BradCo Fishing Report – 7/1/12
My weekly fishing column from The Daily Review:
The last week I’ve been busy with my annual fishing adventure to the Mainstem Susquehanna River in Lancaster County, Pa. Many anglers here in Bradford County have been aware of the impairment of smallmouth bass in the Mainstem Susquehanna. As I have been taking my annual adventure to these waters for the past 10 years I’ve witnessed this impairment and decline of this fishery first hand. Statistics by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission highlight that the catch rates of size classes of bass are extremely lower on the Mainstem than up here on the North Branch. We are lucky to have such healthy, fish-filled river here in Northern Pennsylvania.
The Mainstem Susquehanna takes on a vastly different character the closer one gets to the Maryland border. The Suskie is wider, shallower, and filled with more uniform depth. At its widest point that I fished near Columbia/Wrightsville, Pa. the river is just over a mile and a half wide. Predominately, I flyfished this stretch with a variety of floating and sinking flies while wadefishing. In South Eastern Pa., there are many large hydro-electric dams impounding the flow of the mainstem creating large “lakes” within the River. To fish these lakes one needed a boat or kayak. Wadefishing was just too dangerous in these deeper areas.
This year I was rewarded with catching far more fish than in the previous years. Nothing of great size, but I was impressed by the “kid-sized” smallmouth bass I caught. I caught a lot of 6 to 8 inch bass. These are the class size of fish that most anglers report missing from the river. I disagree. The river was filthy with these small fish. I had a hard time shaking off the “little ones” and finding bigger bass that I considered to be challenge on my fly rod. It could have been just an anomaly in the area I fished, or I was in the right spot at the right time, but I did NOT think this river was impaired! Time will tell if the measures that the PFBC have taken will bring back what they consider quality fishing to this area of the river. The main warmwater tributaries to the Susquehanna near Lancaster, Pa., were Chickies Creek and the Conestoga River. I spent a lot of time on these tributaries and they held a lot of smallmouth and largemouth bass. Also, I fished a variety of tiny limestone spring creeks (Lititz Run, Mill Creek, and the Donegeal Creek) that held a nice “mixed bag” of trout, carp, bass, and a plethora of pumpkinseed panfish. These pumpinseed panfish are always a lot of fun to coax up a topwater bite with a large bushy dry fly!
SUSQUEHANNA & CHEMUNG RIVERS: While I was out on my annual “adventure”, I did stay in touch with many anglers in our area. They were more than happy to share with me what was working for them during the last 10 days. Currently, the fishing times have changed due to the hot weather and many storm fronts pushing through the county. Many anglers started fishing early in the morning when the water temperatures would cool from the night. During the day the water temperatures would increase to the high 70s and low 80s. This makes the morning fishing times from 5 a.m. to 11 a.m. and the evening times of 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. the “right time” to fish. One should avoid fishing during the heat of the day if possible. One, the fishing will probably be tepid, and two… a sunburn (or dehydration) is not part of fishing fun. Remember to pack water, sunglasses, and some sunscreen!
Most anglers stated that the spinner and tube baits and smaller twister-tail jigs were their mainstay go-to bait from sizes 1/8 ounce in the shallow areas to a 1/4 ounce size in the deeper river runs and pools. However, as the week progressed into sunny bright days on the water – the unexpected does happen. Full-time guide Lance Dunham boated a 41 inch Muskie on a crankbait. Yes, although there has been tough fishing this week, one can always find a great fish in our North Branch Susquehanna River!
Live bait anglers commented that hellgrammites drifted on the bottom at dusk brought the most fish to hand. Catfish were the main catch at dusk on the hellgrammites. Of course the tried and true “garden hackle” nightcrawlers and smaller sized crayfish were the best choices during the morning fishing times for bass.
POND & LAKE FISHING: The crappie bite is still strong. Live minnows were the hot ticket on our larger lakes such as Stephen Foster Lake, and Mountain Lake. Successful fishing also meant to find a suspended school of fish near weedlines and dropping small jigs tipped with waxworms and mealworms near the holding fish. Bigger panfish were holding in deeper water off-shore and those who tried trolling were rewarded with a few more fish than those anglers who tried to “pick-off” stragglers near the shallower weed growths while shore fishing.
FLYFISHING: Early morning fishing paid off better than waiting until the evening hours. With very low flows the bass seemed to feed more during “first-light” than after a long day trying to beat-the-heat. Bottom bouncing smaller weighted streamers in sizes No. 12 to No. 8 along the tongues of pools and deeper riffles brought more hook-ups than topwater poppers and deer hair bugs. The main hatches I’ve seen all this week has been the nightly Slate Drake (Isonychia bicolor) and a sporadic Potamanthus in sizes 12 to 14. Although I have not seen a lot of risers to these flies. This is also the time of the year to try and give the trout a necessary break. They are extremely sensitive to the increase in water temperature the decrease in stream flows and will be environmentally stressed. More-so, than their warmwater stream neighbors – the smallmouth bass. Fighting a hooked trout in the now “hot-water” will probably lead to the immediate death of the trout. Please treat them gently. Normally, I will forgo targeting trout from now until the waters cool off in the beginning of fall.
NEWS: The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission is hosting a Family Fishing Event on Tuesday, July 3 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Hammond Lake (at the Ives Run Campground in Tioga County, Pa.). No license, equipment, or bait/lures needed. The PFBC will provide it all! This 4 hours program will introduce your family to the basics of fishing covering fishing gear, knots, casting, and preparing to fish. After learning the basics, participants will use their newly learned fishing skills on panfish and bass on Hammond Lake. Space is limited and pre-registration is required for this event. Contact Dina Henninger at (570) 835-0113. Registration is on a first come, first serve basis. Participants should dress for the weather. The program will be held rain or shine.
Have a great week! Good luck on the water! Please let me know how you are doing on all of our great fisheries by sending me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.