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NW PA Fishing Report, 12-15-14

December 29, 2014
By Darl Black ,

Brought to you by PA Great Lakes Region tourism

What's biting in the lakes, streams and rivers of Crawford, Erie, Mercer and Venango Counties?

FRENCH CREEK Flowing through all four counties

Article Photos

Marilyn Black (left) with a nice Conneaut Lake pike, taken on a chrome-finish Binsky Blade from Fish Sense. Dale Black assists.

Editor's note: By November 21, French Creek was chunked up solid with ice in all pools and slow stretches; only the shallow riffles remained open. With the severe cold that had settled into the area, it appeared French Creek fishing was over for the year. Less than three weeks later, French Creek is completely ice free. This has been one crazy fall so far, and calendar winter does not arrive until December 21.

Angler Al (Franklin):

-11/30 "What a nice morning to be alive. Weather whispered to me "go fishing!" I took for French Creek around 9 AM and on my very first cast hooked up a trophy-size walleye. It ripped the chartreuse floater jig I had tipped with a creek chub. The fish battled strong. With net ready at the bank, I was about to scoop when the fish rolled and cut my linethis left me feeling as though I should have attended church! Did catch two healthy northern pike and lost a third one before my noon departure."

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-12/7 "The weather seems to be playing out nicely for Sunday fishing. I returned to French Creek after spending a few hours trapping and catching shiner baits in Sugar Creek. Didn't take long to hook up on a battle, which I won this time. A nice 27" walleye spanked a white floating jig head as I slowly bounced the weight on the retrieve. My GoPro camera recorded the affair. Thereafter the camera captured a second fight won with a 22 incher to net. I called my friend Evan who lives in the Village of Utica, and he came by to snap a photo for me."


Pymatuning Lake

Dave @ Richter's Bait & Tackle ; filed 12/15: "Been a wild fall. Now that deer and duck season is over, I hope to get back to some fishing. My son and I did make it out on Black Friday for a few hours in the evening. We fished the lower end of Pymatuning on a spot that've caught a lot of walleye over the years. However, neither of us turned up a walleye on blade baits. There are a few locals still chasing walleyes in boats and making some decent catches on blade baits up in the Snodgrass area. Looks like the lake will be ice free through the holidays. Anglers have been fishing from the docks at the Jamestown Marina; they are catching bluegills and small crappies. A number of anglers have been fishing in the Shenango River downstream of the dam and catching crappies and a few walleyes."

Conneaut Lake

Marilyn Black (Cochranton); filed 11/28: "Darl and I accompanied Dale Black to Conneaut Lake for a last attempt at a 6 pound smallmouth. Water temperature was 37 degrees colder than expected, and colder than we would normally fish the lake for brown bass. And of course it was breezier than we like it. Nonetheless, we worked several different brands of blade baits in all the right areas, along with anchoring and throwing hair jigs. We came up short on catching a big smallmouth, but I got a pike on a chrome-finish Binsky Blade from Fish Sense."


Presque Isle Bay

Jim @ B.A.C. Bait ; filed 12/15: "Weather has been up and down, and so has the fishing. Anglers are catching some perch off the East and West Piers but that's about the only thing I have to report."

Darl Black (Cochranton); filed 11/30: "I had to twist Dave Lefebre's arm a little bit to get him out fishing on the Bay. He said he had not fished anywhere since the latter part of October making this the longest period he had ever gone without wetting line since high school. Said he didn't want to go until there was icebut I persuaded him otherwise. The winds were calm but the Bay water was cold down at 36/37 degrees. Still Dave figured we should be able to pull some nice largemouths from deepwater on swimbaits and blade baits. Of course he was already fishing when I arrived. While I was pulling on insulated outerwear and rigging rods, Dave caught a 2.5 pound largemouth on a #6 Rapala Rippin'Rap in shallow water near a drop-off. After joining him, we spent time in the shallows checking for more bass then we went deep where we expected largemouths to be. However, other than beat-up acrobatic steelhead that ate his Rippin' Rap, not a single additional fish was caught. Another unusually tough fall outing."

