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NW PA Fishing Report, March 20, 2012

March 22, 2012
By Darl Black , Ohio Valley Outdoors

Sponsored by: PA Great Lakes Region; and Black Knight Industries Home of Gamma Line;

The information in the NW PA Fishing Report is based on the observations and opinions of individuals at the reporting tackle shops and expert area anglers. The information is reliable however it is not independently verified. If you have current fishing information or a picture of your catch from one of the waters in the counties of Crawford, Erie, Mercer or Venango that you would like to share, please send it to Darl Black at In providing a picture, you are agreeing to it being posted in the Fishing Report.

French Creek

Article Photos

Darl Black with a double shot of smallies, on back to back catches.

John Wilpula (Cochranton); filed 3/18/12: "I caught several smallies today on French Creek floating between Saegertown and Meadville. All were taken on jigs rigged with soft plastic craws. Not much for size, but they are starting to show up in the smaller eddy pockets now."

Crawford County

Pymatuning Lake

Fact Box

Steve Hughes (Clarion) "The bass bite is strong. The bigger fish are still deep and biting tubes and dropshot rigs."

Chris Hall (Espyville Outdoors) "What an early start to the season! Crappie and perch are being picked up with regularity around Wilson Boat Launch and at the mouth of Stewart's Bay. A few reports of 15"-16" crappie and 13"-14" perch have been given. Most success has been on either a jighead with a minnow or a plain hook and minnow under a float. When using a float, guys have recommended placing the bait 12 inches below the surface in water two to three feet deep. Numerous crappie and perch have been picked up along the causeway using jig and minnow technique as well as with a float set deeper that mentioned above. Crappie and perch have been fairly active around the island and bay south of Andover Beach.

"Walleye are being picked up during the day with a jighead and large minnow around Clark Island. Usual blade baits are productive at the Linesville Spillway and off the causeway bridge areas, as well as in the old river channel; Cicada, Vibra-Max and Sonars are producing. In the evening, anglers wading shallows bars are catching 'eye. Most waders are throwing Rapala F-11, Bomber Long A or Smithwick Rattlin' Rogue. Chrome baits seem to be working best."

Jim Melvin (Sharon); filed 3/19/12: "I hit Pymatuning on Sunday with Eric Heil, hoping to catch crappies. We fished shallow weeds throughout the morning but the bite was sporadic. By early afternoon the crappie bite died for us, so we picked up the flipping sticks and played with largemouth bass by pitching soft plastics. Managed another nice bass this season and it's not even April it was an even 5 pounds. Talked to a guy at the dock who crappie fished all day and said he did better deeper than the shallow water we were fishing."

John Wilpula (Cochranton) "I've been getting a few crappies after dark this week at Pymatuning at the Espyville Marian. Took my two boys and their granddad last night - we filled the bucket."

Jeff Knapp (Keystone Connection Guide Service) "I spent yesterday trolling the deep basins on the southern end of the lake with leadcore line and crankbaits a tactic that's worked on pre-spawn walleye in the past. Wasn't productive yesterday. I did hear of a few 'eyes being caught in 20-foot depths on blades mainly ripe males. Not much happening with walleyes in the shallows yet at least during the day. But it won't be long. Surface temp was 46 degrees when we arrived at the lake and it was 51 degrees when we left at 5 PM. When the deep 'eye bite wasn't happening, I went to a deep structure spot that produced a bunch of big perch last fall; they were still there. I plucked a few out of 17 to 20 feet of water on jigging spoons. I'll likely be back next weekend."

Kevin Austin "I've been fishing Pymatuning Lake the past few days and it's been fun. I've caught crappies, big perch and some fat bluegills. I just started using Berkley Gulp! and I love it. It catches a variety of fish when the fish are not biting for other anglers."

Conneaut Lake

Chris Hall (Espyville Outdoors) "Bluegills are on fire at Conneaut Lake. Small jigs, packed full of maggots or waxies, are working best. Many gills are in the 9-10" range. A few crappies have been reported. There was a rumor of a 40" northern being caught, but I cannot confirm it."

Chad Templin (Meadville) "On Thursday, I took a friend to Conneaut Lake. The weather did not cooperate. Water temps in the mid 40s but quickly dropped back to the low 40s after a passing cold shower. We managed 1 largemouth and 1 pike in about three hours of fishing, but moved several other pike. Seems a bit early to fish the main lake at Conneaut."

Dustin Shay (Meadville) Dustin reports excellent success on big bluegills in the canals at Conneaut Lake. He also caught a pike while panfishing.

Erie County

Presque Isle Bay

Al Nacopoulos (B.A.C. Bait Erie) "It is an incredible early bite everything is happening this week. Anglers are catching good perch in the Head of Bay off first parking lot, crappies in the Stink Hole, perch off the North Pier, largemouth bass in Misery Bay, and smallmouth bass in the main part of the Bay."

Destin DeMarion (Grove City) "I managed to get up to Presque Isle Bay on the 17th. It was an awesome day. We fished reaction baits all day, and landed 56 bass. At least half were over 15 inches. Majority of fish can on Strike King Redeye Shad, XCalibur One Knocker and a ?-oz. white Whip Em Baits Spinnerbait. The biggest largemouth, a 3.5 pounder, came on the spinnerbait. Whip Em Baits is my new sponsor for the year, a company out of Washington, PA. I attached a few photos."

Steve Hughes (Clarion) "Gus Glasco, Frank Malik and I fished PIB on Sunday. We caught 30 or so smallmouth in the Bay but no real big ones as expected. We did go out on the lake in afternoon, and caught a few real good bass. This is the earliest I have ever caught smallmouth on the main lake!"

