Preparing for the Pennsylvania Mourning Dove Season

Pennsylvania Dove Hunting Tips, Tricks, and Gear

September 1st marks the beginning of dove season in Pennsylvania. Doves are an abundant resource to the state and to the continent.  In fact, the dove’s high population density makes it one of the most hunted bird species in North America. On a state level, Pennsylvania offers tremendous dove hunting opportunities.  Whether hunting public or private land, in the eastern part of the state or in the west, there are plenty of opportunities for hunters to enjoy the sport. If you’re a curious first timer hunting mourning doves in Pennsylvania you can put a smile on your face and leave you asking why you haven’t been doing this longer. It’s exciting, challenging, and even enjoyably confusing when the flocks come zipping past you. To many, the opening of dove season serves as the start for a new fall and another year’s worth of hunting.

Whether you are a beginner or an avid dove hunter here are some of the basics of hunting doves in Pennsylvania including regulations, hunting location, tips, and gear.

Pennsylvania Dove Hunting Regulations

Of course, with any hunting season it’s important to understand the regulations.   The dove season regulations include the following:

  • The season runs from Sept. 1 to Nov. 24. It then reopens on Dec. 18th and runs until Jan. 5th.  
  • It is required that all hunters over the age of 12 possess a Pennsylvania Migratory Game Bird License.   
  • Shooting hours start a ½ hour before sunrise and are open until sunset.   
  • The daily limit is 15 while the possession limit is 45. 
  • Electronic dove calls are allowed 
  • Orange is not required for dove season  
  • Party hunting is allowed as long as it’s done from a stationary position (such as a blind)

More on PA Dove Regulations.

Pennsylvania Hunting Opportunities

Finding a good dove spot isn’t as hard as it may seem. If you research dove hunting in Pennsylvania you will quickly find out that there are two main factors to consider:

  • Habitat  
  • Whether or not you need to use public land 

Habitat

From the Southwest corner to the Eastern part of the state there is always somewhere people can go to find birds to hunt. However, not all parts of the state have equal abundance of doves. Habitat is the biggest thing to consider when looking for doves.

Doves prefer agriculture.  In fact, the majority of their diet is comprised of seeds and crops.  This means they congregate near fieldswhere their primary food source can be found.   The field that you’re looking for should have some kind of grain field (corn or sunflowers work well) and be close to some water. A dove’s schedule is debated by hunters but they all agree being close to water results in a better hunt.

Knowing that dove hunting opportunities typically exist along agriculture property, you can determine some of the better areas to hunt in the state of Pennsylvania. 

 

Courtesy of USGS

By looking at the map of the state above, it’s clear which areas hold the highest density of birds. These areas have greater amounts of open range habitat.  For example, the southeastern region of the state is known for a high dove population, which also shows the least amount of wooded vegetation.  The north central region is known to provide the least amount of opportunities, where dense woodland dominants the landscape.

Along these agricultural fields, open habitat, and water sources, look for open areas bordered by trees and/or powerlines. If you find a field with a water source, some open ground and field, find some cover and setup for a great hunt. Finding a tree line, round bale, fence row, drainage ditch, or hedge row that offers cover is essential to find once great habitat is found.

PA Public Land Dove Hunting Opportunities

For the public land hunter, Pennsylvania provides plenty of opportunities across the state. There are state lands, federal lands, and even private land that is available through the hunt access program.

Such a variety of land gives hunters thousands of acres to work with during dove season.

Of course, the key to finding success on these lands is to spend time analyzing maps and scouting out different areas.  For starters, look for public land bordering or near open land and agriculture. Then spend some time checking the type of crop and bird activity.

One of the best resources when planning is the Pennsylvania Game Commission, where they provide a detailed map of available public land for each region of the state.

Dove Hunting Gear Essentials

Another important part of any hunt is having the right gear.  Dove hunting is no different.  It requires the basic essentials of any migratory bird adventure.  This includes a reliable gun, shells, clothing, and a field dressing knife. However, whether you are new to the sport and in need of supplies, or simply want to upgrade your equipment, we have compiled a list of our favorite dove hunting accessories below.

