Musky fishing in western Pennsylvania has become mainstream in recent years. Through the Fish commission stocking program, the numbers of musky have increased. An angler can fish for a musky and have a reasonable chance of catching the fish of 1000 casts. It will take time and effort but there is the payoff for the determined angler today. The rivers and lakes with good musky fishing are the sole focus of the article.
Some of the lakes on the list are part of the state’s broodstock program. In Pennsylvania, many waters are open all year, but brood lakes have closed seasons. The state fish commission harvests fish for spawning purposes. These lakes, thus, are under special regulations. It is part of the fishery management in Pa.
The legal length varies in a few waters from the general size of 40 inches. Check Pa. Fish and Boat website for the regulations about fishing.
Musky Fishing Lakes In Pa
The following lakes and rivers are all stocked. They have good to very good musky fishing opportunities. In other words, they provide a great opportunity to catch a musky. Some get fished a lot and some less. Also, the lakes or rivers with higher numbers of fish tend to have more average size fish. While some are better for the “big one”. Catching a musky over 45 inches will take a lot of effort but it is possible.
- Pymatuning Reservoir
- Lake Arthur
- Woodcock Creek Lake
- Conneaut Lake
- Lake Wilhelm
- Tionesta Creek Lake
- Allegheny River
The chances improve on a few of the waters. Many people believe Lake Arthur to have trophy-sized potential fish. The current state record is from Conneaut but from the 1920s. The majority of the lakes are in the northern section above interstate 80. They are relatively close to each other. There is only one in the southwest area. Also, many of the lakes have many launches and other facilities. Since they are part of the state or federal park programs.
The Allegheny River runs from Pittsburgh to New York state. The river includes the lower, mid, and upper sections. The lower section has impoundments by navigation dams. The mid-river section is more natural although some areas were dredged years ago.
The upper section consists of the Kinzua reservoir in Warren Pa. and extends to New York. Boat launches are common but a few on the middle section are gravel or plain dirt paths leading into the river. Also, the West Hickory area in the middle section produces a few fish over 48 inches every year.
Musky Fishing Pymatuning Reservoir
At 17,088 acres is a big lake. Located in the northwest section of the state it is well known for musky, walleye, and crappie fishing. The Linesville hatchery located on the upper part of the lake breeds musky at the facility. As a result, the lake does gain benefits from this fact. This lake holds a lot of musky but is big so finding the fish will take time..
A survey conducted in 2017 yielded 200 individual muskies. The majority of fish fell in the 36-40 inch range. Common areas on the lake to start are near the causeway and the points at the southern end of the lake. Ohio and Pennsylvania both border the lake and co-manage the fishery.
Shore fishing requires a license for the state you are fishing from and boaters can use either. The website has more information on fishing, boating, and other activities. The forage base is healthy for the musky on the lake.
Musky Fishing Lake Arthur
Located in Butler county, Lake Arthur is a 3,225-acre impoundment of Muddy creek. The lake has a 20 H.P limit on motors, but, there are a number of launches close to all sections of the lake. There are a few areas off-limits to fishing with the information available on the website.
The areas near Bear run and the three points located near Davis marina are the best for musky. The majority of anglers troll but a few cast the weed-beds with success. The lake holds a population of northern pike besides musky.
The most recent survey included 19 muskies 23-51 inches and 17 northern pikes 20-35 inches. The lake has big musky potential in other words. There is a chance for a 50-inch long trophy. Few Pennsylvania waters can make this claim.
Update; the outflow into muddy creek has been a hotspot in 2020. Anglers are catching musky on a regular basis. A few are catching multiple per day. The fish tend to be a bit smaller but the numbers in terms of quantity are very high. If you fish the spot be respectful and do proper catch and release. This will ensure the spot to be productive for years. The area is shore fishing. There is no boat access.
Woodcock Creek Lake
A small lake at 333 acres Woodcock is well known by musky anglers. During netting operations, the PFBC collected muskies ranging in length from 26-40 inches. It is a flood control lake with manmade structure and cover. Since there is little natural structure associated with the lake. Anglers have success for musky trolling throughout the lake. There have been reports of panfish anglers complaining of musky taking their bait and lures. So shore fishing may have potential.
