Posts Tagged Muskie

Presque Isle Bay – Lake Erie

One of the best fisheries in Pennsylvania is located in Erie County. Presque Isle State Park on Lake Erie is home to some of the best fishing I have ever experienced. Everyone knows how good Lake Erie can be, but no one thinks about how fishing the Presque Isle Bay. There are many species of fish and certain times of year some species are more abundant than other times. The Erie area is thriving right now so there is plenty to do inside and outside the state park. It truly has something for everyone.

Let’s start by talking about all of the species of fish that can be found in Presque Isle Bay. The most abundant species in the bay depends on the time of year in which you are there. The most consistent species you can find is largemouth bass. Fisherman can experience some of the best largemouth fishing in the state from the time the ice comes off the bay until the bay freezes over. From mid April until early July you can find a huge population of smallmouth bass that move into the bay to spawn. Panfish such as perch, crapie, bluegill, rock bass, white bass, and sunfish. During the cold water temperature time of the year you can find steelhead and trout that have migrated in from the main lake. There is a healthy population of northern pike. Some other species that can be found include: muskie, freshwater drum, carp, catfish, and alligator gar. Whatever your target species there are ample oppurtunies at Presque Isle State Park.

As many species as there are in the bay there are many more ways to catch fish depending on the species. In the spring and fall months fishing aggressive tends to be the best when fishing for largemouth and smallmouth bass. Spinnerbaits, chatterbaits, crankbaits, jerkbaits, and topwater lures are my favorite lures. During the water summer months I tend to switch gears and pull out more of my heavy punching gear because of the abundance of weeds. Heavy weights and heavy line are a must to get fish out of the mat weeds. No matter what time of year that I there I expect to boat 50 bass a day. It doesn’t always happen, but it happens more often than not. Some of my favorite soft plastics include berkley chigger craws and tubes of various colors. Creature baits such as brush hogs are also very effective.

Early in the year steelhead move into the bay. You can effectively catch these fish on your typical lures for them. Spoons, blade baits, and jerkbaits are some of the common lures used. For muskie and northern pike you should start with white spinnerbaits and swimbaits. Everytime I fish this lake I catch a couple of these guys early in the morning while I am fishing aggressively for bass. Try fishing Misery Bay for these toothy guys. Try looking that the beginning of the penninsula for carp and panfish. However, panfish can be found throughout the bay. If you are looking to find an alligator gar you should look in the lagoons and horseshoe bay.

There are ample opportunities to fish from boats and from shore. There are e public boat launchs in Presque Isle State Park. There is the Vista Boat launch which is more for small water crafts and jet skies. Niagara Boat Launch and the Lagoons Boat Launch and handle small to medium sized boats. The largest boat launch is the West Pier Launch. It will handle whatever boat you choose to launch. There is a marina attached to the west pier launch with plenty of slips to accommodate. There is also a boat launch on the city side of the by on Chestnut Street.

Presque Isle State Park offers many more activities that just fishing. There is a paved bicycle trail that can be jogged, biked, or walked on that goes the entire way around the penninsula. At the beginning of the park there is a shop that you can rent bicycles. On Graveyard Point there is a boat rental where you can rent kayaks, canoes, or multiple types of boats. There are plenty of picnic shelters that can be rented or used on a first come first served basis. Scuba diving is permit is certain areas of the bay, but you must be a registered diver and check in with the park before doing so. Water skiing is also permitted as this is an unlimited horsepower body of water. Except for the no wake and lagoons (electric only) area.

My favorite time of year to be at Presque Isle State Park is May. At this time the trees are turning green and the flowers are blooming. Let’s not forget that the smallmouth bass are in the bay spawning or getting ready to spawn. The largemouth bass fishing is unbelievable as well.

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Tips on Catching Pressured Musky

Here is a great video on how to get pressured musky to commit and eat your bait.


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April Weekend at Lake Arthur

I fished both days this weekend at Lake Arthur.  On Saturday my Dad and I put in at the 528 launch around 10 am and started fishing up in Shannon’s bay.   We got a few largemouth on chatterbaits and spinnerbaits as well as had a few musky that were following our lures to the boat.  Next, we ran up to the old 422 finger and fished in the bays across from the launch with no luck.  Then we  ran back to fish some laydowns in muddy creek with nothing to show for it.   We only caught one keeper all day on Saturday so my hopes for doing well in my club tournament on Sunday were not very high.