Shotguns

Sometimes the best shotgun is the one you already own. However, if you are looking to purchase your first one or simply upgrade, anything from a 12 gauge to a .28 gauge will do. However, being the small size of the bird, we recommend a 20 gauge or .28 gauge if possible.  

These guns are compact, lightweight, and work great when moving through brush or walking long distances.  One particular model we can think of is the 20 gauge semi-automatic Ultralight from Benelli.  It’s one of the lightest and most compact guns on the market, making it not only a perfect option for dove hunting, but for any upland bird hunting situationTraditionally an improved-cylinder or modified choke will work best for doves. Trying to hit a moving dove can be like to trying to hit a fastball with feathers so try using an open choke and lead the bird more than you think is necessary.

Recommended20 gauge Benelli Ultralight Semi-Automatic Shotugun 24” 

Shotgun Shells

Of course finding the right shell is determined by the gauge of your shotgun. However, when looking for the right shell we recommend or 9 shot due to the dove’s small body size. Browning makes a great 2 ¾ inch 8 shot that works perfect for both dove hunting and shooting sporting claysIf you’re attempting to go on your first dove hunt be sure to bring an extra box or two, getting to your limit might take a lot more shells than what you think.

Recommended: Remmington 12 or 20 gauge 8 shot

Breathable Dove Hunting Vest

September and October still leave plenty of time for hot and humid days.  That’s why we recommend a vest that’s lightweight and comfortable.  One such vest option is the Browning Men’s Upland Dove Vest.  It’s both breathable and practical, leaving plenty of room to store hunting essentials.

 Recommended: Browning Men’s Upland Dove Vest 

Dove Decoys 

Electronic dove decoys are legal in Pennsylvania, so why not take advantage of them? A good decoy should be easily mounted or placed in the field.  Our recommendation is the Lucky Duck clip on decoys, which makes placement a breeze.

Recommended: Lucky Duck Clip On Dove Decoys

Dove Hunting Chair or Stool

If party hunting, it’s required to be stationary.  However, once you are in an ideal location, it’s recommended to be stationary anyways. That’s why most dove hunters use a chair or stool.  

A good dove hunting stool is the Hunters Specialties Camo Dove Stool. It’s easy to carry, provides extra storage for your gear, and keeps you comfortable during a long day of hunting.

 

Recommended: Hunters Specialties Camo Dove Stool without Back

Hunting Knife

After a successful morning or afternoon of dove hunting, you’ll likely be spending the remainder of the day dressing your game.

Many hunters truly enjoy the taste of dove meat. It not only works great as an appetizer or dinner side. However, to get the best taste out of the game it’s recommended toremove the breasts with a sharp knife in the field, just be sure you have that knife and some zip lock bags laying around for after the hunt.

Recommended: Havalon Piranta Z Folding Skinning Knife

A Successful Dove Hunting Season

If you are new to dove hunting in Pennsylvania, you are going to find success by spending time scouting.  Remember doves tend to be congested near areas of food, which consist primarily of seeds from plants and leftover crops from fields.

There are plenty of public hunting opportunities in all areas of the state; however, the best areas tend to be in the Southern regions and Northwest corner, where agriculture is dominant.   

Hunters can take advantage of federal lands, state lands, and private land that is contracted under the Pennsylvania Hunter Access Program. A detailed view of these areas can best be found on the Pennsylvania Game Commission site.

Remember to do your research, spend some time scouting, then have fun hunting one of the most enjoyable and popular species in the state.

 

Catfish Gear and Setup Recommendations

Catfish Setup Options | Best Catfishing Gear

Catfish are one of the most sought after gamefish in North America. The popularity of the species is well deserved, catfish do well in a variety of waters and conditions, they grow to impressive sizes, and are efficiently managed by wildlife and fisheries biologists. Fishing for catfish offers anglers a variety of options with many proven techniques, baits, and with a variety of equipment. Plentiful in most waters, it’s easy to see why so many fishing enthusiasts pursue catfish each year.