The current state record caught in the lake was in 1924. Anglers often question the catch’s weight and whether it should be the record. The lake does produce fair numbers of musky but more northern pike. The recent survey lists 14 musky 28-41 inches and 52 northerns 20-38 inches. The lake covers 929 acres and located near Meadville in Crawford county.
Fishing the lake is best in the spring or fall. Since it is a tourist trap with extensive pleasure boating in the summer. The lake is on the last chance list due to a lack of adult musky taken during the survey. It does have plenty of habitat for the fish along with prey species. The lake is one to consider in the area but not in the summer.
Musky Fishing Lake Wilhelm
Lake Wilhelm is a 1,740-acre reservoir located in Mercer County, Pa. A survey from 2017 lists 47 muskies caught measuring 21 to 43 inches. The lake does boast a large population although no fish over 45 inches were collected. Wilhelm does see extreme fishing pressure throughout the year. Anglers seeking walleye and largemouth fish the lake a lot.
The lake features a total of eight boat launches and a 20 h.p. limit on motors on the majority of the lake. The remaining restricted section is electric motor or paddle craft. The cover is all along the shorelines with many opportunities to find fish. The restricted area has submerged timber throughout. The rest of the lake has weed beds, fall downs, and rock piles.
Tionesta Creek Lake
A musky hotspot for decades. The Tionesta area has a lot to offer. A lake, stream below, and the Allegheny River about a mile downstream. The last survey did not report many fish in the lake. They did tend to be larger with 1/3 measuring 45 inches or longer. It is a smaller lake at 480 acres. That may be the reason only six fish were collected. Anglers seeking to avoid crowds will like the lake. The Nebraska access launch offers ample parking and is only a short boat ride to fishing. Check the website for more information.
Shore anglers can go to the outflow to start. Plus the creek can be accessed in a few spots between the outflow and mouth. There are muskies below the dam. A few nice fish get caught each year in the creek portion below the dam. In addition, the Allegheny River is very close with more places for the shore angler. This will require walking and a few short trips in the car.
These lakes are small waters containing musky or northern pike. They range in size from 90 to 240 acres with special regulations or H.P. limits.
- Canadohta Lake; The lake has a 10 h.p. limit at 170 acres. One launch is available but shore access is limited by private property. The lake has larger musky although the population is small.
- Howard Eaton Reservoir; A lake with two boat launches and plenty of shore access. It maintains a very good northern pike population but few legal-sized fish. Great place to take children to learn the sport.
- Edinboro lake; A 240-acre impoundment in Erie county. It has a good population of average size fish with the majority 32-35 inches. A few fish 40 inches or larger were caught also.
- Sugar Lake; A 90-acre lake with good populations of musky and northern pike. A recent survey produced 8 musky 32-39 inches and 6 northerns 22-39 inches. One boat launch with limited parking and restricted shoreline access.
Shop for Musky Lures at Bass Pro
Musky Fishing Rivers in Pa
Anglers seeking a musky often focus on lakes seeking to hook a big one. The Allegheny and a few other rivers have good populations with a few big ones. There are sections on these rivers and streams with musky anglers lined up casting in the spring. The water is usually too high for safe boating. In the summer and fall, all the water opens up for fishing.
These waters will test an angler’s skills and patience. Since the river conditions fluctuate all the time. The high waters often move or reshape the features of the river. This has the muskies moving into different areas based on the flow of the water. Inexperienced river fishermen may find these factors frustrating. These are facts that need to be contended with on rivers.
Allegheny River Musky Fishing
Once damaged by dredging operations and industrial pollution. The river has rebounded in the last 3-4 decades into a very good fishery. The lower and upper river has the dams presenting more of a lake quality. While the middle is free-flowing and wild. The middle often requires using a jet boat, Jon boat, kayaks, or canoes since it has many shallow spots. The other sections can handle any size and type of boats.
