Bass Fishing Pennsylvania: Top 5 Places for a Weekend Trip

Whether you’ve been bass fishing your whole life, or you’re just getting started, there is nothing more exciting than fishing new bodies of water. Fishing new areas can help you develop your skills and make you a better all around angler. So, with that in mind, let’s run through the top 5 places for bass fishing Pennsylvania!

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Bass Fishing Pennsylvania: Cowanesque Lake

Cowanesque might not be well known, but it has some incredible fishing opportunities. For example, last season I participated in a 3-day bass fishing tournament held by The Tackle Shack in Wellsboro, Pennsylvania. We were suppose to fish a different lake each of the three days for the tournament, but mother nature had other plans for us, flooding out two of the three lakes. So, we were confined to Cowanesque for the tournament.

The dam held back the water until one day before the tournament, and when they opened the gates you could see the current from the main channel running through the lake. The water got incredibly dirty from all of the rain and the fish I had located before the tournament moved with the influx of rising water and current. When we located them, they were using offshore rock piles and structure to feed with the current. It was a blast, but the teams that found the best current breaks caught some giants. They won the tournament with a couple of giant bass weighing over 6 pounds.

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A beautiful 6.5-pound largemouth from Cowanesque lake. Image Credit: Jennifer Lynn

Cowy, as the locals call it, is a beautiful body of water in North-Central Pennsylvania. You can catch bass using shaky heads, chatterbaits, and jigs around the rock piles and structure. The best time of the year to chase the bigger bass is right as the post-spawn kicks into gear and the fish move out to the deeper water.

Bass Fishing Pennsylvania: Raystown Lake

Raystown Lake will always be on the list for the top lakes to fish for bass in Pennsylvania. It is the state’s largest inland body of water and has about every possible structure and cover imaginable along with different supplies of bait fish for largemouth and smallmouth to feed on! Although many anglers find Raystown to be tough to find fish throughout the year, there are plenty of bass to be caught.

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Raystown is always about fishing your strengths. With long underwater points, bluff wall’s, and shoreline timber and stumps, there are plenty of techniques you can lean on.  Raystown lies in the South-Central part of the state, so if you’re ever in the area, be sure to give it a try!

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Bass Fishing Pennsylvania: Joseph-Foster Sayers Dam

Although this is a small body of water in Central Pennsylvania, the bass are really big!

With many different offshore rock, roadbeds, and submerged timber, these bass can be caught on a variety of techniques depending on the time of year. With multiple bass weighing over 7-pounds in the last few years, this lake gives anglers the feeling that their next cast could be one that gives them a shot at the fish of a lifetime.

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A fish of a lifetime, 9.8-pounds, caught in the springtime. Image Credit: Nature Inn

The best baits are normally crawfish imitators like jigs, crankbaits, and texas rigged creature baits. Spinnerbaits and chatterbaits will also land some great fish in the spring and fall.

Bass Fishing Pennsylvania: Hammond Lake

Just down the road from Mansfield university is a little secret smallmouth lake. With plenty of shallow cover and some deep offshore structure in the way of humps and stumps, these smallmouth can be caught in a variety of ways!

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The best advice I can give, versatile and keep in tune to what is going on around you. Fish the conditions. There are plenty of smallmouth in the 4-pound range which are normally targeted with moving baits and Carolina rigs. As the water temperatures rise, target the offshore structure until the smallmouth pull up shallow to stage for the spawn. This is the best time to target them with moving baits along the shallow cover.

Bass Fishing Pennsylvania: Lake Erie

We’ve saved the best for last. Lake Erie out of Presque Isle Bay features the best smallmouth fishing the state of Pennsylvania has to offer. Whether you’re targeting the bay, or headed out into the big water, there are monster smallmouth to be caught, and plenty of them to go around! The bay also offers numbers of largemouth in three 3 to 5-pound range.