Catfish are strong, tough, and hard fighters especially when hooked on the end of a fishing line. Equally good as table fare as they are a sporting fish, anglers seek out catfish both for food and for sport. You can expect successful fishing in shallow muddy waters, along clear and deep rocky banks, in turbulent rivers, fishing from the bank, or fishing from a boat. Hooking up with a large catfish in a lake, reservoir, river, or stream can really put your gear to the test. Catfish are known for their strength, stamina, and rolling fighting style on the end of a line. Here are some considerations when you are putting together gear for pursuing catfish, and rigging up your catfishing setup.

Catfish Rod Requirements

While catfish can be caught on most any rod, including cane poles and bank lines, fishermen have a variety of excellent options available today when it comes to catfishing poles. There are a variety of rods suited perfectly to fishing for and catching catfish available to anglers. There are a few details to keep in mind when you are gearing up the right rod for catfish.

A catfishing rod should be heavy at the butt, balanced in the hand, and made from a rugged material. It’s important to use a heavy rod for strength when turning and fighting catfish, but sensitivity is also important. Choose a rod with some flex and feel in the tip, with large smooth eyelets, and a medium to medium heavy action.

Fiberglass rods really shine when it comes to catfishing. Although they are on the heavy side for casting and jigging, most catfishing techniques require little casting. Fiberglass rods offer plenty of backbone for fighting large fish while still providing plenty of sensitivity for detecting bites. Look for a rod between 5’6” and 7’ long, paired with either your favorite spinning or spin cast reel, and you will be on your way to a stringer full of catfish.

A few excellent rod choices include:

Zebco 33 ZR combo

The Zebco 33 combo is a great all around rod & reel combo pairing a sturdy fiberglass rod with the famous Zebco 33 workhorse reel.

  

Ugly Stick Catfish Casting Combo

Ugly Stick rods are a catfishing standard. They are built tough as nails, with a strong backbone without compromising tip sensitivity.

 

Shakespeare Wildcat Casting and Spinning Rods

Shakespeare has a long history of quality fishing products and their Wildcat rods are no exception. These rods are built tough with the catfishing angler in mind.

Catfishing Reel

Catfish have a reputation for putting gear to the test. They fight hard, roll, and run into cover if they can. It’s a good idea to lean on the heavy side for gear when it comes to catfishing, and the reel on your rod is no exception.

Look for a reel with plenty of line capacity that is well constructed from quality materials. Both casting and spinning reels will work well for catfishing, it comes down to personal preference. Spinning reels are easier to cast when you are throwing larger baits and heavy sinkers, while casting reels offer sensitivity for detecting bites and some offer a bait clicker to detect runs if that is important to your style of fishing.

Some excellent Catfishing Reels Include:


Penn Battle II Spinning Reel

The Penn Battle II has a full metal body paired with stainless steel bearings. Built to spool over 100 yards of 20 lb. test monofilament, the PennBattle II is ready to tangle with Mr. Whiskers.

 

Zebco 33 Spincast Rod & Reel Combo

Zebco has been in the rod & reel business for generations, and the Zebco 33 is a standby. The model 33 is built with all metal gears, easy to use drag, and an audible bait clicker to catch those finicky bites.

 

Zebco 202 Spincast Reel

A workhorse for everyday fisherman, Zebco has built the classic 202 ready to go to work. At home on the boat or from the bank, the Zebco 202 comes spooled ready to fight with 10 lb. test monofilament.

Best Bait and Tackle for Catfish

Known for their fight, and ability to test tackle, catfish will put your gear to the test. Keep in mind their brute strength and fighting ability when you are putting together a tackle box with catfish in mind. From hooks to sinkers to fishing line, don’t be afraid to lean on the heavy side. There are some fantastic choices on the market today when it comes to catching catfish. Fishermen use straight single hooks, circle hooks, and treble hooks in pursuit of catfish. Catfish are typically caught on or near the bottom, making the right choice in sinkers critical. Here are some terrific options to put in your tackle box.

