Top Places to Fish in Pennsylvania
The Keystone State offers some of the best fishing in the country. The best places to fish in Pennsylvania range from catching native brook trout in small mountain streams, landing huge catfish in big rivers or hooking up with largemouth bass in diverse lakes. There are few states that match the fishing opportunities Pennsylvania has.
The best fishing in Pennsylvania is not limited to one particular place, region or species. But rather, there are many top places to fish in Pennsylvania depending on which species you may want to target. In no particular order, our top 10 places to go fishing in Pennsylvania starts below.
Best Places for Bass Fishing in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania offers bass anglers some fantastic opportunities depending on your fishing style. There are the big waters of Lake Erie all the way down to small, limited horsepower lakes in picturesque state parks where big bass can be caught. There are also several large rivers that rival some of the top bass fisheries in the country when it comes to smallmouth bass fishing. The best places to fish in Pennsylvania for bass kick off our top 10 spots in the state.
#1 Susquehanna River
The Susquehanna River (“The River”) is home to some of the best smallmouth bass fishing on the east coast. Bouncing back from a recent bout with a disease epidemic from what is believed to be a largemouth bass virus, which caused entire age classes of smallmouths to vanish, the fishery is thriving once again. From top to bottom The River produces quality smallmouth bass. It is not uncommon to catch several bass in the 18- to 20-inch range when the conditions are right. There are many Susquehanna River bass fishing hotspots, but the best areas are around Harrisburg and into the upper reaches near Sunbury.
#2 Youghiogheny River Lake
Our next top place to fish for bass in Pennsylvania takes us to the southwestern corner of the state. The Yough Lake is formed by an impoundment on the Youghiogheny River and is a long and narrow reservoir that holds some pretty impressive bass. Similar to the Susquehanna River, the focus on the Yough is smallmouth bass. The rocky composition of the lake provides an abundance of forage allowing smallmouths to grow to some impressive sizes. The 16-mile-long reservoir gets deep and most bass are caught offshore using drop-shot rigs hooked with baitfish or crawfish imitations like the Strike King® Rage Craw in watermelon red flake.
#3 Pymatuning Reservoir
From the Yough, we head north to Pymatuning Reservoir. This large reservoir straddled on the northwestern border of Ohio and Pennsylvania is overlooked by many for largemouth bass fishing in Pennsylvania. However, a top reason why Pymatuning makes the list as one of the best fishing lakes in Pennsylvania for bass is the fact that you can fish multiple ways for largemouth. Anglers have success fishing shallow and among vegetation with traditional largemouth bass baits like the jig-and-pig and creature soft plastics in black and blue and green pumpkin. You can also throw crankbaits offshore and catch suspended bass. Although the lake is not known for huge bass, plenty of 2- to 3-lb bass can be caught consistently at Pymatuning Reservoir.
The best bass fishing in Pennsylvania is hard to narrow down to only a few top spots. As such, two waterways make honorable mention in our top 10 list. Lake Erie is well known across the country for massive smallmouth bass. The Presque Isle Bay region in Erie has plenty of opportunities for those seeking big smallmouths, especially for those looking to get into some great spring bass fishing.
Pinchot Lake in Pinchot State Park also makes the honorable mention list as a worthwhile largemouth bass fishing destination. This small lake in York County is a small, electric motor only lake but hosts huge largemouth bass. Fish for these hogs in the dense grass flats with top water and large weedless jigs.
Best Places to Fish in Pennsylvania for Trout
Trout fishing has a long tradition in Pennsylvania. The opening day of trout is a ritual for most anglers and a much-anticipated start, although unofficial, to spring. Here are a few of the best trout fishing spots in Pennsylvania.
#4 Hammer Creek
Lancaster County is not typically known for exceptional trout fishing waters but Hammer Creek is the exception. This creek, in part, flows through State Game Lands 156. Hammer Creek receives plenty of stocked trout during the spring, which makes it a great opening day spot. Live bait is always a good choice on Hammer Creek, but fly angler can also have success when fishing with streamers or terrestrials. It gets plenty of stocked trout in the spring and offers plenty of areas to fish from young to old. The creek is a great spot for opening day and remains productive until early summer. Trout can be caught on live bait and flies such as streamers and terrestrials.