Be sure to watch the weather closely if you’re planning on running out into the main lake as it can get nasty pretty quickly, but on calm days, dropshots and tubes work wonders. For the bay, any style flipping bait in the grass can lead to some great bites as well. If you’re looking for an inside scoop, be sure to check in with MLF Pro, Dave Lefebre, who actually lives on the lake!

You can watch an episode from the ANGLR Tour on Lake Erie below!

Steelhead Fishing with ANGLR Expert Nolan Minor

While everyone has a few crazy fishing tales to tell, steelhead fishing in the tributaries of Lake Erie in the fall seems to really draw an interesting crowd. So much so, that these anglers wind up a sort of combat, fishing shoulder to shoulder. ANGLR Expert, Nolan Minor had a few fun tales to tell when we chatted with him the other day. He was getting ready to head up to the Great Lake with his buddies and was reminiscing on some of their experiences up there.

Steelhead Fishing: A Whole Different Experience

I like Steelhead fishing in the tributaries of Erie, even though sometimes it’s sort of like going to Walmart. The fish are still there, but the environment is a little different from what you would find elsewhere. The creeks are smaller, and you’re sort of surrounded by colorful, yet rough characters. We chalk all of that up to being a part of the experience. Not only do we get to catch a bunch of awesome fish, but we get in some quality people watching during the process.

In Erie, fishing for steelhead is what they call “combat fishing.” There are so many people out there fishing. It’s not uncommon to be fishing a pool with 25 other people around you, making it pretty close quarters. It’s never pretty, and there are usually guys shoulder to shoulder, but everyone is usually pretty cool about it. When someone hooks a fish, people are pretty respectful and bring their lines in to let the person land their fish before going back to what they were doing. Some people are less talkative than others, but it’s usually a pretty good time.

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My buddy has a video he took of this ‘character’ while we were fishing under a bridge. He had hooked a fish and took off running. He wasn’t only following the fish, but he was being kind of a nut. His boots were full of water, so he was squeaking as he went running through this crowd of people under the bridge. We still refer to him as “Squeaky Boots.”

I usually like to observe what people are doing for a few minutes to see what casts they’re making to make sure I don’t interfere before I step in. On another trip up there, we had found a pool with about 30 fish under an overhanging tree. No one was fishing right under that tree, so I slid in there. I had about six different fish come and chase my bait on the first cast, which told me those fish hadn’t seen a bait in a while. 

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I hooked one and lost one, then I caught one. I called my buddy over and he caught one. Two older men fishing up stream from us decided to leave and were obviously furious with us, expressing their concerns verbally. They told us that we were fishing too closely, and that we didn’t ask to come fish near them. I tried not to really engage with them. Really, what it was about was that those guys weren’t catching anything and us young guys walked in and started catching fish right away. It hurt their feelings and their pride, so they felt like they had to say something. Everyone around us commented the same sentiments after they left. That’s really the only verbal confrontation that I’ve ever seen on the creek, which is amazing, considering all the combat fishing that’s going on.

Things like that happen at least once every trip up there. In addition to the fish themselves, things like that are part of what make the trip.   

Nolan’s Very First Steelhead

When I caught my first steel, we were fishing at the “tubes;” two large culverts that tunnel underneath a set of train tracks. There are usually a bunch of steelhead under there because it’s cool, dark, and protected. There were some pretty large logs in the water under the tunnels and I could see some fish hanging around them. We had already spent three hours looking for fish and I hadn’t caught one yet ‘till we came upon this pool.

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Well, I hooked this fish, but was using 6 pound test line, so there wasn’t really much I could do to steer it away from snags. It decided it was going to head into these downed trees and ran around one branch before taking off in the opposite direction. The fish wound up 30” from the tree, but my line was going around the tree. Then it got caught up on something, so I couldn’t pull him back around the tree. I’m shocked my line didn’t break off because it became so stuck in there.