Sunday we put in at bear run at 7 am and I ran straight to Shannon’s bay where we had caught a few fish the day before.  On my first cast I had a musky come up to the boat and bite off my chatterbait.   Then I picked up my spinnerbait, made a few more casts and had another musky hooked up that straightened out my trailer hook.   Still not having caught a bass, I grabbed my Red Eye Shad and within a few cast it was gone.  Something ate it off.  I’m guessing a musky.  I was getting a little pissed at this point, so I moved in close to an isolated weed patch and started pitching a beaver.  After about a dozen flips in a little musky or pike flash on it and bit it off.  That was enough of that so I picked up and ran down to old 422.  I made a few cast with my chatterbait and caught a small largemouth.  A few cast later, I hooked what looked to be a really good largemouth that came straight at me shaking her head but it came unbuttoned.  After loosing that fish, I stuck around for awhile but didn’t get anything else.  For next few hours I ran around trying all kinds of different spots:  weeds, laydowns, piles, ect.  No fish.  Finally, I ran into muddy creek around one o’clock and started pitching a craw into some shallow brush that I have caught fish off of in the past.   I got hit on my first pitch but missed the fish.  I made a few pitches getting hit each time but missing the fish.  After about 15 pitches, I hooked up with a solid 3.69lb largemouth.  I put her in the boat and made a few more pitches and got a 3.5 lb largemouth.  I finished out the day fishing laydowns and managed to get my 3rd keeper, a 15″ largemouth.  My total weight with a three fish limit was 9.01 lbs.  All my keepers came in about three feet of water off wood on a green pumpkin craw.

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Afternoon at Lake Arthur

Lipless crankbait deep in the mouth of a largemouth bass.

After fishing for the first time all year on Saturday I couldn’t wait to get back on the water. Well I didn’t have to wait too long. Sunday afternoon my friend Mike and I went out to Lake Arthur from 12:30 to 4:30 in the afternoon. Going into the day I had it in my mind set that I was going to fish a couple coves toward the 528 end of the lake. Being addicted to bass fishing is great, but I knew the muskie and northern pike get active in Shannon’s Cove in the early spring and can be a blast to catch. Since we only had 4 hours to fish we end up spending most of our time there. I managed to get a couple short bass on Lipless Crankbaits and another on a suspending jerkbait. If it wasn’t for the KBBC tournament coming up I would share in greater deal how and what exact lures I was catching them on. I am sure everyone understands the value of that information. The water temperature and water color with-in that cove alone was very different. If you were over 4 feet deep the water was pretty clear. You could see 3 to 4 feet of depth. If you got into the 2 foot of water or less you lost all but 6 inches of visibility. The surface temperature ranged from 48 to 58 degrees depending on the side of the cove, depth of the water and cover you were by. I have never seen that big of a difference in one cove before. Then again I am not sure I have ever fished in the middle of March in 70 degree weather in Western Pennsylvania.

I have always tried to throw lipless crankbaits in the spring and failed for the most part. I always thought I was using the wrong one, had the wrong color, or just didn’t know how to retrieve them. The truth is that it is a little of all of those categories. Over the next couple of weeks I plan on doing a lot of experimentation with them because of the moderate success that I had this weekend. If anyone has any input or advice they would like to share lets use the message board. See my post on the message board for what I learned this weekend.

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How to Rig Soft Plastic Swimbaits

By Craig Toerien

Before I go any further I would like to let you know that 4″ and 5″ Hollow Swimbaits have caught quality Blue Fish, Redfish, Sea Trout, Striped Bass, Walleye, Lake Trout, Musky, Pike, Pickerel, Smallmouth, Largemouth and Kentucky aka Spotted Bass.

The word swimbait conjures up images of giant hunks of wood or hard plastic shaped like a trout and armed with multiple sets of treble hooks. They look cool, often weigh a ton and cost a small fortune. Those big intimidating ones are a category unto themselves however there are several others all of which have different capabilities and applications. There have been many innovations since the early 1990’s with an explosion of natural looking, ultra realistic hard and soft models swimbaits to choose from.

My focus today is the Hollow Swimbait which made a big splash on the bass circuit starting in 2007.  Sure it had been used for years before secretly and with great success, but when a big time pro wins a major tournament or two or three with the same bait, that secret gets out in a hurry!

Why is the Hollow Swimbait so popular?

Three simple reasons:

  1. versatility
  2. value
  3. effectiveness


It is unmatched by conventional hard Swimbaits because it can be fished through almost any kind of cover, around any kind of structure, at any depth, from early spring through late into fall. Another benefit to a soft swimbait over a hard swimbait is you won’t need special rods or reels to effectively cast them. Use a bait caster with 12-18 lb line coupled with a 7′ medium heavy rod action. As a result hollow swimbait have become a favorite of angles in all regions of the country for the last 3 years.

