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NWPA Fishing Report, 12-15-15

December 18, 2015
By Darl Black ,

This report is brought to you by PA Great Lakes tourism with support from GAMMA Fishing and Wiegel Bros. Marine of Franklin, Pennsylvania.

We answer the questions "What's biting in the lakes, stream and rivers of Crawford, Erie, Mercer and Venango counties?"

FRENCH CREEK Flowing through all four counties

Article Photos

Dave Lefebre (left) and Ernie Pate with nice crappies from Pymatuning Lake.

Angler Al (Franklin)

November 25: "The Full Moon Phase finally fired up the walleye bite. From 4 PM until dark, I tossed a chartreuse floating jighead tipped with medium size shiner in a current break on French Creek. I landed six 'eyes and lost several others. The largest walleye was 26 inches."

December 14: "I spend most of my free daylight time trying to push a deer to my pap. But I managed to break away a few evenings and Sunday to wet a line in French Creek. With water levels at summer-like lows, wade fishing in December is something different. I went through the majority of my creek bait stockpile. Pesky small pike brought the most action. However, a mess of 16 inch to 20 inch walleye hit the chubs, too. But honestly, since Thanksgiving week, the bite has not been that great. More hit and miss than I care to admit especially for this time of year. And I have yet to catch a smallmouth basswhich makes me wonder where the heck the bass have gone? Merry Christmas y'all from Angler Al."

Fact Box

Editor's note: During the cold water period from November to April, PFBC regulations require boaters to wear a PFD if in a boat under 16 feet. However, boating on a river is far more unpredictable than boating on a lake never know when you might hit something, either running or drifting, lose your balance and go over the side. With sudden emersion in water that is in the 40s, you make one gasp for breath and then it's all over because you cannot breathe after that. You could disappear before your buddy in the boat reacts. I'll say it againanyone not wearing a PFD when fishing on a river in cold water regardless of boat length has a death wish.


Pymatuning Lake

Darl @ Fishing with Darl Black; filed 12/16: "Got together with old friends Dave Lefebre and Ernie Pate for what will likely be my last Pymatuning trip of the year. Crappies were in the crosshairs, and finesse was the key. We ended the day with 52 crappies over 10" in the livewell. Catching 2 to 3 crappies for every fish kept gave us a tally of between 150 to 200 crappies, plus another 50 or so small perch, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, bluegill, pumpkinseed, rock bass and sub-legal walleyes. All but a handful of fish were caught on soft plastic no live bait. Southern Pro Tubes and Bobby Garland Baby Shads caught almost every fish; blades baits accounted for 10 to 15 fish."

Dave @ Richter's Tackle Shop; filed 12/15: "I have not been out fishing but my son made it out the other evening after work. Fishing from shore he caught a mess of crappies and couple nice largemouth bass. Lots of guys are catching crappies more than I've seen during the late fall in a long time. A few walleyes are being caught on blades but no one I know is setting the lake on fire with walleye catches. It has been a bad fall for walleye catches. You have got to be extremely persistent to catch a few walleyes. There has been so much bait near the surface this fall that walleyes may not be feeding in the usual places and depthsbut rather gorging on the high-riding shad schools which have not started dying due to warm temps. Fish Commission surveys say the walleyes in all sizes are in the lakebut we don't seem to be catching them. Hope it's not the Lake Wilhelm syndrome."

Ken Smith (Sharon); filed 12/15: "I've been having great crappie fishing at Pymatuning this fall. Since Thanksgiving, I've been averaging about 35 crappies per trip with my best day being 50 crappies, along with some perch and rock bass. All my crappies are coming on Bobby Garland Baby Shad jigs tipped with Berkley Crappie Nibble. The best depth range has been 13 to 16 feet over brush. I have not caught any walleye but I'm not fishing for them."

Conneaut Lake

Marilyn Black (Cochranton); filed 11/30: "We spent Bronzeback Friday (Black Friday after Thanksgiving) fishing for smallmouths on Conneaut Lake. Although conditions were reasonably good for fishing with mild breeze and spitting rain as front approached, smallmouths were not active but small perch were everywhere from shallow to deep. I did manage one smallmouth my largest smallmouth of the year. It was a solid, well-proportioned 5 pound plus fish. I caught it on a Gold Binksy Blade with 8-pound Gamma Polyflex line on one of the new G. Loomis E6X spinning rods a 7 foot medium power.


Presque Isle Bay

RJ Graham (Tionesta); filed 12/13: "I had a great day on Presque Isle Bay today. I kept 25 perch over 12 inches, and released 30 smaller ones. Then I went bass fishing, catching 15 bass on a Rapala Shad Rap. Perch came on a 1/4-oz Kastmaster in 12 to 16 feet of water."

Paul Stewart (Butler); PIB Perch fishing

11/29: "Cold and windy day. Threw a lot of smaller ones back, kept 28 between two of us."

12/5: "Still perch fishing open water in December! 11 pounds total for the two of us."

12/11: "Weekend perch Fest. Nice day to be out. 10 pounds total. Threw a lot of smaller ones back.