Thomas Watral (Erie) "I hit the South Pier today, fishing hard from 8 AM to 2:45 PM. Not much hitting today because of the heat and no wind blowing. I ended up with only 3 perch about 13 inches each. I talked to others that had the same poor luck on perch off the pier. However on the side of the pier were four people getting some nice crappies. They told me they were fishing with bobbers positioning two hooks one foot from the bottom. They had 25 nice crappies in the bucket. He told me the best hours were 5 to 9."

Darl Black (Cochranton) "I met FLW Pro Dave Lefebre at PIB this morning for a quick 3 hour fishing and photo session. At the second spot we stopped, I caught back to back four-pound smallmouths on a 1/4-ounce Jimmy D River Bug (rabbit fur jig). I proceeded to catch several more nice smallies before Dave switched from a blade bait to a suspending Rapala X-Rap Deep to catch up with my count. With enough smallies for photos, we went looking of largemouth and found them in 2 to 4 feet of water over black bottom silt in back corner of bay. Dave caught fish after fish on a new Rapala #5 Rippin' Rap. I casually fished a white Tabu Swim Jig and caught only half as many as Dave. However, our biggest largemouth was only about 2.5 pounds. We caught and release 30-some bass in less than 3 hours. Dave had fished the Bay on the 16th with friends, catching one smallmouth about 6 pounds on his first drop with a blade bait and then numerous largemouths on rattle baits with some of the green bass in the 3 to 4 pound range."

Chad Templin (Meadville) "On Wednesday, an old Dutchman friend of mine and I headed to PIB to try our luck. We managed to catch some nice largemouth up to about 3 pounds on a surprising variety of lures. We also caught 2 pike, the largest about 7 pounds. No steelhead and no smallmouth yet. Water temp was in the upper 40s. Chestnut launch looked like mid-May."

Edinboro Lake

Dave Lefebre (Erie) "I took my son to Edinboro today for crappies. We did very well fishing the shallow emerging lily pad beds on the north end of the lake."

Mercer County


Bob Mohra (Fergie's Bait) "They are catching crappies and bluegills like crazy in the northern section of Wilhelm, particularly around Launch #3 and the Shakleyville Bridge. I had one customer from Sandy Lake stop in to say that he and his wife caught five big largemouths on a Floating Rapala Minnow. The biggest one was 8 pounds. He released all of them."

Shenango River and Shenango Lake

Laurie Frantz (R&L Bait & Tackle) "The Shenango River above the lake the slow water stretch from Big Bend area towards Hamburg is on fire with bluegill and crappies. No white bass yet, however. The best bait is a small jig or ant tipped with maggots, wax worms or small minnows. Shoreline fishermen are making great catches. The Shenango Lake is still too low to launch a boat; not reports from there."

Keith Rearick (Sharon) Keith reports Shenango Lake remains 4 feet low. Boat launches are open due to mild weather but no courtesy docks out until April 6th. "I saw some boat getting out on the water yesterday."

Neshannock Creek

Bob Shuey (Neshannock Creek Fly Shop) "The shop has been very busy this week. The winner of the rod raffle was Ed Draher from Copley, OH. Thanks to all who participated in the pre-season stocking and lunker stocking on Neshannock this month. We update the conditions on Neshannock Creek between 8 -9 AM and between 4:30 5:30 PM, seven days a week; check the website. Website also details where the Delayed Harvest section starts and stops; check"

Venango County

Allegheny River

Chris Wolfgong (Oil City) "Dale Black and I make it out yesterday (Sunday) from 10 AM to 2 PM. I caught 11 smallmouths 2 on a black bucktail/rabbit fur jig and 9 on tubes. I was trying two different size tubes standard size and new smaller "drop shot" size both produced equally. I tried crankbaits but no success. I think Dale caught 18 smallies on tubes, but I'm not sure."

Steve Hughes (Clarion) "I fished the river around Oil City on Saturday. The bass bite is strong. The bigger fish are still deep and biting tubes and dropshot rigs."

Jeff Knapp (Keystone Connection Guide Service) "Today was my first official guide trip on the Allegheny for smallmouth bass this season. We landed 35 bass, including many in the 15 to 18-inch range. Plus we picked up a few pike and walleye. Over half our fish came on the 4-inch XCalibur jerkbait; the rest on a Galida Grubz and John Wilpula's rabbit fur jig. Looks like a good start compared to last year's wet/cold spring season."

Darl Black (Cochranton) "Fished with Dale Black for two hours before dark on Thursday. Dale had been on bass two days before, so we went right to the active spot. I landed 14 smallmouths seated in the back of the boat (due to ankle injury) all on various colors of Jimmy D's River Bug hair jigs. Basic Black seemed the best color, although white, gray and crawdad colors all caught fish. Dale was fishing a red hair jig a little too long. We totaled 24 bass, with the biggest pushing 3 pounds his first fish on a favorite red hair jig which is why he didn't change it unit late. All fish were in remarkable shape solid, heavy throughout the body, looking more like Erie smallmouth than river fish."

Kahle Lake

Steve Fleckenstein (Clarion) "I caught a few 'gills and crappies from Kahle Lake last night. I caught most of them on a homemade ice jig and a small hair jig that I tie. I had the lake to myself, except for a birder and a couple anglers who did not stay long."

Bulletin Board

Monthly - Free Fly-tying Classes; 2nd Tuesday; 6 PM to 7:30 PM; 814-590-1366 at Farrell's Hook, Line & Stitch (At the Bank Mall) Meadville, PA

Weekly - Free Lure-Making & Fly Tying Classes; Every Saturday; 6 PM to 8 PM; Jigger Wholesale on Georgetown Road; info at

Weekly - Fly Tying Class, Tuesday evening; 724-533-3212, Neshannock Creek Fly Shop, Volant, PA



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