Comprising a lock and dam system. The areas below the dams are the springtime favorites with anglers. The waters at the dams will be rough. The musky do tend to congregate in these areas but also near many of the tributaries leading into the river. The tributaries will often have debris washed into the mouths by the current. It may be tough conditions but musky fishing requires overcoming difficulties.
In the summer, the fish move to deeper water. Located near the spring spots, islands, or weed beds if present in the pool. For example, in pool 6 there are several islands and tributaries. All with muskies present in good sizes. This section of the river heavily targeted for musky. The locks from number 3 to 9 all produce musky and the occasional pike. Anglers not familiar with the areas may have difficulty finding fish.
A few tackle shops have information on musky catches and will share the information. Fishermen can check online for a tackle shop close to the area you plan on fishing. Additionally, Muskies inc. has members representing many of the areas. That will share tips with other members. Musky anglers will enjoy joining for the tips and tactics shared among members. This will improve your chances of success. Also, there are guides on all sections of the Allegheny River.
The middle is a 107-mile stretch. Comprised of pools in between riffles or rapids making prop boats limited. The area extends from East Brady to Warren pa. with boat launches in the popular areas. Anglers mainly cast in the middle section since the pools are short or shallow. The river around Emlenton, Oil city, Tionesta, and West Hickory are good starting points. They all have access points with pools nearby.
Most of the middle is jet boat territory. A prop will get banged up or broken on the rocks or in the shallows if traveling to far up or downstream. Tionesta has two launches above and below the town. But both are primitive with one gravel and the other okay for canoes and kayaks. The area has many islands and small streams leading into the river. All offering good fishing for the adventurous angler.
The East Brady, Emlenton, and Oil city areas can support some prop boats better than the other spots. This section of the river has weeds, islands, and plenty of other structures to hit for a musky. Oil and French creek are two tributaries in the Oil City and Franklin area that hold musky. There are a few other tributaries in the section worth hitting if you can access the spots.
The upper Allegheny river is made of the Kinzua dam and Allegheny reservoir. The lower part is very deep water with little in the way of good fishing. An angler will need to travel to the New York section.
There is a slim chance of catching a big fish but the chances are so low it is likely not worth the time. Fishing in Kinzua is over-hyped in my opinion. There are better waters in southwest New York.
Small Rivers and Streams
Anglers have started to catch muskies in many of the small rivers and larger streams feeding into the river. Bull creek in Tarentum and Buffalo creek in Freeport are two to name a few. Check out any stream or river connected to the Allegheny. If it has the size and habitat to hold musky they will be there. Fishermen overlook some of the streams since a boat will have difficulty. Although a canoe or kayak often can navigate the waters.
Crooked Creek in Armstrong county is an easy stream to target. The mouth and upstream to the dam has fish. The Kiski river is limited to a few miles but has fish. The rivers and streams farther up Allegheny are also gaining popularity. These waters offer kayak or canoe opportunities. Sometimes musky fishing requires thinking outside of the box. An angler may need to be a little more adventurous.
Shop for Musky Lures at Bass Pro
Pennsylvania stocks musky throughout many waters in the state. Go to the site at this link.
Fall is the best time of year for large muskies. The spring is productive to catch more fish. You need to spend time on the water to land a musky. Plan on fishing 4-6 hours at a time. Include the moonrise and moonset for better results.
Musky eat suckers, chubs and other fish from 4-6 inches up to 2/3rds their body size. Lures in the 5-10 inch range are productive. In cooler waters use slower lures. In the late spring through early fall fast lures work well.
Musking fishing does take time but can be great fun. Anglers need to learn the waters and the behaviors of musky. Once an angler has the knowledge of where to find the fish it is a matter of honing the skills required. Musky fishing takes a different mindset to be successful. A lot of anglers give up after a few times but patience is the key. You need to keep after the fish until one strikes.
As a result, beginners often benefit from having an experienced angler help them out. Since going at it alone makes it much tougher. If going this route, take the time to find someone with the experience. Let them guide you on tips, techniques, or tackle choices in a rod and reel. Experienced anglers have the knowledge of where to find the fish and what tackle is suitable.