio DNR, began stocking Pymatuning with the older fingerling-stage walleyes. The result has been encouraging, with good year classes represented during this time period. This success has now been of such duration that there are plenty of legal-sized walleyes available.
Despite the upswing in the walleye population, last year’s spring fishing was slow. This was due to a particularly up-and-down weather pattern, one that brought with it snow even in early May. Consistent fishing didn’t really kick in until late spring, but continued well into the summer.
Typically, though, Pymatuning’s a highly productive walleye lake throughout the spring period. This year could be especially good, as last year’s harvest was likely down due to the season’s poor start.
Pymatuning covers over 16,000 acres, of which about 13,000 are open to public fishing (3,000 acres serve as nursery waters). Recently the maximum horsepower limit was raised from 10 to 20 horsepower. Good launch areas are sprinkled around the lake. The best ones on the Pennsylvania side are Linesville (north end of lake); Espyville (midpoint of the lake); Snodgrass (southeastern portion); and Jamestown (southern end). Several good access areas are located on the Ohio side as well.
In addition to the walleyes, Pymatuning continues to be a highly productive crappie lake, despite intense fishing pressure and harvest. Anglers can catch good numbers of crappies, black crappies mostly, with many in the 10- to 14-inch range. Expect April crappies to be in the shallows, attracted to wood and developing weed cover. Most of the fish will be in 2- to 10-foot depths.
The lake is relatively shallow and is bisected from east to west by the Espyville-Andover causeway. Licensed anglers from Pennsylvania and Ohio can fish from a boat with either license, though shore fishing necessitates a license from the appropriate state. Boat rentals are available at Linesville, Espyville and Jamestown. Bait shops are scattered around the lake.
There is no closed season on walleyes on Pymatuning. The minimum length limit is 15 inches, with a daily creel limit of six.
EDINBORO LAKE BASS: Pennsylvania has only a smattering of natural lakes, many of which are located in the northwestern part of the state. And though the list of these glacially formed lakes is rather short, the inventory of the quality fishing they provide is impressively lengthy, as is the case with 252-acre Edinboro Lake.
Located in southern Erie County, Edinboro Lake is a case of clashing subcultures. For the angler that works his or her boat up one of the many fingers feeding the lake, the place is refreshingly wild. In reality Edinboro Lake is located right next to the town of the same name, one that contains a thriving state university and the busy commerce such institutions help support.
Interstate 79 passes just a couple miles to the west.
With no horsepower limitations the lake sees plenty of recreational boating traffic, including jet skies. Anglers hoping for the best fishing experience should choose times that are least likely to intersect with the boating crowd. This includes early spring, when the lake’s largemouths are moving shallow in preparation for the spawn.
From the air, Edinboro is shaped much like an inverted pear, one that someone sliced a few slivers from the slender end. These slices, on the lake, are a series of ditches and canals that feed the lake from its northern end. Most of these are surprisingly deep (3 to 5 feet in many areas), given that you can easily cast from one side to the other.
During a trip to the lake last year, Dave Lehman and I found largemouths up to the 3-pound range lying in next to the bank of these canals. The fish were caught by pitching a jig-n-craw through the willows that overhang the banks. The canals see heavy usage by largemouth bass during the spawning period.
The lake boasts an excellent access area, as provided by the Billings Recreational Complex, which is located just off of Route 6N along the lake’s southwestern shoreline.