Cooler fall makes for hot fishing on Conneaut Lake
CONNEAUT LAKE — Like all experienced professional fishing guides, Darl Black hedges his bets when booking clients for a fishing trip on Conneaut Lake.
Like all veteran outdoors writers, however, Black knows this gem of a lake in northwestern Pennsylvania is a go-to location when he needs photographs or material for a column or feature.
As Pennsylvania’s largest natural lake, Conneaut is sometimes overshadowed by nearby Pymatuning Lake, which has been ranked No. 22 in the Top 100 Best Crappie Lakes in the United States — and only lake in Pennsylvania on the list compiled by FishHound.com. What makes Conneaut Lake such a popular destination, however, is its variety of species from panfish to smallmouth bass and the historic resort-style community that surrounds and takes its name from the lake.
Oh, yes, then there is always the possibility — albeit remote — of pulling a feisty musky from Conneaut Lake, which gave up the Pennsylvania state record on Sept. 30, 1924. That day, Lewis Walker Jr. was trolling an eight-inch chub rigged crosswise to induce spinning from a cane pole spooled with 42-pound line and a leader made of picture wire when he took his 57-inch, 54-pounds, 3-ounce record.
Some old-timers believe trophy muskies remain to be taken from the Conneaut, but Black believes catching one — or even a smaller fish — is unlikely. He is committed to putting clients on fish and getting as much action into his half-day charters as possible.
Black is uncommitted as to what species of fish will be put in the boat, at least in numbers, on any given day. Depending on the wind and weather conditions, on any given day the lake will produce largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, crappies, bluegill, pumpkin seeds, Northern pike, perch and walleye on a regular basis.
While Conneaut Lake is a popular summer family vacation spot with its famous antique roller coaster in Conneaut Park, anglers target bass in the lake before the height of summer. With the approach of fall bass anglers will once again travel to the lake from throughout Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio.
Conneaut Lake has a variety of fish-holding habitat, ranging from weed beds in the shallows that extend into the lake to its numerous bars, some of which contain vegetation. First-time anglers will likely waste precious time locating some of the prime fishing locations, so, as is the case when visiting any new water, securing the services of a guide is priceless.
Topwater works well in the morning, then move to the weed beds along the shore if targeting bass. Soft jerkbaits such as the YUM Shad are ideal to attract fish looking for an easy meal from their hiding places.
“There is no shortage of bait fish, with emerald shiners, shad and various common minnows the main forage,” Black said. “Of course, bass and pike are also going to feed on the various species of panfish, so these fish are well fed.
“I’ve been fishing since I was old enough to hold a fishing rod, and although writing assignments often take me to different states, I’m always eager to return home to my favorite northwestern Pennsylvania waters. Without a doubt, smallmouth bass are my favorite quarry, but crappies are a very close second, which is why Conneaut Lake is one of my favorite places.
“My season on Conneaut Lake begins in April when we begin catch-and-release fishing for smallmouth bass and continues through November. During the warmer months most anglers want to target crappie or panfish, which is just one reason Conneaut Lake is such a popular destination for families who want youngsters to have a quality experience catching fish.”
Some of the other reasons Conneaut Lake — both the community and the water — is so popular for a getaway are the numerous choices for angler-friendly lodging and having the choice of quality restaurants. Miller’s Food Factory on Conneaut Lake Road is open early to serve home-style breakfasts and there is no better choice for lunch or dinner — depending when fishing — than docking at Silver Shores and enjoying a meal in the dinning room overlooking the lake or on the deck next to the water.
Conneaut Lake comes with no guarantees so far as how many or big a catch will be, but does come with the guarantee of a quality angling experience.
For information about fishing on Conneaut Lake with Darl Black email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his page on Facebook; for information about planning a trip to Crawford County visit www.visitcrawford.org.
Doyle Dietz is a member of the Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association.