Tributary Streams

Ric @ Trout Run Bait ; filed 12/12: "The snow and rain brought the creeks up for a couple days. It helped bringing more fish into Elk. The middle third of the creek seems to be where the highest concentration of fish settled. Nice new fish the last two days have been brought to the shop for cleaning. Skein, white/pink sacs and minnows are working well for bait fishermen at this time. Buggers in black and white, pink and white sucker spawn, single eggs and Crystal Meth are working for fly fishermen. Try a tandem rig with one of the above items tied above the fly. Use a small bead head nymph as the trailer fly. Fishing the big pools has been fine, but don't pass up the faster water in between the pools. There are fish holding and moving in that type of water up and down the creeks. The weather looks good through the Holidays as far as the temps go. A little rain and snow will help to keep the flow up as we head into the New Year. Happy Holidays to all!"

Ric's Addendum: "Bunch of new fish caught on the 13th and 14th; reports from anglers of fish moving upstream from Uncle Johns as of morning of the 14th."

Editor's Note: On the 14th, I visited several popular spots on Elk and the mouth of Trout Run and Walnut Creek. Saw very, very few anglers. This was the only time in 30 years that I saw only one angler in the Manchester Hole on Walnut Creek anytime during the fall. Fresh fish are moving in, but not many people are fishing for them.

Bill Logan (Pleasantville): 11/27: "A steelhead on my first cast! The next three hours, I only had a single hook up and one snag. There are few fish."

12/8: "Back steelheading again. I had three hits, landing one six-pound hen that would not cooperate with a selfie."


Shenango River

Darl Black (Cochranton); filed 12/15: "After a morning appointment, I made my regular December trip along an old Shenango River trail to see if anyone was catching walleyes or crappies. There were five anglers down at my favorite stretches more than I've seen there in years. Two of them were using big chubs for walleyes, and said they had just lost a monster at the bank. Two were fishing small minnows for anything they could catch which included a catfish and a carp. The fifth was fishing strictly for crappies with tiny jigs tipped with maggots. He was catching the most fish in a current-break blowdown; most of his crappies were on the small side typical of this spot at this time of year. However, he said catching anything was better than sitting at home!"

Shenango River Lake

Ken Smith (Sharon); filed 12/8: "I fished Shenango Lake on Sunday 12/7 with my buddy Ron Scarboro. We started in Campground Bay in the deeper water no luck. We tried a couple deep brushpiles no luck. Wind picked up so we had to fish secondary spots out of the wind. We found some crappies stacked on a couple blowdowns; fished jig-n-plastic combos under small bobbers. We took over 30 crappies home that were 9 to 11 inches; lots of throwbacks, too. Clear sunny skies kept us warm and allowed us to stay out until the sun was below the tree line. I hope to get out a few more times before the lakes freeze up. It was a great day of December fishing!"

Neshannock Creek

Bob @ Neshannock Creek Fly Shop ; filed 12/3: "As of this email we only have a few seats remaining for the 2015 Fly Tying Class that starts on January 6, 2015. If interested, you must pay in advance by stopping by the shop or calling me with a credit card. Christmas is coming up fast, so stop in, call or email us for Gift Certificates available in any denomination. Pay by cash, check or credit card."


Bill @ Griffins Bait & Tackle Shop ; filed 12/9: "With hunting season on us and the lack of ice, business has been slow. We have been selling some heavier jig heads and live shiners, along with grubs for walleye fishermen who like to catch their own bait. Jerry Hoover was successful in landing a 22", 6-pound smallmouth bass and Chad Wilkinson landed a few nice walleyes fishing the Allegheny River. Remember to like us on Facebook @ Griffins Bait & Tackle Shop."

Lou Letterle (Franklin); filed 12/8: "A couple friends and I have fished the Allegheny River several times during the last several weeks. Fishing with Ken Dudash (Pittsburgh) and Tim Kier (Titusville), we have done pretty well with the walleyes. We caught walleye on each trip, and some days we landed more a dozen. Among them, one 9-pounder and one 7-pounder. Unlike most years when the majority of our walleyes were caught on live bait, this year most of our walleyes have come on artificial baits, including suspending jerkbaits, jig-n-plastic grubs, and my personal favorite fall presentation hair jigs! I have attached a photo of Ken Dudash with a 26-3/4 inch walleye caught on a hair jig on December 2. This walleye was caught right next to shore when the river was up but reasonably clear."

Darl Black (Cochranton); filed 12/9: "I fished the Allegheny three times since the November 17 Report once with Dale Black and twice with Gene Winger. Each time we found smallmouth bass incredibly uncooperative. Water temp was 32 degrees on the 11/22; 38 degrees on 11/26 and 36 degrees on 12/9. I landed a single smallmouth on the 22nd on a Jimmy D River Bug (hair jig); not a single bite on the 26th and one smallmouth on December 9 on a Get Bit Crawling Tube. My fishing partners caught a walleye each trip, but no smallmouth. River temp simply dropped too much too fast in mid-November. Unless we have an unusual warm-up, I'm done fishing the river for smallmouth until spring."

