Hitting Pymatuning while it’s hot

Mike Bleech Outdoors Columnist

The spring trap net survey of Pymatuning Reservoir conducted this spring by Fisheries Management Area 1 indicated a great walleye population and a nice number of quality crappie. So why does it seem that no one really cares?

A couple of things have conspired against Pymatuning walleye anglers. One is a comparison with Lake Erie. Lake Erie walleye fishing has been so hot this summer that everywhere else pales in comparison. The other thing that probably has had the greatest impact is the forage fish situation. At Lake Erie the populations of both emerald shiners and rainbow smelt are low. Meanwhile, at Pymatuning Reservoir the forage fish population is very high. Hungry fish are a lot easier to catch that well-fed fish.

Large numbers of alewife, gizzard shad and spottail shiner made themselves known in the spring trap net survey. So the abundant population of walleye at Pymatuning Lake just keeps getting plumper.

The Pymatuning Reservoir walleye catch rate in trap nets this spring is second highest only to the 2014 catch rate, and 2017 is the third highest on record since 1989 when this survey began. Results from spring trap net surveys are subject to heavy influence by weather. Still no matter how you look at it, somewhere between the 2013 survey and the 2014 survey something happened that brought the Pymatuning walleye population to a higher plateau.

As for size difference, in most years past Lake Erie would have had a much better average walleye size. This year the average walleye size at Pymatuning is 18-1/2 inches. A large majority of walleye in the Pymatuning trap net survey was in the 16-inch to 21-inch range. This is so close to the average size Lake Erie walleye anglers have been catching this year and last year that there is no point in further comparison.

It would not surprise me if the fall walleye catch at Pymatuning is as good as the summer walleye fishing at Lake Erie has been.

At about the time when lake conditions typically get very rough at Lake Erie, walleye fishing at Pymatuning Reservoir should be excellent. A week from now, four weeks from now, who knows.

Black crappie and yellow perch also made good showings in the spring trap net survey. Black crappie in the 11-inch to 12-inch class was very abundant. Those fish may be an inch longer now, maybe a couple of inches longer.

Interestingly, when the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission surveys fish in the spring they catch mostly black crappie. When the Ohio Division of Wildlife surveys the western side of the lake in the fall they catch mostly white crappie.

Last spring, what little crappie fishing I did at Pymatuning Reservoir was terrific. Most crappie we caught was 12 inches to 14-3/4 inches. That was done by using multiple rugs at the front of the boat with an electric motor slowly moving the boat, called spider rigging. The lure I really liked was the 2-inch Swimming Minnow, by Bobby Garland Crappie Baits. My hot color was blue ice. I think all of those fish were black crappie.

Currently, both crappie and walleye are scattered around the lake. By the end of September, the better fishing for both walleye and crappie will be at the south end of the lake, in the Jamestown area. There is a Pymatuning State Park boat launch very close to Jamestown.

For many years the good old Hot ‘N’ Tot was the most popular walleye trolling lure at Pymatuning Reservoir. Walleye obviously like the action of that lure. But what probably is more important is the depth these lures dive. Two sizes were popular, the larger went deeper. Another pleasant aspect of the Hot ‘N’ Tot was that it tends to bounce off snags. Pymatuning Reservoir has plenty of snags.

Very quietly this has been a good year for muskie fishing at Pymatuning Reservoir. The weekly phone call did not reveal any exceptionally large muskie, but serious muskie anglers tend to be very tight-lipped.

I suggest a Grandma Lure, here again, because it gets down to the fish. The best muskie fishing of the year is still ahead.