Want to learn about fishing in Central Pennsylvania. Well, you’ve found the right interview. Mr. Tyler Ickes spends his time filling us in on fishing his favorite Central PA waters. He gave us so much great stuff that we divided this into 2 parts. This part covers favorite fishing waters including the well known Raystown Lake as well as some native trout fishing.
You live a bit west of me here in Pennsylvania. You post some impressive catches from Raystown Lake. Raystown is not an easy lake to fish. What 3 pieces of advice do you have for fishing for largemouth and smallmouth bass on Raystown?
When it comes to fishing for Largemouth and Smallmouth on Raystown Lake the first thing that comes to mind is to be versatile. Especially during the dog days of summer Raystown Lake can be like fishing a new lake every day you go.
We always say “there one day and gone the next”. One day at Raystown you can find a bank and do very well on it and it almost seems like you cannot do anything wrong. The next day you can go back to the same bank and do the exact same thing at the exact same time and you can possibly not even catch a fish.
During the summer fishing months at Raystown Lake we have most of our success finesse fishing. Drop shot and shaky head are two very reliable rigs to throw during the summer months but you can also catch fish deep cranking, hopping jigs down steep rocky banks, Carolina rig, and flipping grass where you can find it.
It pays off to know how to use a wide variety of techniques on Raystown and this will give you a better chance of finding what the fish want that day.
Next, offshore fishing at Raystown is tough. There are some big flats that have isolated stumps or trees but we have not had much success fishing offshore.
Therefore we are always beating the banks, and I would recommend fishing slow. Be willing to move around throughout the day and when you find a bank you are catching fish on try and find other banks on the lake that are similar in structure and layout.
Finally, if I had to pick a time of year to fish Raystown Lake it would definitely be the spring. When that water is in the 45-55 degree range find steeper banks with rock and wood. Jerkbaits and Alabama rig are the two lures that have proven to be most productive during this time and it is possible to catch a personal best during this time. This past spring I know during several tournaments it took 20-26 lbs to win. here are a lot of fish in the 3-5 lbs range caught during the spring with lunkers weighing 6-7 lbs.
What are your other favorite bass bodies of water to fish in your area?
Central Pennsylvania has some surprisingly good bodies of water for bass fishing. Other than Raystown Lake my favorite bodies of water are the Juniata River near Huntington, PA; Beaverdam Run Reservoir near Beaverdale, PA; and High Point Lake near Mount Davis in Somerset County.
The Juniata River is one of those places that spoils you as a fishermen or women. The high density of fish that lives i the Juniata River is quite remarkable. Smallmouth bass is definitely the largest population of fish in the river, but you can also catch walleye, musky, and catfish.
The willingness to eat and aggressiveness of the smallmouth bass makes this body of water a must to fish whether it is spring, summer, or fall. Most days that I have fished there it is nothing to catch 50-100 smallmouth in a day.
There are a lot of fish in the 12-16 inch range, and the bigger ones range 17-21 inches. My go to baits for catching larger fish on the Juniata River are throwing jerkbaits of varying sizes and using large tubes (3.5-4”) in natural colors like green pumpkin.
Beaverdam Run Reservoir is a little hidden gem in the mountains of central PA. This is not a high pressured lake, the most boats we have seen here in a day is around six. Supporting a strong population of both smallmouth and largemouth this Reservoir has its good days and bad days.
The bigger smallmouth bass here can be like ghosts at times, but when you find a school of them get ready to have some fun. Our biggest smallmouth here are 3-4 lbs but I know there are bigger ones in there.
The largemouth population here is not as good but when you catch them they are very healthy. The biggest one I know of being caught here is in the 6 lbs range. Drop shot, jerbaits, swimbaits, and jigs are good lures to use here.
Finally, High Point Lake is another hidden gem in the mountains of Somerset County. This used to not be a high pressured lake but as of lately more people are finding out about the great numbers of 4-6 and even a few 7 lbs fish being caught here. If you are a person that likes flipping grass then this is the place for you. Three quarters of this lake is covered by grass and the water is extremely clear. Break out the heavy flipping gear, cover water, pick apart the grass, and there is a good chance you will find some nice fish.
What has been the catch that you are most proud of? And what’s the story behind that catch?
My most proud bass catch came when fishing a trolling motor only tournament a High Point Lake last summer. This was the first time we had every fished this lake and we were not sure what to expect. We knew that that they had caught some pigs out of this lake, but didn’t know where or how.
Flipping grass is definitely one of our strongest techniques and when we saw how much grass was in this lake we got pretty excited. The amount of grass was almost overwhelming though and as we approached the final minutes of the tournament we only had two keepers.
We did not give up though, as we worked our way back across the lake towards the launch and weigh in area we continued fishing the deeper grass that was in like 10-12 feet of water.
We were getting disgusted by the number of pike and pickerel we had caught and tore off on throughout the day. Getting to within about 100 yards of launch we were approaching our final casts of the day. I made a short cast out in front of us and let my YUM bad mamma watermelon candy sink deep into the grass and then popped it up out the grass. My line went slack and I could tell something was swimming with it. I set the hook and instantly knew I had a big fish on.
My initial thoughts were that I had a decent sized pike and was not too excited. The fish fought hard and as I fought the fish towards the boat and it made a strong dive deep down into the weeds and I thought that was it, and it was going to get off.
We like flipping plastics in heavy grass with at least 50 braided line and I was sure glad that I was using it. I horsed the fish up out of the grass, and as my buddy was leaning over the side of the boat to get the fish when it came up I could not see what it was. I could see my buddies facial expression change within a split second and he started flipping out telling me to take my time, but we all know how that works. That just made me get supper nervous and I just continued horsing the fish in.
He grabbed the net quick and got the fish on the first pass up to the boat. As he brought the fish into the boat we were both in shock by the size of fish and what had just happened. With 15 minutes left till we had to be at the launch we had caught our third fish. With several boats also fishing their way back to the launch they heard us celebrating. We finally made it to the launch and everyone knew what had happened. The fished topped the tournament scale off at just over 7 lbs and is my personal best largemouth.
Native brown and brook trout are two of the most beautiful fish you will ever catch in my opinion. These fish are born and raised in streams and are spooked very easily.
When fishing for native trout one of the best things is to be stealthy and fish upstream. Fishing upstream makes being stealthy a lot easier as t
he fish are facing away from you because they are sitting into the current. Fly fishing in my opinion the best way to fish for native trout. Being born and raised in these streams they are eating aquatic insects everyday therefore using flies is most effective way to fish for them.
Using a light weight fly rod…2,3,or 4 wt…is what you want, and a longer rod 8 ft or longer depending on the size of the stream should give you the sensitivity to feel the light bit of a native trout.
The best times to fish for native trout are definitely the spring and fall months when the water temperature is in the 50-60 degree range. Fishing for native trout in the summer time is not recommended especially if the water temp is reaching the mid to upper 60’s and even getting into the 70’s. During the summer months depending on the amount of rainfall these streams become low and the water temperature rises. Rising temperature and dropping water levels produce less oxygenated water and native trout become stressed. The last thing you want to do is stress them more by fishing for them and making them fight if you hook into one.
All I can say is wow! We can fish here in PA, and Tyler is a great example of the quality of anglers that reside here in the Keystone State. Stay tuned for Part 2 where we talk some smallmouth fishing on the Juniata River.
Tyler posts his catches on Instagram.