The fish must have decided that he wasn’t hooked anymore, so he just swam over to the tree and was sort of just hanging out. At first we thought he wasn’t hooked anymore, but then I could still see my hook with the line hanging out of his mouth with my bait.

We had to take a different rod and snag the line to get it closer to us. We managed to get him about halfway to us, but the line got hung up again so we couldn’t get him any closer. We had to take a third line to snag the second line to pull him close enough to us to net him. By that point we had a crowd around us watching these shenanigans, but we got that fish! He was average size, which is around 21-22 inches; about a three pound fish.

That was my first steelhead, and it’s kind of a fitting way to have caught one in Erie, PA. There’s nothing bright and flashy. You just have to do what you have to do.

Locating Bass Ice Fishing Lake Arthur With Gus Glasgow

The ice season can be some of the most exciting times to get out there and go after your fish of choice. Sometimes, you may even stumble across a school of fish you weren’t expecting to find. That’s what happened to ANGLR Expert, Gus Glasgow up on Lake Arthur in Western Pennsylvania a few years back. He was out targeting crappies and ran into a school of smallmouth bass ice fishing. The best part? they seem to have taken up residence in that spot, year after year.

Glasgow has been fishing since he was a little kid. His uncle was a passionate fishermen, and got him hooked on ice fishing. He took Glasgow out for the first time around the age of six, and he loved it. His mom wasn’t so keen on the idea since there wasn’t really any emphasis on safety back then.

“If you saw water squirting up, you just took a bigger step over the hole,” Glasgow shared.

The Premier Western PA Ice Fishing Destination

While Glasgow resides not too far from Presque Isle, Lake Erie, he favors the more popular Lake Arthur for ice fishing. “Presque Isle is so iffy on the ice, more people go to Lake Arthur.” It’s like the ultimate ice fishing destination spot for all of Western PA.

Anglers make the trek up from Pittsburgh, Ohio, and even West Virginia to get some ice time. It’s usually the first lake with ice, the lake with the most ice, and the lake with the safest ice.

“Due to the geological location and the surrounding hills, it’s the best and safest place to go,” You can’t beat that!

How To Find the Fish You’re Not Looking For

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He ice fishes almost exclusively for panfish these days but stumbled upon a little secret a few years back while going after crappie. “It’s a really rare thing to catch smallmouth bass ice fishing. The only reason I even came across them was because I happened upon a spot that apparently the bass wintered in.” He was on the upper end of Lake Arthur along one of the three main fingers where ice fishing is generally practiced: Muddy Creek, the Propagation Finger, and Shannon’s. That’s where the majority of anglers go after panfish, Muskie, and Pike.

Earlier in the season, you’re more likely to catch crappie in the shallower ends of the lake near brush piles, rock piles, and weed edges.. As the season goes on and more fish have been caught, their numbers start to dwindle and they head further out to deeper water. Glasgow thought he was following those crappie as they headed closer to the main body of water, looking at some brush piles and rock piles over open water near main lake points. He started finding groups of wintering smallmouth in about 10-12 feet of water in a brush pile near two rocks.

“It’s rare to catch smallmouth at Lake Arthur, period. It’s very rare to catch them through the ice, and extremely rare to have a spot that produces high numbers. It’s a real oddity, but they fight just as hard through the ice as they do through the summertime.”

Thinking this was just a fluke, he’s actually stumbled across another location on the same lake, finding similar groups of smallmouth. He’s able to catch them in these locations over and over again. Both locations are very similar in that they consist of a brush pile near rock structure over a hard bottom. “But it’s really only those two locations on Lake Arthur where I’ve found those conditions, but I can go out and consistently catch six to ten in a short period of time, which is an oddity when it comes to bass.”

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Smallmouth Bass Ice Fishing Gear

When he had happened upon the surprise bass, Glasgow had been using microplastics, Fiskas tungsten jigs tipped with a maggot, and a dead-stick minnow, all with 32” ice noodle rods with 2-3 pound Gamma fluorocarbon ice line, in his effort to chase panfish when he caught a surprise, instead.

