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NW PA Fishing Report, 2-17-16

February 17, 2016
By Darl Black ,

This Report is brought to you by PA Great Lakes Region tourism with additional sponsorship from Wiegel Brothers Marine and Gamma Fishing.

We answer the question "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

Steve Udick with Allegheny River walleye (25 inches). Photo by Steve Udick

Angler Al of Franklin took advantage of the early February thaw to try for walleyes in French Creek and filed this report on 2/1: "French Creek was running a bit full and littered with limbs. However, I managed to connect on a hungry walleye. The 24-inch fish slammed my chartreuse floating jig head tipped with a minnow."


Pymatuning Lake

Fact Box

Hooker @ Hill's Country Store; filed 1/27: "Hey Darl, as I sit here looking out the window at the white winter landscape I have to smile. The smile comes from the realization that spring is just around the corner, only six or seven weeks away. It's been a tough winter for ice fishermen, with as much open water as safe ice. But we do know that crappies, perch and bluegills are targeting similar food sources this time of year late winter into early spring. They feed on the larva stage of stoneflies, dragon flies, mayflies and other insect species.

Dave @ Richter's Bait & Tackle; filed 2/14: "Do we have icethat's funny. Ice cover disappeared with warm up earlier in the month. On Thursday evening, the main lake was wide open with rolling white caps. Thursday night it skimmed over. We might have 1 to 1.5 inches of ice today, the 14th, but it's not safe. With another warm up forecast later in the week, I just don't see any safe ice fishing on Pymatuning for the balance of winter. However, a few guys were catching walleyes in the Shenango River below the dam during last week's warm spell. Bring on Spring!"

Patty @ Poff's Place; filed 2/14: "I don't think we have any safe ice on the north end of Pymatuning. A couple guys were out checking it yesterday and stopped by to say the freezing was very uneven one spot had several inches and a few feet away it was soft and wet. During the warm spell last week there were a few guys fishing the Linesville Spillway but that has likely frozen-up with the cold this weekend. A warming trend is forecast late next week."

Rich Sari; filed 2/14: "Pymatuning ice is bad. There were white caps on open water on Thursday. We had maybe an inch of ice on Friday but then 8 inches of snow on Friday night which will interfere with additional freezing. I think we are done for the year at Pymatuning as far as ice fishing. I was only on Pymatuning a few times during the last of January. Fishing was good before the big storm hit the East Coast. But the full moon shut them down; walleyes started hitting again but then the thaw came. Don't see getting back out anymore this winter."

Hooker @ Hill's Country Store; filed 1/27: "Hey Darl, as I sit here looking out the window at the white winter landscape I have to smile. The smile comes from the realization that spring is just around the corner, only six or seven weeks away. It's been a tough winter for ice fishermen, with as much open water as safe ice. But we do know that crappies, perch and bluegills are targeting similar food sources this time of year late winter into early spring. They feed on the larva stage of stoneflies, dragon flies, mayflies and other insect species. This cycle of life among insects is known to most fly fishermen but often overlooked by many spin fishermen. Ice fishermen usually are keyed on it with small representations such as teardrops and Hooker Bugs (small jigs). Hooker bugs are small hand tied jigs from 1/100 to 1/64 ounce. They come in several traditional wet fly patterns. During the cold early season at ice out, they are hard to beat. The rule is to fish them slowly with a float. Most bites will be very subtle. Use of ice fishing tactics and equipment after ice out until the water warms is sound advice. Hooker Bugs are only available at Hill Country Store in Williamsfield, Ohio. We will be closed during February but plan to reopen on March 1. See you then!"

Canadohta Lake

Jerry @ Timberland Bait & Tackle; filed 2/14: "Due to unsafe ice conditions this weekend, the dates of the Canadohta Lake Ice Tourney have changed. The tournament will still be a two-day event, but it will be held Saturday, February 20 and Sunday, February 21, 2016 pending good ice. Stay tuned to for the latest updates!"

Sugar Lake

Ken Anderson (Tionesta); filed 2/4: "I fished Sugar Lake the weekend of January 30 and 31. The bite was slow midday but acceptable early and late in the day. Ice was melting fast. The twilight bite is all you need to know. Approximately 15 quality-size panfish (crappies, perch and bluegills) made it to my dinner table, and an equal number were released. All fish were taken on maggots purchased from Griffins Bait Shop in Cooperstown. Maggots were fished on jigs and Swedish Pimples. By the way, the Trigger-X Lure Wraps I won a couple years back on the NW PA Fishing Report work great on my ice rods over a Jigging Rapala in transit; those hooks stick to everything!"


Presque Isle Bay

Mike @ Lake Erie Bait & Tackle; filed 2/14: "With the variable temperatures, ice fishing has been up and down. The main part of PIB is wide open. Ice is returning but may disappear later in the week with another warm up. As of yesterday, some guys were fishing on Horseshoe Pond and parts of Marina Lake. Report this morning says there is 4.5 inches of ice on Misery Bay. With the warm spell last week, I had an opportunity to fish Elk a few days ago. I landed a dozen or so steelheads on emerald shiners and few on egg sacks. The streams are full of fresh run steelhead, but the creeks have since frozen up again with this polar air mass. Seems there are a lot of fish moving now in February because the streams were so low in the late fall."

Paul Stewart (Butler); filed 2/13: "I fished Presque Isle Bay last Saturday (2-6). It was a cold day but the sun was warm. I got my limit in four hours fishing off the docks."

