Like many sportsmen, I’d trade a couple months of summer or winter for the chance to extend the fall by a similar length of time. There are just so many outdoor options, on the water and in the field, it’s tough to fit them all in. But stretching out the autumn calendar isn’t an option. Listing them in black and white, though, is, providing a reminder of sorts. Here’s a look at some of the fall’s best fishing options, nearby and in other sections of the state.
OCTOBER — LOWER SUSQUEHANNA RIVER FLATHEAD CATS: The lower reaches of the mighty Susquehanna River have witnessed the establishment of a flathead catfish population during the past decade or so. Though an uninvited non-native species, the flathead appears to be here to stay and is providing an exciting sport fishery.
Come early- to mid-fall the flatheads will begin stacking up in the larger, deeper holes below dams. Whereas summer fishing tends to be a nighttime exclusive deal, during the fall they often bite well during the daylight, particularly during dark/rainy days.
Come prepared with heavy tackle — these fish easily top the 30-pound mark — as well as quality live bait such as sunfish or chubs/suckers.
Other good October options include fishing for stream-bred trout on the West Branch of the Delaware River; and targeting big trout in the special regulations section of the Allegheny River, from the Kinzua tailrace down to Warren.
NOVEMBER — LAKE ARTHUR MUSKIES: From a population standpoint, Lake Arthur is one of the top muskie lakes in the state. It harbors an outstanding muskie population, including some tremendous fish. When the Fish and Boat Commission set trap nets last spring, it collected many muskies, including a 52-inch brute that weighed over 45 pounds.
Under the best conditions, muskies aren’t easy to catch. This is particularly true in Lake Arthur, which has a glut of food fish, including gizzard shad, alewife and juvenile panfish. They are well-fed and not easy to trigger into biting. Significant angler attention probably adds to the difficulty.
Perhaps the best odds go to the late-fall angler, one that fishes after many others have given up for the season. Muskies can also be more aggressive during the fall, likely in preparation for the coming winter. Some of best muskie fishing has happened during late fall on Arthur, at a time when many others where hunting waterfowl or deer.
November angling options also include steelhead fishing on Lake Erie tributaries; and largemouth bass on Lake Wilhelm.
DECEMBER — OHIO RIVER SAUGER: As an industrial river, the Ohio River — the 30-odd miles that flow from Pittsburgh to the Ohio/West Virginia border — don’t offer the most aesthetically friendly view. But that doesn’t mean the fishing isn’t good. For more than 25 years I’ve enjoyed good wintertime fishing on the Ohio, particularly for sauger.
Some of the best fishing occurs from the Dashields Lock and Dam downriver to the mouth of the Beaver River, some 10 miles. Along this reach there are several incoming streams, such as Little and Big Sewickley creeks, that form the gravel bars that collect fish. Also consider the old Lock and Dam structures near Ambridge. The mouth of the Beaver is also productive.
Good December fishing can also be enjoyed by targeting wild trout (catch-and-release) on the Saucon Creek near Hellertown; and walleyes in the Raystown Lake spillway.