Hollow Swimbaits are made of soft plastic just like the worms and tube baits which most anglers already use. It is essentially a tube shaped like a bait fish with a paddle tale.

Largemouth, smallmouth and Spotted or Kentucky Bass are proverbial “pigs” when it comes to eating habits as many of us have experience by hooking fish half the size of our lure. A 12oz bass will attack it just as readily as a 12 pound lunker. Bass spend a large part of the fishing season, either in or close to some kind of cover or shallow water structure that is less than 10 feet deep. This would include a variety of live vegetation, fallen timber, stump fields, boulder flats, docks, sand bars and points.

There are several ways to rig a hollow swimbait, each allowing the angler to effectively cover open water structure and varying types of cover.

Regardless of which rigging technique you use, please pay extremely close attention and take you time making sure the any time your hook enters or exits the bait it is precisely centered. If entering the nose go in dead center, out the back or through the belly dead center.  If you fail to do this your swimbait will not track correctly, it will roll on its side or helicopter. Consider this, if your car’s alignment isn’t right it won’t perform as it should and if your lure is not rigged straight it won’t have a desirable performance either.


Weightless – You will be able to find several hooks for targeting fish in weeds and other vegetation. If you want to keep the bait at or near the surface with a slower more deliberate retrieve use and unweighted EWG style hook and rig Texas style like a worm (Owner Wide Gap Plus 6/0 are best). This is my preferred shallow technique covering weed flats and boulder flats and shallow stump fields.



Texas Rig -You can add a tungsten bullet shaped weight on your line so that it rest against the nose of the bait if you want get deeper.



Weighted Hook – Another popular hook style is a weighted EWG or a nose screw lock hook. These hooks have varying amounts of lead molded onto the hook shank.  Increasing the amount of weight will allow you to fish the bait at a faster speed or great depth if that’s what the fish want. This is a great way to hit deeper weed edges, ledges and submerged structure.



Exposed hooks:

When fishing more open water areas with little or no snags you can go with exposed hook rigging. Insert weighted hooks like jigs as seen in the photos or use a new innovative product made by KSH called the Original Bait Weight. This weight gets inserted through the belly of the bait and pushed as far forward towards the head as possible, then pushed up through the top of the head. The opposite end of weight has a split ring to attach a treble hook.


Wacky rigging:

If you have caught a few fish and damaged the nose of your swimbait don’t throw it out. Cut off the paddle tail section and rig the middle diction of the bait with a circle or octopus hook, add split shot and you have a great wacky style bait. Throwing this around docks, flooded trees or at bass busting shad on top and you have a very realistic dying shad presentation.



I cannot comment on the effectiveness of the soft plastic swimbaits that you might have purchased and tried to use in the past. I can only advise you t make sure that you look for a thin body and soft plastic consistency. I would recommend my Hippo Tackle Hollow Core Tube Swimbaits, Berkley’s Hollow Belly Swimbaits or the original Basstrix Swimbaits. The rest are thick, tough and lack the required action to be effective.

The last tip I can give you is to spend more than 10 minutes throwing these baits adjusting your retrieve depth. Tie one on fish it for at least 40 minutes each time you hit the water, it will be well worth your time and effort.

Special thanks to Craig Toerien from Hippo Tackle for sharing his knowledge of  soft plastic swimbaits with everyone here at FishPittsburgh.

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Practice Doesn’t Always make Prefect

This weekend was a mixed bag of fishing for me to say the least. My buddy and I were signed up to fish the Mcfeely Tournament at Lake Arthur on Sunday, which is a great tournament for a worthy cause, put on by the guys at Consumer Direct Sports Supplies every year.  I had been getting a few nice fish out of the weeds just about every trip out there this year, but it had been less consistent as of late.   I  wanted to go practice the day before the tournament to check some spots and try to find some more spots to make sure I was on fish.  I told myself going in I was going to stick one fish in each spot I hit just to make sure they were the quality of fish I was looking for.

5lb 13 oz Lake Arthur Largemouth

5lb 13 oz Lake Arthur Largemouth

The morning started off better then I could have hoped for.  I punched my black and blue Picasso jig with 65lb braid into the first patch of weeds I came to and bang, a nice 4lb largemouth.  So I left and went to my next stop.  On the first cast, I got a small keeper.  I left that spot and went punching pads in th next area I wanted to fish and got a nice mid 40’s musky.  The first of three musky I had hit in Bear Run that day, other two got off.  I did have to give her my jig because I couldn’t even see it in her craw and I didn’t want to killer her trying to remove it.  I didn’t get any bass in the pad so I made a run down the lake to check some other holes I hadn’t fished yet this year.  At my next stop I punched into some weeds and pulled up a nice 5lb 13 oz largemouth.  (Sorry for the bad picture all we had was a cell phone to take the picture.) After that I thought I was going to be in great shape going into the tournament the next day.

