JEFF KNAPP: Time to spring forward
Though the calendar suggests spring is near, reality confirms winter is very much alive and well. The promise of warmer weather will eventually be fulfilled, though not as soon as many of us would like. When it does, here are some great trips to take over the spring and summer months.
MAY — LAKE ERIE SMALLMOUTH BASS: By May, Lake Erie’s bubba-sized smallmouth bass will be on the move in preparation for the year’s spawning activity. This means lake fish will be in shallow water, which for Erie means anywhere from 30 to five or so feet. Rocky humps out in 25 to 30 feet should hold some fish, as well as rocky flats near shore. Many of the most productive near-shore spots will be proximate to the larger feeder streams that enter the lake.
May is also the top month for smallie fishing within the comparatively protected waters of Presque Isle Bay. A significant number of bronzebacks spawn in “Erie Bay,” moving back out to the lake by late June.
Bay fish can be deep or shallow. Check out the many hard-bottomed humps that lie south of the entrance to Marina Bay. The sandy flat that rims much of the north shore often holds fish, as does the northern edge of the dredged shipping channel, which is easy to locate thanks to the USCG buoys. The bay can get crowded during May, especially on fair-weather weekends.
Other top choices for May include trout on Penns Creek and bluegills on Kahle Lake.
JUNE — LITTLE JUNIATA RIVER TROUT: The Little J is one of top trout waters in the state, boasting outstanding populations of trout, most of which are stream-bred, or the result of fingerling stockings by the Fish and Boat Commission.
Though its origins aren’t of a limestone source, the Little J does pick up plenty of limestone water during its course, and is considered “limestone influenced.” More than 13 miles of the Little J are managed as All-Tackle Catch-and-Release. There is also DHALO section upriver of the catch-and-release waters, as well as a portion managed as put-and-take via the stocking of adult fish. The best June fishing is within the C&R section from Ironville down to the mouth.
By June, water flows are often ideal for quality fishing. During the springtime there’s often too much flow for easy fishing and wading. Most anglers consider flows of 300 cubic feet/second (measured at the USGS gauge at the town of Spruce Creek) to be best for good fishing. Sculptures are often coming off the water at this time.
Additional June trips to consider include: Pymatuning walleyes and Big Fishing Creek trout.
JULY — MARSH CREEK LAKE LARGEMOUTHS: Chester County’s 535-acre Marsh Creek Lake is one of the top destinations for southeastern Pennsylvania bass anglers. Perhaps it should be the same for anglers across the state. It harbors an outstanding largemouth bass fishery, one comprised of a substantial number of fish over 15 inches.
When the Fish and Boat Commission surveyed Marsh Creek Lake in 2011, it found excellent numbers of largemouth bass. In regard to quality-sized fish, the rate of collection (during the agency’s electrofishing runs) of fish over 15 inches was more than 17 per hour. The average for southeast Pennsylvania lakes is 3.6. Fish up to 19 inches were captured. The survey revealed several year classes of largemouths, indicating good natural reproduction, and an outlook that bodes well not only for the present but the future, too.
The lake is limited to electric motors only. Two launch ramps are provided.
Other July trip possibilities include yellow perch on Rose Valley Lake and Juniata River smallmouth bass.
AUGUST — LAKE ERIE YELLOW PERCH: It’s strange how a relatively small fish, even the “jumbos” that Erie sometimes produces, can cause so much excitement among anglers. But that’s how it is when it comes to Lake Erie’s yellow perch fishing.
Erie perchin’ has been quite consistent in recent years; thus there’s plenty of reason to be optimistic this year. The good action begins around mid-summer and extends into late August, even September.
Typically, locating Erie perch isn’t difficult, again pointing to the species’ popularity. Schools of perch will be marked by the flotilla of anchored boats hovering about them. Good sport can be enjoyed from all of the popular ports, including Walnut Creek, Erie and North East. The magic depth runs from 50 to 60 feet. There tend to be lots of fish, so don’t crowd anyone. Just anchor a respectful distance from others. If you lack the boat to safely fish for Erie perch, head-boat fishing is available on the Edward Johns.
If perch fishing isn’t your thing, consider a trip to Crawford County’s French Creek for channel cats or the Youghiogheny River — upriver of Connellsville — for trout.
[PHOTO: Matt Ference caught and released trout last spring on the Little Juniata River. (Jeff Knapp/Gazette)]