Time to go crappie fishin’

Mike Bleech Outdoors Columnist

Some of my best days of crappie fishing have been the very day the ice left a lake. Forget any nonsense about the water still being too cold. Late ice crappie fishing usually is great- if there only were any decent late ice. Find crappie when they are hungry and they will hit. Wait for nothing now.

Where to go?

I have given up on expecting something at Chautauqua Lake. In recent years it has shown me nothing to base any predictions. But then, Chautauqua Lake is one of the better crappie lakes in the country. A so-so year of crappie fishing is pretty good at Chautauqua Lake.

Do not look for great crappie fishing this year at Presque Isle Bay. It has not been up for a few years, but it is getting due for an upswing.

A better bet for early spring crappie fishing in Erie County is at Eaton Reservoir. If you have not been there, this is a small lake almost on the New York border. The driveway to the main boat launch near the dam starts in New York, and the best way to get there is through Findley Lake.

Eaton Reservoir has a very good crappie population. This year there should be a good number of larger than usual crappie. It also holds good numbers of bluegill and yellow perch. Both tend to be small, but bigger versions usually can be found by searching. This lake is small enough that it can be covered quite well in a day of fishing.

Most of the spring crappie fishing at Eaton Reservoir takes place between the dam end boat launch and the largest bay about halfway up the lake, and in a wide mouth bay on the opposite side. There is respectable shore fishing in both places until weeds grow too dense by late spring. A nice hiking path circles the lake.

Looking for a quiet place nearby for some relaxed crappie fishing? Look no farther than Tionesta Lake. We have been watching a big year-class growing the past three years and hope there are a nice number of filleting size crappie. But like our deer hunting, Bill and I are more serious about the shore lunches than the fishing. And still we manage to hook a few fish. It also is a pretty good musky lake.

Tionesta Lake is not very fertile, so fish do not grow fast. Like many crappie lakes, the population appears cyclic. Now it appears to be getting toward a peak. However, do not expect crappie numbers like Chautauqua Lake or Eaton Reservoir. You will have to do some searching. Smaller crappie tend to hold near fallen trees. Larger crappie more often are caught in deeper water. Check near the dam breast, past the trash boom, where there is considerable sunken brush.

Do not be too surprised if you catch several of the stocked trout that have migrated into the reservoir after being stocked up in the Tionesta drainage basin. Perch and bluegill tend to be small here.

Looking for big crappie, then try Pymatuning or Shenango.

Both Pymatuning Reservoir and Shenango Reservoir are getting toward the outer limits for a one-day fishing trip. We did it for many years, but I think we have aged out of it. Now it is at least an overnight stay with more fishing in the morning. Either way, the trip is well worth the effort if you are impressed by crappie that frequently are longer than 14 inches. Some get considerably larger. Plus it has very good fishing for yellow perch, bluegill and pumpkinseed. Bluegill and pumpkinseed get exceptionally large by Pennsylvania standards.

Fortunately some of the best spring crappie fishing at Pymatuning Reservoir is at the north end of the lake near Linesville in an area known as ‘the Stumps’, and around some small islands. The nearest boat access to Warren County is at Linesville, still it is about a 90 mile drive.

I will guess that my best crappie fishing consistently over the past 40 years has been at Shenango Lake. Though farther yet on a map than Pymatuning Reservoir, Shenango Reservoir time wise it is not a much longer drive on good roads.

It a place at Shenango Lake looks like it should have good crappie fishing, probably it does. A good place to start fishing is the boat launch just this side of the State Route 846 Causeway. Another it off the Golden Boat Launch. Decent shore fishing opportunities are in both places.


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