Well sorry to say my buddy and I never got a keeper during the tournament.  I’m not sure if it was the weather difference that changed everything or what.  Saturday was sunny and nice and Sunday was overcast and cold.  We did catch some fish but never got a good one.  We did, however, have another musky attack but it didn’t hook up.  On that note, if anyone is looking for musky, Lake Arthur seems to be really picking up right now.

What can you do?  Sometime you get the bass and sometimes the bass get you.  What else can you say?  I think of it this way, it better to have caught some fish on Saturday and had a good day of fishing then to have never caught them at all.

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Pymatuning Lake

One of the most versitile lakes that we have in Western Pennsylvania is Pymatuning Lake.  It offers something for every angler at every age and skill level.  Pymatuning Lake is a great family destination because there are multiple campgrounds, beaches, and great fishing.  The lake is has over 17,000 acres of surface area and is one of the largest lake is the state.  Even though part of the lake is located in Ohio.  Pymatuning has an average depth of approximately 15 feet but don’t let that fool you.  This lake shallows very quickly and has many boating hazards such as stumps, standing timber, and submerged islands.  The maximum horse power was recently changed on Pymatuning Lake is 20.

First let’s talk about the marinas located on the Pennsylvania side of Pymatuning Lake.  There are three marina’s located on the Pennsylvania side of the lake.  The southern most marina is Jamestown Marina and it is located near the dam.  There are plenty of slips, gas station, concession, and a public boat launch located here.  The Espyville Marina is located by the causeway on the north side of the lake.  Espyville Marina has the same amenities as Jamestown, but the public launch is on the south side of the causeway.  The causeway spans from the Pennsylvania side of the lake to the Ohio side of the lake along route 285.  The last marina is called Linesville Marina.  It is the northern most marina in the lake and has the same amenities as the Jamestown and Epsyville Marina.

There are three campgrounds located in Pennsylvania that are on the lake.  Jamestown Campground is located in the south end of the lake.  It has a private beach, playground equipment, camp store, and boat launch for campers only.  The two camground on the north side of the causeway are Tuttle and Linesville Campground.  Both have the same amenities as the Jamestown Campground.  All three campgrounds allow pets on certain sites and also have electric and water hook-ups on certain sites.  Reservations can be made through the DCNR website.  Typically, these campgrounds open on April 1st and stay open until late October.

There are a few other boat launches and sites to see and use.  Manning boat launch is located between Tuttle Campground and Epsyville Marina on the Northeast side of the lake.  Snodgrass boat launch is another commonly used boat launch which is located on the Southeast side of the lake.  Both boat launch have ADA accessible restrooms.  Another great attraction of Pymatuning Lake is the spillway on the north end of the lake.  The carp really stack up at the spill way and you can feed them on one side and fish for them on the other.  There is a little bite of something for everyone at the spillway, which makes it a great family destination.  Another place you should see is the causeway.  The causeway run East to West across the lake along PA route 285.  The causeway offers a place to fish and site seeing.

Pymatuning Lake offers great fishing for a number of different species.  Smallmouth and Largemouth bass are frequently caught and can be sizable.  Largemouth bass are often caught in shallow weeds, stumps, laydowns, and rock piles.  Some common lures for largemouth bass are spinnerbaits, tubes, jigs, crawbaits, buzzbaits, shiners, minnows, nightcrawlers, and crawfish.  Smallmouth bass are often located in slightly deeper water, but don’t be surprized if you find them spawning in the spring alongside largemouth bass.  These bass are often caught on jerkbaits, spinnerbaits, drop shot worms, crankbaits, and jigs.  Try tipping a jig and grub with fathead minnow on the rocky drop-offs.  Muskie are often taken by trolling or by casting.  Larger lures are necessary for catching these monsters, but there are plenty of them in the lake.  The southern end of the lake by jamestown seems to hold more muskie than the northern end of the lake.  Try fishing behind Jamestown Island near the dam for the best muskie action.  There is an abundent amount of pan fish for any skill level to catch.  Crappie, Perch, and Bluegill can be caught on typical panfish lures and small bass lures.  The stump field by linesville launch and clark island is a great place to try to get some panfish.  At one time Pymatuning was know for its great walleye fishing.  Although the size of the fish wasn’t as good as some locations it was good for catching high numbers of walleye.  Today the walleye population is a bit lower, but the size has increased.  Whatever species of fish you desire, Pymatuning Lake is a great location to find them.