Fishing Line for Catfish

Spiderwire Stealth Camo Braid

Spiderwire offers anglers a tough lightweight line with zero stretch. Made from Dyneema, the world’s strongest fiber, and offered in test strength up to 30 lb. you can be sure you’ve got enough line power when you’re spooled with Spiderwire.

 

Berkley Trilene Big Cat

Berkley and Trilene are long time names in the fishing line industry, and they know a thing or two about constructing great fishing line for today’s anglers. The Big Cat line is made to be abrasion resistant, and high visibility for low light fishing. Spooled up at 20 lb, 30 lb, or 40 lb test; it is just the ticket.

 

Stren Catfish Mono

A no nonsense, tough as nails fishing line is the perfect match for catfishing. Stren has just the ticket in their Catfish Mono. Offered from 10 lb. to 30 lb. test; catfishermen can count on the muscle of this dependable line to get the job done.

Hooks for Catfish

Team Catfish Jackhammer Offset Hook

Catfish are known for their tough hide and tough mouth. They will put your hooks to the test. These heavy duty hooks by Team Catfish are made from forged steel and honed to a razor point for perfect hook sets, and plenty of fighting power.

 

Gamakatsu Catfish Rig Circle Hook

Circle hooks are a great tool to use for catching catfish. Designed to decrease fish swallowing the hook, circle hooks are made to hook fish in the corner of the mouth. Perfect for big baits, and big fish, these hooks are premade with 50 lb. test leaders and ready to hook up! It’s important to not “set the hook” with circle hooks, but simply reel and keep the line tight for a hookup.

 

Magic Bait Dough Holder Treble Hooks

Catfish, especially channel and blue cats are known to readily bite on pasteor dough baits. While paste baits are a great choice for attracting catfish, especially in warm water, keeping it on the hook can be another story. Using a treble hook helps keep the bait together, and hooks with bait holders like springs, string, rubber tubes, or sponges go a long way to keep the bait on the hook and ready for a strike.

Sinkers or Weights for Catfish: 

Team Catfish Smooth Operator Snagless Sinker

Big catfish like to make their homes in dark nasty snags along river banks and riffles. These areas are known for hanging fishermen up and losing tackle as well as big fish. Along comes Team Catfish with an innovative sinker designed for working rough spots, brush, and drift fishing for big cats.

Bullet Weight Cat Pack Flat Weights

The rivers, streams, and creeks of North America are full of catfish ready for a fight! Fishing back currents, eddies, and below riffles poses a challenge to fishermen trying to keep their bait in the zone. These flat weights hold to the bottom better than round or barrel weights that tend to roll.

 

Bullet Bank Sinkers

Catching big catfish sometimes takes a big bait. All species of catfish are known for their fondness of big shad, sun perch, and creek chubs. Keeping large and lively bait in place takes a hefty sinker. These bank sinkers are just the ticket for fishing big baits.

Bait for Catfish

There are many methods and baits that are productive for catching catfish. Many anglers have closely guarded secret recipes for their favorite catfish bait, while many anglers are happy to use commercially available baits on their hooks. On the market today are dough and dip baits with names like: Sudden ImpactCatfish Charlie, and Secret Seven. Catfish readily bite live bait, worms, cut bait, chicken livers, and even hot dogs too!

With so many tackle, rod and reel, and bait options out there for catfishing; there are no excuses for not getting out and wetting a line. Catfish are one of the most sought after fish in North America, if you haven’t yet, try your hand at it! Catfish are plentiful, fun to catch, and great to eat. Rig up a heavy action rod, tie on a sinker, a stout hook, and go catch a catfish or two!

   

10 Best Places to Fish in Pennsylvania

 

10 Best Places to Fish in Pennsylvania

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 PennsylvaniaHowever, 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 traditionalargemouth 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.

Honorable Mention

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 listLake 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 bassFish 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 muchanticipated 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 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.

Honorable Mention

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 decadelong 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 stateChannel 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.

If you plan on visiting one of these fishing destinations and need directions, gear recommendations, or questions on tackle leave a comment or come into Kinsey Outdoors, Pennsylvania’s leading outdoor resource and store.

SHOP FISHING GEAR