“I caught them on a jig, and I wasn’t paying attention to my deadstick rod. I looked over, and it was sliding across the ice about to go down the hole,” he reminisced.

Smallmouth have a tremendous amount of fight when compared to largemouth bass.

“They fight extremely hard in the wintertime.” Once he noticed that he was consistently able to get into these bass ice fishing, he took a friend along. “I warned him, ‘do not leave your rod near the hole unattended because these smallmouth are nuts.’ He didn’t believe me. His rod took off within seconds and he lost it down the hole.” He jokes about the fish’s wintertime fight. “If they could jump, they would. A couple of times I’ve felt like they’ve probably jumped and smacked the ice.”

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Now that he knows he’s going to go for these smallmouth, Glasgow still uses the same rigging as he does for the panfish. Occasionally he’ll grab a Northland Forage Minnow spoon, though he’s still using his four and five-millimeter Fiskas jigs.

Ice Fishing Technology

This seasoned angler laments the lack of technology that affordably pairs fish-finding technology and tracking with GPS, making it difficult to readily track your catches, but he believes that the ANGLR Bullseye could easily bridge that gap in the future. Glasgow uses the Bullseye with the ANGLR App when ice fishing and likes the fact that you can easily share your catches, your story, and your map.

If you want to make your catches public, you can, but you can also keep all of your data completely private! You can share where you were, how you caught them. “Before you just had a pen and paper at home your wrote these things in like a diary,” he reminisces. “Most people don’t want to do that.”

Glasgow ponders on why he keeps finding the bass ice fishing where he does. “I think there’s an abundance of crawfish there, which they’re still feeding on in the wintertime. They’re also ambushing minnows when they have the option, so they’re relating near the brush, but the hard bottom is what keeps them there. He noticed that the second spot was almost exactly the same as the first. He happened upon it the same way, too. It was also an area he had historically had a lot of luck with crappie.

“They have almost the same structure; a rock shoreline with a lot of rock bottom with a brush pile on top of it. They just hang out in that brush pile on top of the rocks.”

So it seems it’s probably a good modus operandi to take a lesson from the Boy Scouts. Be Prepared. You never know what you’re going to run into and how much fun you’ll have on the ice!

Fishing for Steelhead with ANGLR Expert Nolan Minor

In the corner of northwest Pennsylvania lies the next best thing to a vast ocean: one of the Great Lakes, Lake Erie. With its almost tidal surf and vast, dark, deep waters, it’s an angler’s dream. From roaming schools of smallmouth, giant walleye, and the hard fighting steelhead, Lake Erie has a species for any angler!

We caught up with ANGLR Expert, Nolan Minor just as he was returning home from a trip to the outfitters. The Virginia native was gearing up for a trek from his home in Morgantown, West Virginia to travel three hours to Erie. He and his buddies were heading out fishing for steelhead.

What Makes Fishing for Steelhead in Erie so Unique?

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Steelhead is a rainbow trout, but what makes it unique is that it’s migratory, similar to salmon. They live out in the ocean, or Great Lakes in this case, for the first two to three years of their lives before they make their first trip back in the streams to spawn. Unlike trout, they don’t meet their demise in the rivers, but are able to return to the lake in the spring.

They live their lives out in the vast lake, only concerned about food, but then one day something clicks in their brain and they decide they need to go spawn, so they begin to head to the creeks sometime around the end of September, early October. They keep flooding up the creeks until December. That’s where they’ll remain until the spring, when they return back to the open waters. Their life cycle is similar to their cousins’ out in the Pacific Northwest: Washington, Oregon, British Columbia, where the biggest difference is that those steelhead live most of their lives out in the open ocean.

There are two main creeks that harbor the majority of steelhead as they make their spawn run: Walnut Creek and Elk Creek.

