Ice Fishing Western Pennsylvania

             Like a rose in a vase, ice fishing Western Pennsylvania is a wonderful thing to enjoy, but not something to be taken for granted. One must take time to smell the roses before the flowers wilt. To fish the ice in Western PA an ice fisherman must make time, and hit the ice before it melts. One day there could be six inches of good, clear ice, and the next it could be slush. One thing that ice fishing Western Pennsylvania has taught me is to enjoy the ice while it lasts.
            The lakes and waterways of Western Pennsylvania offer fantastic ice fishing, providing wide array of opportunities and challenges. No two lakes are the same. In fact, no two are even very similar. One might have ice while the others are open water. One might be producing jumbo perch while the others are producing slab crappies. Whatever, your ice fishing pleasure it can most likely be found at one Western PA’s waterways.
            First and foremost is Pymatuning Reservoir. Pymatuning is Pennsylvania’s largest inland lake and is shared by both Pennsylvania and Ohio. Both states stock generous amounts of walleye every year, making it the premier walleye lake in PA. It is also known for its great numbers of slab crappie and jumbo perch. If you are into toothy critters, Pymatuning possesses respectable numbers of trophy muskellunge. Ranging in depths up to 32 feet of water, the bottom of this lake offers stump fields, boulders, submerged islands, giant weed beds and a creek channel. If you want to ice fish here, be prepared for anything!
            Another popular western Pennsylvania ice fishing destination is Lake Wilhelm in MercerCounty. My earliest ice fishing experience was at LakeWilhelm. It was cold. My God was it cold! We fished at night for crappie and it was so cold that when we threw a fish out of the shanty, it would hit the ice, flop one time, then be frozen solid by the time it hit the ice again. At 1,860 acres, it is not a small body of water. It is a warm water fishery that reaches a maximum depth of 24 feet near the dam. The average depth is around eight feet, but that is plenty of room to hold large schools of crappie and perch. The smallmouth and largemouth bass populations are strong, as are the muskellunge and northern pike. Though known for crappie and perch in the past, Wilhelm is beginning to show the negative effects of having had gizzard shad illegally introduced. Numbers are still healthy for crappie and bluegill, but the average size is much smaller than in past years. However, if you put your time in you can still find plenty of 12”-14” crappie and some nice perch.
            The first thing you think when you step out onto the ice at Presque Isle Bay is, “Wow! That’s a lot of ice! Where do I start?” The bottom does not vary much and the depth is fairly consistent, so where are the fish holding? Well, one thing I have learned about PresqueIsleBay is that if you drill a hole, regardless of where, there will be fish under it. They may not be the kind of fish you are after, but there will be fish. Take a variety of baits and gear with you because you are just as likely to find yourself drilling over a school of 14 inch perch as you are drilling over a school of steelhead.
            Presque Isle Bay holds enormous schools of fish. Due to its sheer size, locating fish can be difficult, but once you find them you should be able to stay busy. The average depth is 20 feet and the water is commonly clear enough to sight fish. Brown trout, steelhead, yellow perch, crappie, bluegills, and pumpkinseed are the most common targets here, but you never know what you are going to catch. If you fish here, be sure to read the regulations specific to Lake Erie and bring your safety equipment. This ice is not monitored.
            The vast majority of my ice fishing adventures have taken place on Kahle Lake, which falls within Clarion and VenangoCounties. At a paltry 251 acres, one would think that KahleLake would be easy to master. It is not. Its numerous humps, troughs, trenches, weed beds, and mud flats offer such a wide variety of structure and cover that an ice angler can drill all day long without hitting the jackpot. However, do not be surprised if you pull out some jumbo perch or slab crappie. Bluegills over ten inches are taken here every year.
            Western Pennsylvania has much to offer the dedicated ice fisherman. Beautiful vistas of icy opportunity are ample here and are great assets to our area. The fishing pressure is seldom intense and the fishermen are friendly. I welcome anyone to enjoy our bountiful resources, but if you decide to give it a try don’t wait too long. Get out on the ice whenever possible. It doesn’t last long. Make time to drill a few holes and take advantage of the ephemeral beauty of our ice season. Take time to smell the roses.