Dan Gray (Butler); filed 11/25: "Cold fishing!! Brrrr. Bites were slow and felt like mush; caught 10 decent fish like one in photo. Got on the water a little later than I wanted, usually the bite is better first thing then dies by lunch time. The river was beautiful, 37 degrees, clear and a little more flow than I expected for being a tad low. Bass were caught mainly on 1/4-ounce tubes in green pumpkin and watermelon."

Steve Udick (Oil City):

- 11/23 "This cold spell really put the fish in a hibernating stateI got one small bass. Barely 10 inches. Not even a strike the evening before. However, the weekend before the temp drop, I got 21 smallmouths when water was 14 degrees warmer. Water level dropped 10 inches and I think the fish moved towards center of river beyond my cast from shore."

- 11/30 "Caught this bass (pictured) today and I noticed the split in the tail and the anal fin is also red and eaten away as is the tail. Do you know what is wrong with this fish?"


Allen Woomer, PA Fish Commission Fisheries Manager for the Middle Allegheny River , responds to Steve concern about the condition of the smallmouth bass: "Regarding the Smallmouth Bass photos, while we do occasionally see Smallmouth Bass from the Allegheny River and other waters with heavily eroded fins such as the ones in this picture, I do not think it is a sign of major disease problem such as the one currently affecting bass in the Susquehanna River basin. Ever since I started work on the Allegheny River we have seen a small number of bass of various sizes showing a variety of lesions, hemorrhages and erosions of fin tissue. While I am not a pathologist, I think in most cases bacteria is the primary cause of fin erosion. It may start out as a physical wound of some kindthen there is a secondary infection of bacteria that continues the damage by eroding the fin. Even with these types of problems many of the affected bass survive the trauma, eventually overcome the infection and heal.

"Because of the situation in the Susquehanna River drainage, we are actually paying pretty close attention to any Smallmouth Bass disease problems in the Allegheny River. We annually sample both young-of-the-year (YOY) and adult Smallmouth Bass in the Allegheny River and we check the condition of all bass we collect looking for any signs of disease, parasites or injury, and repot this information to our pathologist. So far the YOY Smallmouth bass do not appear to be affected in the Allegheny River and we hope this continues. This year I do not think we saw even one YOY bass with a problem so we keep our fingers crossed on that."

Keith Eshbaugh @ Dutch Fork Lures reports having good fishing in the Three Rivers areas: "On November 25, we caught over 50 walleyes, sauger, saugeye, wipers and one small flathead on Dutch Fork Bucktail Jigs in 22' to 35 feet wintering holes. The walleyes ranged from 6" to 5 pounds. On December 6th, we caught between 15 and 20 walleyes and sauger on bucktails and Jigging Rapalas; fish were in deep holes."

Jeff Knapp @ Keystone Connection Guide Service provided his end-of-year report:

"The 2014 year was a challenging yet rewarding season on the Allegheny. Things got off to a late start thanks to the extended winter, but when spring weather finally arrived river smallies really turned on. During a warm Easter Sunday afternoon we caught bass after bass on hard jerkbaits on the first productive outing of the year.

"Just when bass were setting up near spawning areas, rain and high water arrived, setting a pattern that continued throughout the spring and summer. Most summer outings the water temp struggled to reach the low 70s. But the off-colored comparatively cool water was the perfect venue for spinnerbaits. All summer long we caught many bass in the 18 to 21 inch range on Terminator Spinnerbaits.

"Late summer and early fall provided somewhat lower/clearer water. The ticket was a Winco River Darter fished ultra-slow, more like a Senko or Dinger. Again, lots of big bass. The Darter bite lasted into October.

"By late October water temps dropped down to the 50 degree range and the jig bite kicked in. An excellent fall jig bite with hair jigs, tubes and grubs all having their days, along with hard jerkbaits like the Rapala Husky Jerk. The weather was crazy, bouncing around from the 70s to subfreezing. On a mid-November day that featured sleet, snow and a cold rain, we boated around 70 smallies and several walleyes up to 24 inches. While the weather was miserable, the water temp was still 49 degrees. It was the first time I've seen 19-inch smallies jump during a fight while being enveloped in a white-out!"



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