#5 Spring Creek
Next up for trout fishing is Spring Creek. Spring Creek is a unique and fabulous trout fishery in Pennsylvania. The creek can be found in Centre County wrapping around State College and ending up in Milesburg. What is unique with this creek is that it is not stocked but rather a self-sustaining wild trout fishery. It is regulated by catch and release rules but all tackle can be fished. Wild brown trout in Spring Creek are commonly caught in the 15-inch plus range making this creek one of the top places to fish in Pennsylvania for trout. Fly anglers call this creek home due to the abundant insect hatches, but spin anglers can catch their fair share of large browns as well on spinners and small minnow jerkbaits.
#6 Tulpehocken Creek
A gem in Berks County, Tulpehocken Creek rounds out our top places to fish for trout in Pennsylvania. This creek is split by Blue Marsh Lake offering two distinct trout fishing opportunities. The section flowing into the lake is open to all tackle trout fishing and gets stocked with a healthy allotment of pre-season trout. Below the lake, the creek is regulated under the delayed harvest artificial lures only regulation, which is a reduced harvest limit with only artificial lures. This section is an ideal summer trout destination. The cool water from the lake outflow keeps trout active all summer long and is why it is one of the best trout fishing in Pennsylvania hotspots.
The Yellow Breeches Creek is a well-known trout fishing destination in southcentral Pennsylvania. It receives stocked trout from both the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission as well as the Yellow Breeches Anglers Club so there are more than enough trout throughout the year. Fly anglers enjoy diverse insect hatches in the spring while others typically target large holdover trout in the upper, cooler stretches during the summer months.
Best Places to Fish for Panfish in Pennsylvania
Similar to bass fishing, Pennsylvania offers plenty of great places to catch big panfish. Species like perch, crappie and sunfish can be found in most lakes across the state in good numbers. Nevertheless, here are two of the best places to go fishing in Pennsylvania for panfish.
#7 Lake Arthur
Lake Arthur is the first of two lakes to make our top ten list for panfish. This lake sits north of Pittsburgh and consistently produces some of the largest crappies and bluegills in the state. In fact, several of the state’s top crappies on record were caught in Lake Arthur. The bluegill fishing is just as good with fish pushing the 9-inch range commonly caught in the lake, which is why it makes for one of the best fishing lakes in Pennsylvania. Lake Arthur can get crowded and fished hard, so it is important to vary your fishing technique if you want to catch a stringer of big panfish. Ditch the live bait and throw panfish lures like small jigs tipped with natural looking soft plastics for the best success.
#8 Foster Joseph Sayers Lake
Sayers Lake is found in Bald Eagle State Park in Centre County and is another panfish hotspots worthy of fishing. The near decade-long panfish enhancement program on this lake has paid off, which is why it is one of the best places to go fishing in Pennsylvania for panfish. This lake is big enough for large boats but small enough for those looking for some great kayak fishing opportunities. You can catch both white and black crappies cast after cast on both live and artificial baits by targeting shorelines or one of the many man-made structures installed in the lake. Special regulations apply for panfish so if you are planning to keep some for dinner be sure to check out the most recent Pennsylvania fishing regulations.
Best Fishing in Pennsylvania for Monster Catfish
Catfish fishing is drawing more of a following in recent years as monster fish are being pulled from waters across the state. Channel and flathead catfish fight harder than any fish species in the state and is why two catfish waterways round out our top 10 list for the best places to fish in Pennsylvania.
#9 Monongahela River
Flowing from West Virginia to its confluence with the Allegheny River in Pittsburgh, the Monongahela River produces some big catfish. Its diverse sections of moving water coupled with the lock systems provide ideal habitat for large catfish. Shore anglers find success mostly in the tailrace areas below one of the locks and dams on the river. Another good spot on the Monongahela River to fish for catfish is where feeder streams enter the main river. However, some of the best fishing in Pennsylvania for catfish can be found in the area around the Maxwell Locks.
#10 Schuylkill River
Going completely across the state from the Monongahela River to the east, you will find the Schuylkill River. Channel cats in the 30+ inch range, as well as good populations of flathead catfish, can be caught in this river. The best fishing spot on the Schuylkill River is within the Valley Forge National Park. Here you find good access for both shore fishing and for boats.
To wrap up, it is hard to compile a list of top places to fish in Pennsylvania. Why? Because there are so many waterways that you could argue are top fishing spots in the state. Even so, you will not go wrong with any of these top 10 places to go fishing in Pennsylvania.