Pike County Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs
Pickerel, Pike ( ? ) and Muskellunge
Fishing in Pike County
OK, let's get something straight. Pike County was not named after a fish! Like Pike's Peak, Pike County was named the famous explorer and war hero, Zebulon Pike. Unfortunately, this fact, seems to be lost on many newcomers and to the person who designed the entrance sign for the Pike County Administration Building. Neither the fish, nor the explorer have made their home in Pike County. Pike County does have two members of the pike family in the form of the chain pickerel and the muskellunge.
The chain pickerel resembles the pike in a smaller form. Where as the pike has light colored blotches on its sides, the chain pickerel's blotches are surrounded by darker pigment forming a chain like effect. The average muskie on the other hand is generally larger than the average pike. It is characterized as having vertical stripes on the sides. Pike County sports two versions of the muskie: The common Muskellunge and the hybrid Tiger Muskellunge.
Although fishing is good, only a few die hard pickerel fans pursue pickerel in the summer. Most are caught by anglers targeting bass and other species owing to the pickerel's love for shallow weedy areas. The winter is a different matter completely when ice fishermen actively pursue this voracious cold water predator.
Pickerel may be found in most of Pike County's lakes and ponds, especially those that are shallow, weedy, or stumpy. Many slack water creeks, especially those dammed by beaver hold pickerel however, many of these are small or stunted. Nevertheless, they will strike with tenacity and fight for all they're worth. A fly rod or an ultralight spinning outfit can make these small fish a memorable experience.
Good pickerel waters that are open to public fishing are Shohola Lake, Lily Pond, Greeley Lake, and Lake Wallenpaupack. Shohola Lake, located on US-6 a few miles west of Milford, holds many large fish. Try the stumpy areas first, although the whole lake has good pickerel fishing. Lily Pond is a smaller lake located in the County Park. It too provides good pickerel fishing, especially for anglers fishing with children. Greeley Lake is located off US-6 (take SR-1002 to lake access). However, Greeley Lake has very little shore access and boat fishing (no gasoline motors) is recommended. Finally, Lake Wallenpaupack has some very large pickerel. Considered a pest by many trout anglers, large pickerel are often caught in the shallower, ledgy areas near the tail end of the lake.
When it comes to baits, the chain pickerel is not fussy. It will eat just about anything that approaches its mouth. Minnows are the first choice of most anglers and, generally speaking, there is no such thing as too big. Pickerels commonly strike minnows over half their own length! Frogs, nightcrawlers, and salamanders are also good baits. But keep in mind two things. First, pickerel like motion. They will rarely strike a worm that's just hanging on a hook. Cast it in. Wait a little. If you don't get a strike, slowly reel it in. The second thing to be aware of is that pickerel tend to be ambush feeders. They wait until their prey nears them, then lash out quickly to strike. Be sure your bait covers all the water in front of you. Often a distance of two feet is the difference between catching or not catching a fish.
Pickerel are not particularly fussy when it comes to lures. However, they do have preferences that vary by lake, season, time of day, and probably by the individual fish. In the early season and at night try surface poppers that imitate frogs. Especially productive are jitter bugs, hula poppers, red head poppers, and zara spooks. During the day, spoons are often effective. The red and white daredevil is a pickerel classic. Black and white daredevils are also commonly used as are yellow "seven diamonds". When the sun is high, Johnson silver minnows are very effective. Rapalas and other minnow imitations are effective fished both on the surface and as a shallow diver. In areas too weedy for these lures, try a texas rigged plastic worm, lizard, or crayfish. Just be sure to impart motion.
Although they may appear to be oversized pickerel, muskies vary in more than just size. The muskie is a very wary predator and is very difficult to catch. They will often follow a trolled bait or lure great distances, eyeing it over but not biting. Often they'll follow a lure to the boat repeatedly, again without biting. Some longtime fisherman once said that it takes ten thousand casts to catch a muskie. Another has said it takes a thousand hours of fishing. It doesn't matter which is true. The point is, most often you will really have to work to catch the fish.
The muskie is a large fish. Pennsylvania requires that a muskie to be a minimum of 36 inches long before it may be kept. However, like a 12 inch bass or a 7 inch trout, few consider a three foot muskie to be a trophy. The current state record is 53 pounds, with a potential for much larger fish still to be caught.
Pike County has several muskie waters open to public fishing, but only two are noteworthy: Lake Wallenpaupack and the Delaware River. Lake Wallenpaupack is 9 miles long and has 52 miles of shoreline. As such, trolling is the most productive means for muskie fishing. Very large spoons or plugs are generally used as is, often times, live bait. For those desiring to cast, try the tail end of the lake where muskies often live among the submerged ledges. Lake Wallenpaupack is heavily used by swimmers, boaters, and others that often interfere with fishing. Therefore, early spring or late fall fishing is usually better.
At first glance, the Pike County section of the Delaware River would not seem like a muskie haven. However, the Delaware has a large run of American Shad. Muskies gorge themselves with migrating shad in April and May. Then pick off the spent fish in June and July. As some spent fish may be around until mid-August, the Delaware's muskies have a regular feast all through the growing season. Outside of shad season, the Delaware's muskies have their pick of the numerous trout, bass, suckers, and other fish inhabiting the river. The muskies grow fat very quickly.
Good places to look for Delaware River muskellunge are the large pool at the Zane Grey access, the pool at Pond Eddy, and the pools around any bridge that crosses the river. The area around the Matamoras - Port Jervis bridge always produces a few fine fish every year.
Like any "top of the food chain fish", muskies are rare. But when found, they are worth the effort. Successful anglers should look into the state's Husky Musky Club. For more information check out the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission's website.
For information about pike fishing try the Northern Pike International website.
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