By Jeff Samsel

“I’m curious how many species we’ll catch today,” Darl Black said as we launched his boat on Western Pennsylvania’s Lake Pymatuning one May day. A long-time outdoor writer and a fishing guide, Black has spent a lot of time on this highly productive lake, and he knew conditions were right for walleyes and various species of bass and panfish to be shallow and hanging close to one another

If I remember correctly, the day’s species tally finished at 10. We didn’t do anything out of the ordinary to pad the count, and we didn’t fish a brutally long day. He took us to coves, points and humps that he thought would produce, and we mostly threw small lures toward the shore or to cover away from the bank. That’s simply the nature of fishing at Lake Pymatuning, which covers 17,088 acres in Pennsylvania and Ohio and offers extensive fine fish habitat in the form stumps, lily pads, downed trees, rockpiles and much more.

Lake Pymatuning fishes like a much smaller lake than it is in the sense that the fish commonly relate to shallow cover along the lake’s perimeter, making them relatively easy to locate in many areas. Shoreline fishermen, waders and anglers fishing from canoes, kayaks or johnboats commonly do well at Pymatuning. The lake’s rules also favor the small-boat fisherman or angler on foot because no motors of more than 20 horsepower may be operated on Lake Pymatuning.

Outstanding public access also makes Lake Pymatuning an extremely fisherman-friendly lake. Pymatuning State Park offers multiple large tracts all around the lake (including sections in both Pennsylvania and Ohio) that collectively offer extensive bank-fishing access, plus multiple fishing piers, launch ramps in several areas, and a causeway that crosses the lake and provides additional bank access all the way across it. The park also has a marina with boat rentals, cabins in both states and multiple large campgrounds.

An impoundment of the Shenango River, Pymatuning is generally shallow and very fertile. The water carries a bit of color from high fertility, but is seldom muddy. Numerous islands, creek drains and coves create a somewhat complex shore, resulting in seemingly endless fish-holding points, humps and pockets. Good cover abounds all around the lake and is especially plentiful in the shallow, stumpy, island-dotted upper end.

In terms of fish species, Pymatuning is probably best known for its walleyes and crappie, with an excellent crappie population that includes both blacks and whites. Bass fishing for largemouths and smallmouths is likewise very good – good enough, in fact that many tournaments are held on this lake despite the horsepower limitation. Other species that perform well in Pymatuning and are popular with some anglers include muskellunge, channel catfish and several species of panfish, including yellow perch, bluegills and pumpkinseeds.

Fishing Approaches

Lake Pymatuning is one of those places where the fish truly tend to be where it looks like they should be, and you often can find success by casting to visible cover. That said, way more stuff looks good around this lake than is actually holding the fish any given day, so it’s important to pay attention things likes shore angles, shadows, proximity of deeper water, slight temperature differences and types of cover. Experiment and pay attention to patterns.

Best approaches for working shoreline cover vary a lot simply because of the wide range of species that offer good prospects. Casting a small Fuzz-E Grub or hard bait like a Rebel Crickhopper, Teeny Wee-Crawfish or the smallest Cotton Cordell Big O works great for mixed bag fishing, as does simply dangling a worm beneath a slip float and experimenting with depth settings as you fish.

Bass fishermen targeting visible cover can do well with a lot of different types of lures. A Pop-R or Zara Spook is great for finding fish, especially early and late in day. Other good offerings include spinnerbaits, square bill crankbaits and Texas-rigged soft-plastic lures, which can be cast or pitched, depending on the cover.

Of course, working the banks is not the only good option at Pymatuning. Stumps and pads cover vast areas in the upper lake and provide good fishing far from the bank. Drifting with jigs and minnows is by far the most popular way to fish the stump flats. Fishing a tiny jig under small set float works well for catching mixed panfish around pads.

The lower lake, meanwhile has many long points, humps and channel edges, many sweetened by brush, that provide good offshore opportunities. Crappie and walleyes stack up on offshore structure throughout the year, and walleyes make good use off points at times. Casting jigs or crankbaits works well when the fish are high on the points, especially during the spring and fall. Through the summer, trolling a Wally Diver and be a good option, especially early and late in the day. Muskie fishermen mostly troll as well. They just do so with much larger lures!

Finally, it’s worth noting that Lake Pymatuning offers very good ice fishing during those years when winter delivers good ice. The amount of ice that develops varies dramatically from winter to winter in Pennsylvania and can change quickly, so it’s important to check conditions carefully. When ice allows, though, fishing for walleyes, crappie and various sunfish can be outstanding. A small Rattlin’ Flyer Spoon is a great choice for calling in a little bit of everything through the ice at Pymatuning.

Lake Pymatuning Planning

Access, Cabins & Camping

Boating and bank access, cabins and camping are all available through Pymatuning State Park in 

Pennsylvania  or Ohio

Regulation Notes

No motors of gas motors larger than 20 horsepower may be operated on Lake Pymatuning.

Licensing is reciprocal between Ohio and Pennsylvania for boating anglers. Anglers working by foot must be licensed for the state where they are standing.

Area Information

Visit Crawford County

Regional Fishing Report

Guided Fishing

Lurenet Favorites

Thill Crappie Cork, 1/8

Cotton Cordell Wally Diver, 2 ½ inch, Perch

Rebel Pop-R, Bone

YUM Christie Critter, Junebug

Lindy Fuzz-E Grub, Gold Strike

Lindy Rattl’n Flyer Spoon, Techni-Glo Red