Summer Fun

Summer Fun

A Very Good Year for Fishing Shenango Lake

By Darl Black

At 3,500 acres, Shenango Lake isn’t the largest impoundment in the state, but when it comes to fishing for hybrid striped bass, white bass and crappies, area anglers consider it #1.

“Shenango is one of only a handful of waters in Pennsylvania which offers opportunities to tangle with drag-pulling hybrid striped bass,” says Randy Hedderick, a long-time angler and former guide.

Randy Hedderick with a 2021 Shenango hybrid striper.

“It’s worth a trip to Shenango any year to pursue hard-fighting hybrids, but this season we have been seeing some exceptional-size hybrids in the mid-double-digit weights. Late in the spring, I caught my second largest hybrid from this lake – a 19-pounder. Several other acquaintances have landed their Personal Best this season as well. These fish have been feeding very well on abundant gizzard shad.”

Hybrid stripers are a hatchery cross between purebred striped bass and white bass. The resulting fish are generally sterile and unable to reproduce, so stocking of hybrid fingerlings is the only way to maintain a population in a lake or river. In Pennsylvania, a 10-pounder hybrid is considered a big fish. But this season, fish from 12 to almost 20-pounds have been reported.

When you take into account the exceptional season which anglers are enjoying for both above-average size crappies as well as white bass, it’s easy to see why Shenango Lake is a top fishing destination in the tri-state region.

Ken Smith with a 2021 slab crappie from Shenango Lake.

Local crappie guru Ken Smith has been catching quality-size black and white crappies all season…not just during the spring when fish were shallow but right through early July. As usual, his best summer catches this year are from 12 to 20 feet of water over submerged cover, humps or ledges. Using only 2-inch soft plastic crappie jigs with the profile of baby shad, Ken fishes vertically over cover. He will continue with this technique through early fall.

During the summer, white bass (ranging in size from 10 to 14 inches) roam the open water in packs chasing schools of gizzard shad. It’s the same thing that larger hybrid stripers do.

Darl Black with typical Shenango white bass.

To located summertime hybrid stripers and white bass, use sonar to find the suspended schools of baitfish – usually about 10 to 14 feet below the surface over the deeper portion of the lake. Then look for larger gamefish arcs just below the bait schools.

Trolling a shad-like crankbait or vertically jigging with a spoon may entice stripers during the mid-day hours. However, the most exciting action will be in the early morning and late evening hours when shad rise upward with stripers and white bass in pursuit.

With preyfish pinned against the surface, predators attack.  Watch for the visible turmoil and move the boat close enough to make long casts with a topwater lure to the melee.

To plan your fishing trip to Mercer County, click here.

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