Thomas Watral (Erie); filed 2/8: "Strange winter. As of today, the 8th, all streams are wide open. The lower end of Four Mile is loaded with trout anglers using eggs and live minnows. All the ice has left the Bay. Anglers are back to shore fishing off the piers. On South Pier in late afternoons, they are catching burbot. We went down to Dobbins to fish and managed to get some nice perch on Subiki Rigs and glow jigs. I tried out a new rod and new jigs. In all we got 28 perch in 14 to 15 inch range. I included a picture of Jeff Way of Wesleyville great guy to fish with."

RJ Graham (Tionesta); filed 1/23: "I fished on ice at PIB today, January 23. It was windy but the bite was good. Fish came on VMC jig tipped with mealworm. Also later in the day I go them on a Jammin Jigs Glo Jig with a maggot. I landed 15 bluegills and four bass. Now that I have had an opportunity to use the Gamma Coated Ice Braid I won on the Fishing Report, I can tell you that it works great. It is limp even in cold water. I like the line a lot."

Steelhead Tributaries

Becky @ Elk Creek Sports; filed 2/14: "This weekend the creeks have all iced up as a result of this polar cold snap. But last week during the warm up from Thursday through Sunday, they were catching a lot of average size steelheads. Incredible numbers for February. Some were fresh fish; others were old ones in the stream for some time. However, no females were brought in, so we do not have fresh skein. Although the streams are frozen today, we expect them to open some up by next weekend if the warming forecast holdsbut they may be roiled from rain and melt off have to wait and see."

Rick @ Trout Run Bait; filed 2/14: "Streams are currently frozen need warming trend with rain. Even the main lake stiffened up overnight for a 1/2 mile offshore first time this winter. There is good flow in the streams and there are fish to catch once the ice melts."

Bob Nypaver; filed 2/14: "I had a fairly good day on Elk Creek back on February 4. I landed and release six steelheads, including the two in these photos. I got on the stream in that brief period between "too high and muddy" and "low and iced up."

Uncle Johns Campground reported good catches in Elk during the first weekend of February during the warm up.


Lake Wilhelm

Vicki @ Fergies Bait; filed 2/14: "The ice has not been safe since the warm up. No one was fishing on Saturday, but a couple guys out checking it this morning say there are many wet weak spots."

Neshannock Creek

Bob @ Neshannock Creek Fly Shop; filed 1/26: "Before you know it spring will be here! And with spring comes our two biggest events of the year. On March 5th is our annual pre-season trout stocking. On March 12, we will have our Lunker Stocking and rod raffle. Single tickets are $5 each, 3 for $10 or 8 for $20. Winner does not need to be present. Winner has choice of any Orvis Recon Fly Rod. Buy your tickets at the shop or mail me a check or call the shop and use a credit card. Phone 724-533-3212.

Shenango River Lake

Editor's Note: Just prior to the early February thaw, I stopped by Shenango River Lake while in the area on other business. While personally not comfortable going out on the ice, there certainly were others who apparently felt it was safe enough. In typical fashion, there were well over 50 anglers on the ice at the Golden Run area, and several dozen at the Chestnut Run Swim Beach area. The photos are from the Swim Beach area. I did not have the opportunity to talk with anyone on the ice, but I heard from Pymatuning bait shops that the crappie bite was good.

Shenango River Outflow

Editor's note: I also stopped by the Sandy Beach area below the Shenango Dam one of my old haunts during my high school years. This trail race section of the river yields northern pike and trout during the winter. The site is rich with history, including the remnants of a canal lock on the Erie Extension Canal.


Kahle Lake

Bill @ Griffins Bait Shop; filed 2/14: "Not much happening. Guys fishing the ice at Sugar Lake have been stopping by for bait. Also guys are fishing Kahle Lake. Those are the only lakes which appear to have safe ice this weekend."

Steve Fleckenstein (Clarion); filed 1/19: "My girlfriend and I went to Kahle Lake for a couple hours back the end of January. We went out of the South Launch, where there was about 4 inches of ice. Some friends reported catching some bluegills. We were marking a few fish on the flasher but they would not bite. Sherry finally caught a decent bass on a teardrop and I caught nice crappie. After five more bluegills, we headed home."

Allegheny River

Steve Udick (Oil City); filed 2/15: "Back on February 8, the dark of the moon set up a noon bite. The river was running extremely high (7.5' at Franklin gauge), but temperature was in the 30s, so I head out. I picked up a 16 inch smallie right away, followed by a plump 19.5 inch smallmouth. Both hit a Firetiger Shad Rap SR07. Right at noon, a 25 inch walleye tock my Firetiger Husky Jerk. (see photo). That walleye was my 41st walleye of the winter needless to say, El Nino is good for winter river fishing! I fished the following day with Terry Corbett of Rockmere; conditions could not have been better but we were skunked."

Frank Malek (Oil City); filed 2/7: "Mike McFadden and I got out on the river during the warm up and caught a few walleyes. Gamma 15 pound Torque with a 10 pound Edge leader put our jig heads tipped with minnows in the right spots."

RJ Graham (Tionesta) filed 1/31: "Made it out on the river as soon as the ice disappeared the last day of January. I caught 6 smallmouth bass, a big catfish and two dink walleyes. River was clear and cold! There are piles of ice on bank so the rain will raise the level of the river and fill it with chunk ice. It was a good day for January 31 but I ready to cheer on Spring!"



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