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A Fishing Bonanza at PA Crappie Camp

June 11, 2012
By Larry Claypool - OV Times Editor , Ohio Valley Outdoors

Eight outdoor writers from four states (including Georgia and Alabama) converged on the Pymatuning-Shenango Lakes area of Pennsylvania in May with the focus on catching crappie. I was one of the writers who attended the PA Crappie Camp, hosted by the Crawford County Convention and Visitor's Bureau; Visit Mercer County; TTI-Blakemore and BnM Poles.

The Crappie Camp was a three-day fishing bonanza on two of Pennsylvania's premier fishing waters. Veteran outdoor writer and photographer Darl Black, of Northwest PA, organized and hosted the event, which was based in the beautiful and spacious Pymatuning State Park (Crawford County, PA). Pymatuning Lake (Reservoir) is the largest lake (17,088 acres) in PA. Likewise, the state park is the largest in the Commonwealth.

Black said the participants were very impressed with the fishery. "Everyone who participated enjoyed crappie-catching success. Several of the writers who travel extensively and have fished for crappie across the US, were blown away by the average size and numbers of black crappies at Pymatuning" said Black. "The tackle sponsors who assisted in putting on the event were so impressed with the fishing and with the cabin accommodations at Pymatuning State Park that they immediately began talking about coming back next year for another PA Crappie Camp."

Article Photos

PA Crappie Camp participant Jeff Samsel, of Georgia, shows off a few fine crappie caught on Day 2 of the event.

Several out-of-town writers stayed in Pymy State Park cabins. A few writers, like myself, drove to the camp. The southern part of Pymatuning Lake - near Jamestown, PA - is about a 90-minute drive from my house. The region is a easy drive from several large metropolitan cites like Cleveland (one hour), Buffalo (2 1/2 hours), Erie (one hour) and Pittsburgh (2+ hours).

Traveling the furthest to participate in the Crappie Camp was Jeff Samsel (Georgia) and TJ Stallings (Alabama). Samsel is an outdoor writer and photographer for several national publications. Stallings is the co-founder of Crappie NOW Magazine. His full-time gig is Director of Marketing for TTI Blakemore Fishing Group. Stallings is also one of the world's leading experts on fishing tackle design.

Also participating in the camp was; Russ Bailey, Walt Young, Lou Consoli, Jeff Frischkorn and Jeff Knapp. Bailey hails from western Ohio. He runs the website,, is host of Midwest Crappie TV, a professional crappie angler and Pro Staffer for BnM Poles. Young is a veteran outdoor writer from Altoona, PA. Consoli is the creator of Skippy Fish Lures, is currently developing a TV show about fishing and has been a tournament bass fisherman since he was 17. Frischkorn, of northeast Ohio, is a veteran outdoor writer from the Cleveland area. Knapp, another veteran writer and photographer, is a feature writer for several publications including this one and Ohio Valley Outdoors magazine. He's also a local fishing guide.

Fact Box

The Crappie Camp was a three-day fishing bonanza on two of Pennsylvania's premier fishing waters.

With an all-star lineup of writers fishing for the three days, Black also assembled a top-notch group of local angling experts that served as guides for the scribes. Those fishing experts included; Dale Black, Jim Hall, Bob Mead, Jimmy Lunsford, Dan Wielobob, Dave Richter, Ken Smith and Darl Black. All of the guides were excellent hosts.

It helped on Day 2 of the camp, when I at tended and fished with Lunsford as my guide, that the weather cooperated - well for the most part. After a pretty foggy morning on Pymy the temperature climbed to nearly 80 by day's end but the winds were off and on all day, which made catching crappies a little challenging at times. But, Lunsford knows Pymatuning very well (he's also a tournament bass angler) and he put us on fish.

"Are you having a good time," Lunsford said to me more than once during the day while fishing. "Heck yea," I said. "We're catching fish."

Lunsford kept working to show me some "really big crappies", but I was content with catching 9-12-inchers. "These are nice-sized fish where I come from," I said. We caught several very nice crappie during the day (about 6-7 hours on the water). At times Lunsford put us on a shallow spot (6-8 feet of water) that produced 12-14 crappie each within a 15 minute period.

That's catching fish in my book. We pulled in 90 or so crappie (combined) for the day. At one point I quit counting. I was also impressed with that we caught many other species. Those included a few walleye each, some smallmouth bass, perch and many bluegill. The lake is known to have a good variety of game fish and our creel for the day affirmed that.

Lunsford not only helped me catch fish all day but he also provided lunch. Yes, some tasty baked crappie fillets he had caught the day before. And at the end of the day my guide was kind enough to fillet about 20 nice crappie that I brought back to Ohio. Those were tasty too. I fried those up the next day.

The Pymatuning region is a great destination for casual or dedicated fisherman, hikers, bikers, boaters or weekend warriors. The state park features something for everyone; 47 cabins, 400 campsites, hunting, two miles of hiking trails, nature center, playgrounds, ice fishing and more. The large lake is actually located partially in Ohio (about one-fourth). The region is managed by Ohio and Pennsylvania DNR officials within their respective geographic areas.

For as long as I can remember people from this region have asked me if I'd ever seen the carp feeding at Pymatuning "so thick that the ducks walk on their backs". It's true. The causeway spill area (near Linesville, PA) is a "must-see" location for kids - and adults.

"I've fished Pymatuning Lake for over 50 years and Shenango Lake for 40 years, having seen the fisheries go through many ups and downs. But the last few years, I've witnessed the best crappie fishing on both lakes that I can ever remember," added Darl Black.

For travel information about the area, contact the Crawford County Convention and Visitor's Bureau at 814-333-1258 (; Visit Mercer County PA at 800-637-2370 (, Pymatuning State Park (PA) at 724-932 -3141 (

stateparks/findapark/pymatuning/) or Ohio's Pymatuning State Park at 440-293-6030 (




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