12/12: "Slower day but got some nice sized ones."

Bob Grinarml (Cambridge Springs); filed 12/11: "Perch are biting at Marina Lake at Presque Isle Bay. Most perch are small. The Bay is loaded with emerald shiners!"

Dave Lefebre (Erie); filed 12/11: "Yesterday I went perch fishing on Bay for first time this year. Caught a lot but kept only 12 perch that were 14 inches or bigger. Back out today. Bite was insane. I kept 30 fat perch that yield thick fillets better fillets than a 15-inch Pymatuning walleye! All fish came on a 2" Yamamoto grub in chartreuse."

Thomas Watral (Erie)

11/25: "Found out the hard way about bacteria in the large Erie algae bloom after getting stuck with perch fin while cleaning fish. Finger got infected and when to hospital. Doctor said the Lake Erie water has a toxic algae bloom which adheres to the slime coat of fish. He advises wearing gloves when cleaning fish."

11/27: "I went to Dobbins Landing and slammed the perch. Got my limit within an hour. Most perch were in the 10 to 12 inch range. Bigger perch were hitting bigger minnows."

12/1: "I went perch fishing in the Bay and saw the biggest perch I've ever seen caught in the Bay. It was 17 inches long and weighed 2.5 pounds. The other perch the man had were in the 15 to 16 inch range. He got them on a Subiki Rig in 20 feet of water. I caught my limit of 12 to 13 inch perch in 1/2 hour."

12/11: "The warm weather this fall seems to make for good fishing in PIB. Perch fishing is great. Guys also catching walleyes and burbot on the South and North Pier. Walleyes on large minnows and burbot on cut bait."

Steelhead Tributaries and Main Lake

Rebecca @ Uncle Johns Campground; filed 12/11: "We had a family from Philly stay with us this past week. They had a grand time! Depending on weather conditions, we will be open for fishing over Christmas week."

Jim @ Folly's End Campground; filed 11/15: "Elk Creek is very low with at least 6' visibility. There are multiple areas of fish holding in deeper water from the Legion Hole to I-79. These pockets of water area are each holding 20 to 30 steelhead. Angler traffic has been light. No significant catch rates with the current conditions. Based on current weather forecasts, steelhead fishing conditions on Elk should improve throughout the week and beyond as long as there is no ice cover."

Gary @ Poor Richards; filed 11/15: "Catches are better than expected given the extreme low water and clear water conditions. Steelheads are way up the streams 10 to 15 miles on Elk. Need to finesse these fish with single eggs or emerald shiner. Forecast rain and snow this week may improve water flow for average anglers come this weekend."

Rick @ Trout Run; file 11/15: "A lot is happening here in Erie right now. Perch are all over the bay. They are catching burbot off the North and South Piers on cut bait, herring or stacking 5 emerald shiners on a single hook. Out in the main lake, lake trout are in shallows spawning. Boat anglers are catching them in 15 feet of water on the East Side Shades Beach to New York Line on bucktails, spoons and blade baits. Lake trout are running 20 to 25 pounds. With streams low and clear some steelhead anglers are fishing the creek mouths, especially The Wall at Walnut before sunrise; steelhead move in after dark and move out after sun is up. Given the low water, we have an amazing number of steelhead in the streams, further upstream. And the smaller streams like Crooked Turkey and Raccoon have surprising number of fish. I've been fishing Crooked Creek losing a lot of hooks in the brush but hooking a lot of fish. A 14-pound brown came out of Crooked. The trick to catching steelhead right now is to walk the creeks searching out fish; cannot stand in one spot and fish the easy holes. Walk and fish little undercuts, moving water, etc. Not everyone can do what is needed right now to catch fish but steelheads are there. If we get the snow and a slow melt over the weekend, then more anglers will be coming up for easier fishing. We will be open Christmas Day for your angling needs."

Becky @ Elk Creek Sports; filed 12/15: "With our streams low and clear, and given the nice weather, more anglers are launching out of Elk and Walnut to chase steelhead along the shore. Anglers are pretty successful. I am hearing minnows are working off the boats."


Shenango River Lake

Ken Smith (Sharon); filed 12/15: "With this unseasonably nice weather into December, Shenango Lake is fishing fantastic. I've made five trips to Shenango since Thanksgiving, averaging 35 crappies per trip. I've also caught a lot of bass both largemouth and smallmouth bass, plus a few northern pike. And let's not forget the white bass up to 14 inches. See my photos. It's a hot bite right now!"


Trout streams

Angler Al (Franklin); filed 11/26: "Thanksgiving morning on Sugar Creek, my brother-in-law Dr. Das, caught this nice 15-inch brown trout on his fly rod using a griddle bug. I also caught a nice brown and rainbow trout on a minnow rig."

Jeff Reichel (Meadville); filed 11/25: "I fished Little Sandy Creek Fly Fishing Only Project in Polk on Tuesday 11/24 from 11 am to 4:30 pm. I caught a total of 10 trout all rainbows except for two wild brown trout. All were taken on nymphs, olive hair ear and pheasant tail size 14. One rainbow was over 12 inches; the other fish were about 9 inches. The browns were three and seven inches long. All were released. What a peaceful day on the water. Even saw a mink working the opposite bank."

