JEFF KNAPP: Put these fishing trips on calendar
Along with rarely kept resolutions, the new year also ushers in a fresh slate of angling opportunities. Here are a few to consider for the first four months of 2014.
JANUARY — LOWER ALLEGHENY RIVER WALLEYES: In all but the most severe winters there’s open-water walleye fishing within the 72 miles of the lower Allegheny River. This section features eight lock-and-dam systems. Walleyes begin collecting in the stretches a half-mile or so below these dams in late fall.
While some areas of the river will likely have ice cover, hardy anglers that locate access areas close to the dam tailrace areas can often access these fish. A good example is the area below Lock and Dam 7 in Kittanning, where a boat ramp within the town’s riverside park is found nearby.
Be prepared to clear the ramp of snow, as well as near-shore shelf ice. Keep safety foremost in your mind, which includes a willingness to ditch the trip if conditions aren’t favorable. Also, be sure to wear your personal flotation device when on the water.
The action isn’t limited to boat fishing. Shore anglers also score, and sometimes have access to areas below the dams that are restricted to boats.
Other January choices include ice fishing for northern pike on Kinzua Lake and targeting sauger on the Monongahela.
FEBRUARY — SPRING CREEK TROUT: Centre County’s Spring Creek is one of the state’s many storied high-quality trout streams. A spring-fed limestone stream, Spring Creek provides a more stable environment than a freestone stream, in terms of both flow and water temperature. This means that even in the dead of winter Spring Creek will likely be ice free, a great place to spend an afternoon when those unseasonably mild days push the mercury above the freezing mark.
The majority of Spring Creek — 16.5 miles — is managed as All-Tackle, Catch and Release, meaning you can use fly or spinning gear; both natural and artificials are permitted. Save for some hatchery escapees, the fish are all wild, mostly browns.
Central Pennsylvania is a trout fishing hotbed, so you’ll likely see other anglers, particularly along the easy-to-access spots. The “canyon” section, four miles of Spring Creek that runs between Benner Springs and Bellefonte, provides a place for secluded fishing for anglers willing to walk. This area was formerly controlled by Rockview State Prison and was opened to the public a couple of years ago. You can park at the Fish and Boat Commission’s property at the Bellefonte or Benner Springs hatcheries and walk in from there. A 0.8-mile section near the Bellefonte property — Fisherman’s Paradise — is managed as Fly Fishing, Catch and Release.
Other February options include ice fishing on Hammond Lake for crappies and pursuing holdover trout (from fall stockings) at the Shenango Lake outflow.
MARCH — PYMATUNING CRAPPIES: Despite significant fishing pressure and harvest, Pymatuning’s crappie fishery just keeps chugging along, producing good numbers of fish, and plenty of slab-sided ones. Crappies are one of the first species to turn on when ice leaves the lake, usually around mid-March.
Expect to find the first crappie action in the north end of this massive 16,000-acre lake. This portion warms first. Crappies move into shallow, dark-bottomed bays, often hovering near remaining lily pad stalks. It only takes a couple days of warm, sunny weather to fuel the movement into the shallows. The fish will remain there until driven out by cold snaps. Key areas include Stewart’s Bay and the many extensive bays near the Wilson and Padanarum access areas.
Pymatuning is a border lake, shared with Ohio. Licensed Pennsylvania anglers can legally fish Ohio waters, but need an Ohio license to fish from any Ohio shoreline.
Additional March trips: trout in Berks County’s Tulpehoken Creek (the Delayed Harvest, Artificial Lures Only section below Blue Marsh Dam) and trout in Lawrence County’s Neshannock Creek, the DHALO section near Volant.
APRIL — PINE CREEK TROUT: Pennsylvania has lots of Pine Creeks, and many of them provide trout fishing. But the tallest “Pine” is the one that flows through Tioga County’s Pine Creek Gorge — aka the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon. One would be hard-pressed to find more glorious surroundings to enjoy a springtime trout trip.
Pine Creek fishes best during the spring; by midsummer, water temperatures often become marginal for trout, and the trout often seek relief in or near the many cold-water tributaries such as Slate and Cedar runs.
The canyon section of Pine Creek begins near Ansonia. Leonard Harrison and Colton Point state parks are located on the ridges. Many anglers access this section by walking (or biking) in along the Pine Creek Trail, a rails-to-trails that runs along the river bank. At the lower end of the gorge Route 414 crosses Pine at Blackwell. Anglers can expect to share the water with canoeists and rafters, particularly as the weather warms.
Other April trips include American shad on the Delaware River and crappies in Sayers Lake.