Mercer County is home to beautiful scenery and some of the best fishing spots. Make the catch of a lifetime during your next ice fishing trip in Mercer County. Start planning your trip at VisitMercerCountyPA.com today!
For the anglers out there, you can keep fishing well into the winter when you visit Mercer County. Whether you have been ice fishing before or would like to give it a try, Mercer County Is home to two perfect ice fishing spots for avid and novice anglers alike.
By Darl Black
Crappies, bluegills, yellow perch, white bass, and walleye, oh my! These are the species most likely to be encountered during an ice fishing outing on 17,000-acre Pymatuning Reservoir situated on the Pennsylvania and Ohio border.
The most frequent question asked by visiting anglers is which state’s license is needed to fish this border lake. A reciprocal agreement allows anglers with a valid fishing license from either Pennsylvania or Ohio to fish anywhere on the lake by boat as well as on the ice. Ice anglers are limited to no more than five fishing devices, which may consist of any combination of rods, hand lines or tip-ups; one line per device with no more than 3 hooks per line. Holes cut in the ice may not exceed 10 inches between the farthest points.
Given the uncertainly of cold weather during December in Northwest Pennsylvania, ice generally isn’t safe in the region until sometime in January. Pymatuning is slower to acquire safe ice than nearby smaller lakes.
However, Pennsylvania State Parks permit angling from docks at state park marinas during the winter. While remaining safely on the docks, anglers can drill holes through too-thin ice and drop lines into the water. Crappie, bluegill and perch are regularly caught from the Jamestown Marina docks because the water is deeper than any other marina on the lake. Since one is technically fishing from shore while on these docks, a Pennsylvania fishing license is required.
If winter cold continues to make ice, the southern-most section and the northern region around Tuttle Point will be the first main lake areas available for ice travel; the widest mid-section of the lake will be the last to freeze.
Panfish are routinely caught not far from shore on the South End of the lake. But it’s the points, humps and ridges in mid-section of the lake that usually give up the greatest numbers of walleyes.
Since snowmobiles are not permitted on the lake, it is a long hike to reach a desired fishing location. If snow begins rapidly falling while on the ice some distance from shore, chances are you will not see shoreline landmarks. That’s why you should lay a track to your fishing spot with a hand-held GPS, thereby ensuring a return to the correct departure spot.
Besides, a hand-held GPS is your best friend for pin-pointing offshore structures found during the summer when fishing from a boat. Without the GPS, trying to zero in on a precise spot on the ice is like hunting for a needle in a haystack.
With species distributed throughout this relatively shallow lake, an angler should not be surprised to catch multiple species from a hole drilled anywhere over water that is 10 to 20 feet deep. Typical mini-ice jigs tipped with a maggot, meal worm or small live minnow are deadly for panfish.
But when it comes to walleyes, the go-to presentation is vertical jigging with a blade bait. The Heddon Sonar is the classic winter walleye lure on Pymatuning, offered for sale in tackle shops around the lake. Any of popular brand of blade bait will not only catch walleyes, but also crappie, perch, white bass and even channel cats.
Pymatuning State Park is located at 2660 Williamsfield Rd., Jamestown, PA, 16134.
If you are looking to catch some of the larger fish in Lake Wilhelm, ice fishing is the activity for you! Lake Wilhelm, a 1,860-acre warm water fishery, is a popular spot for anglers all year round! During the winter months, fishermen can cast out for panfish, walleye, and bass.
Lake Wilhelm is located in the 2,856-acre Maurice K. Goddard State Park featuring a 12.2-mile paved hiking and biking trail, abundant wetlands, old fields, and mature forests filled with diverse wildlife, such as waterfowl, eagles, and ospreys.
The key to ice fishing at Lake Wilhelm is safety. Lake Wilhelm’s ice thickness is not monitored. It should be measured at a minimum of four inches of solid ice for a single person and a minimum of seven inches of solid ice for a small group of anglers.
Avoid areas that have protruding branches, logs, plants, or docks because these objects hold heat and weaken the ice. You also want to watch out for areas with multiple or intersecting cracks or standing water over the ice. For current lake conditions contact the park office at 724-253-4833.
Be sure to pack your life jacket and other safety equipment with your fishing gear.
Maurice K. Goddard State Park is located at 684 Lake Wilhelm Rd., Sandy Lake PA, 16145.
Photos credited to Darl Black.