Allegheny River

Lou Letterle (Franklin)

Filed 12/16: "Not sure if the Fishing Report went out yet, but I have a late entry. Yesterday, the 15th, I caught seven walleyes on the Allegheny River, including a 7-1/2 pounder. Probably my last trip of the year but it was very good fall for walleyes.

Filed 12/15: "I fished the Allegheny River with Ken Dudash (Pittsburgh) on two separate days last week. The weather was comfortable but the water temperature never went above 39 degrees. We didn't' expect to catch many smallmouths, and that held true. But we did very well on walleyes. We had roughly 25 walleyes over the two days, with almost all of them looking like twins measuring between 18 and 20 inches. Most 'eyes were caught on hair jigs tipped with Gulp Minnows, some on live creek chubs & suckers, and some on curly-tail grubs dragged slowly across the bottom. All were released to be caught another day. Other anglers I talked with were also catching walleyes. And a friend of mine, Mike Hetzler from Emlenton, caught and released a 29-inch, 8 lb. walleye on the Allegheny River two weeks ago."

Gene Winger (Oil City); filed 12/15: "I can't believe it is this mild December weather! It's great! With water temperatures now in the mid-40s and river level holding steady, the fishing has really started to heat up. Prior to this weekend, Kinzua Dam was fluctuating river levels all over the place. That combined with water temps dropping below 40 degrees and you had some tough fishing. With that said, we did manage to catch some really nice bass these past two weeks just could not get numbers. Yesterday things turned around. We landed lots of nice bass and few walleyes using Winco's Willie Wanabee and Cold Water Hare's Delight Jigs. Working these small finesse jigs as slow as possible to keep them on the bottom produced the best bite. I love finesse fishing!"

Steve Udick (Oil City); filed 12/14: "Last Sunday, 12/6, Pat Murray and I headed to upper Rockmere. We had a great day, landing nine walleyes and two bass. Pat used minnows. I caught my fish on Rapala Shad Raps and Musky Jerks. Highlight of the day was Pat getting four walleyes on four consecutive casts. On Saturday 12/12, I fished the Ice Boom eddy from shore. I landed 7 bass and 5 walleyes. See pic of the 18 inch smallmouth. Fish were taken on bright colored a Shad Raps -- Firetiger, Chartreuse, and Helsinki Shad. I caught one small bass in 18 inches of water. I know you remind people that they must wear a PFD at all times, but I saw a boat yesterday with three guys not wearing life vests. Maybe another reminder would be good."

Editor's note: During the cold water period from November to April, PFBC regulations require boaters to wear a PFD if in a boat under 16 feet. However, boating on a river is far more unpredictable than boating on a lake never know when you might hit something, either running or drifting, lose your balance and go over the side. With sudden emersion in water that is in the 40s, you make one gasp for breath and then it's all over because you cannot breathe after that. You could disappear before your buddy in the boat reacts. I'll say it againanyone not wearing a PFD when fishing on a river in cold water regardless of boat length has a death wish.

Bill Logan (Pleasantville)

12/7: "I have a new hate/love relationship with Rapala Snap Raps. Last week I caught one bass and lost a good one, then lost the lure. Sunday at Tionesta I caught 2 small pike on one. Today on my first cast, I caught one and 10 minutes later I snagged the Snap Rap. Then got one bass on a tube and snagged a bass on the jigging Rap. A good lure, easily snagged however.

12/14: "Caught a 3 pound 7 ounce smallmouth on a tube!"

Keith @ Dutch Fork Custom Lures; filed 12/11: "I fished the Pittsburgh pool on Wednesday the 9th and caught 30 to 40 walleye and sauger; the largest was around 2.5 pounds. All were taken jigging in 18 to 40 foot depths with homemade bucktails and blade baits. Only a couple fish were taken shallower than 14 feet. An enjoyable day with 50 degree temps in December!"

RJ Graham (Tionesta)

Filed 11/27: "I went to Oil City today. I caught 18 smallies, 5 walleyes and a catfish. Most smallies came on a blade bait and a few on a tube jig. Walleyes were taken with the blade. Water temp was 43 degrees and clear- perfect!"

Filed 12/1: "Dad and I fished the Oil City pool yesterday. We caught 20 bass with the biggest going 4.6 pounds on my scale. All fish were on tubes in the deepest spots you can find. They were bunched up together, catching three fish on the same little deep water drop. Water temp was 43 degrees and river was high and stained."

Frank Malek (Oil City); filed 11/26: "I ended the day with 23 smallies and lost numerous other ones. It was a very light bite in the deep pools. I was using 7-pound Gamma Touch with a drop shot rig and 9-pound Gamma Touch with a swimbait. No hair on the drop shot rig I was using a Jackall Cross Tail Shad. Along with some smallie photos, I sent picture of Mike McFadden with a 31 inch 9.88 pound walleye caught on jig and minnow; he caught 8 walleye that day, keeping six."



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