Minimum Size

Daily Limit

Walleye and Saugeye (Hybrids) Open year-round 15 inches 6 (combined species)
Bass Open year-round 12 inches 5
Muskellunge and Tiger Muskellunge (Hybrids) Open year-round 30 inches 2 (combined species)
All Other Species Open year-round No minimum None
Fishbait and Baitfish Open year-round No minimum None
Frogs and Tadpoles July 1 through Oct. 31 No minimum 15
Snapping Turtles July 1 through Oct. 31 No minimum 15 daily limit
30 possession limit
Turtles (all species other than snapping) Open year-round No minimum 2

Additional Restrictions for Pymatuning Reservoir

  • Lights or firearms may not be used to take frogs.
  • Hooks used to take turtles shall be at least 3.5 inches long with at least 1 inch space between the point and shank.
  • Spears, longbows, compound bows, and crossbows may ONLY be used to take carp and suckers.
  • Minnow seines and dip nets are restricted to 4 feet in size; mesh must measure not less than one-eighth inch, nor larger than one-half inch on a side.
  • ICE FISHING — An Ohio or Pennsylvania fishing license is recognized anywhere on the lake. It is unlawful while ice fishing to use more than five fishing devices, which may consist of rods, hand lines, tip-ups or any combination. Each device shall contain a single fishing line with no more than three hooks attached to each line. Holes cut in ice may not exceed 10 inches between the farthest points as measured in any direction. All lines, rods or tip-ups shall be under the immediate control of the person using them.




There are some good sources of information about Pymatuning Lake.  First, check the PA Fishing and Boat Commission website.  Then take a look at the Pymatuning Lake Association website.

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Berkley Powerbait Manic Shad Review

Berkley Powerbait Manic Shad

Product Type Swimbait
Tested Size(s) 3”, 4”, 5”
Tested Colors/Patterns Fathead, Firetiger, Smelt,
MSRP $5.99

manic shad Score

(1- Poor to 10 – Fantastic)






Manic Shad is very durable because the soft plastic body is medium density.  It is not easily torn and there are extra body in each pack.

“Fish Appeal”


I have experienced a lot of fish (Bass mostly) following the bait to the boat and then striking because of the action.

Special Traits


The rubber blade in the front of the lure gives it an unique action.  This blade allows it to be easily adjusted.



Because the lure is very durable and has a great action I believe that the price is very fair.



Fish in the local rivers, ponds, and lakes have shown interest, but wind or current will mess with the lures action.



See Comments Below.

RECOMMENDATIONS: First, if you purchase the manic shad, rig the lure with a barrel swivel about 8 inches up the line.  This will help eliminate line twisting.  Another thought is to use lighter line with the 3” versus a little heavier line for the 5” size.  I like 8lb test for the 3” and I used 15lb test for the 5” size.  Check your hooks before you start fishing because most of them are sharp but I found a couple that were slightly sharper than I like.  Take a file and sharpen the hook and you will be ready to catch some fish.

Berkley Powerbait Manic Shad



Action is Unique Line Twist
Durable Lack of hook-ups
Color Selection Inconsistent Hook Sharpness
Ability to be tuned
Size Availability

ABOUT THE CRITIC: You must know that I am very critical of my lures.  I only have about 3 lures that I use that would receive a perfect 50 and I personally modify those lures once I have them.  I consider any lure over 40 great and any lure over 30 good.  Anything less than 30 and you probably won’t see it in my tackle box.

First of many Smallies on 4” firetiger at Chautauqua.

First of many Smallies on 4” firetiger at Chautauqua.

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Cheap Buzzbait No Problem

“Modifying a $1.00 Wal Mart Buzzbait” This video is awesome for guys that are having trouble finding the cash to buy the $5 buzzbaits.  It proves that with simple modifications that the $1 buzzbait that you get from walmart can be just as effective.  Buzzbaits can be very successful when fishing for bass, northern pike, and muskie.  It is one of the most exciting ways to fish because of the explosive strikes.

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Lake Arthur Cranking….

Saturday my dad and I went to Lake Arthur in hopes of finding some walleye.  In my experiences on Lake Arthur I have caught many walleye while using a crankbait for bass, so we decided to try our luck at getting some walleye working crankbaits on the points, road beds and rocky shorelines. Sorry to say that we didn’t catch any walleye on this trip.  We were able to catch a few fish though. We ended up with 4 really nice crappie, a bass, a musky, and a carp.  The fish we caught came on DT-10s Yes a carp on a crankbait.   We had a scale but really didn’t have a way to measure the fish, but the musky was 13 ½ lbs and the carp was 16 ¾ lbs.  All in all it was a good day of fishing.  

muskie-0402 carp-0402

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