An average Erie steelhead is usually around 21-22 inches and about three pounds, maybe a little less. Most of the fish we catch there are around that size. The largest one I’ve caught so far was 28 inches. That’s not that large of a fish, but it was really fat and weighed about seven and a half pounds. The smaller jacks are usually around 17-18 inches, but they’re less common.

When I Got That First Bite… I Was Hooked

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I didn’t know what to expect on my first trip. I had done a lot of trout fishing in rivers and streams down in Virginia. My skills transferred over pretty smoothly. Fishing for trout and steelhead is closely related. The two fish’s behaviors are very similar, the baits they each take are almost the same, so tackle is similar as well.

This is a huge fish that’s a very aggressive fighter. It’s sort of one of the coveted freshwater fish to pursue. Growing up in Virginia, I hadn’t had an opportunity to go fishing for steelhead before my college years. With Erie being so close [at three hours away], I had to try. My buddy goes regularly, so he took me up there for my first time during my freshman year. Three or four of us still get together and head up to Erie for a long weekend as often as we can. Being college students and members of the West Virginia Fishing Bass Team, it’s difficult but we still manage to make it up two to three times a year.

Because I’m still in school, I’m really only able to get up there about two to three times a year. I’d love to go more often if I was close enough to take a day trip through the weekdays. Fishing pressure is a big factor to your success. When it’s busy, for every 40 fish you see, you may catch one.

Usually about 90% of the fish are being caught by about 10% of the anglers.

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Gearing up when Fishing for Steelhead

Most anglers up in Erie fish with noodle rods. I’ve never used one because I was used to trout fishing on creeks in Virginia. I use a shorter 6’6″ light action rod, pretty light tackle. When we’re up there, we’re catching more fish than most people, so we must be doing something right. In the larger rivers like in the Pacific Northwest, a longer rod is necessary to keep your line off of the water, but these creeks are so little, so you don’t need that length. It’s such tight quarters in the trees and under bridges. The trees are actually covered in hooks, line, and bobbers. This is similar to fishing for stream trout; you have to cater your gear to the environment you’re fishing in.

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We fish our baits underneath a small split-shot float. We’ll use single eggs, and we’ll use spawn bags, it really depends on what the fish are telling us. Some people use minnows or worms. We use a light line and an 8-14 hook, depending on the bait and conditions. Typically, the clearer the water, the smaller the equipment. We’ll use small jigs, and will grab a trout magnet a lot. Another staple of ours is a three inch pink trout worm. It’s the ‘Wacky Senko’ of trout fishing. Since the water is so small, we typically use smaller stuff.

Some people tend to overcomplicate things, but fishing for steelhead is pretty simple. Unlike bass fishing, you only have a handful of different baits and 3 or 4 color choices for most situations.

The fishing changes from day to day, based on the conditions. That’ll determine the bait or technique that works best for the day. There’s no bait that’ll be any better day in and day out.

You’ve got to have a drag-free drift under your float. That’s the key to being successful. You need that bait to be floating in a natural way. That’s the biggest fundamental, and once you have that mastered, you’ve got it. You’ll have your bait underneath your float, then use small split-shot weights to balance things out. Starting with a larger one, tapering off to a smaller weight closest to your bait since you want your bait to drift a little in front of the bobber to get that drag-free drift; a more natural drift, which is the key to getting a bite.

Steelhead sit up off of the bottom a little bit, and you want that bait to be drifting so they don’t have to move very far to eat it. You almost want it to hit them on the nose, since food is not their main priority when they come into the creek. While you can typically see 30-40 fish in the water at a time, they’re not always taking the bait, so you have to be patient, and present it to them in such a way that they can’t say no.

While landing these fish is exciting, it’s the time spent in the crowds of people that flock to Erie during this time that really makes the outing unique. I will be talking about my experiences fishing off of Lake Erie in our next Steelhead Edition. Make sure to catch it!

Western PA Hardwater Series – Ice Fishing Tournaments for Everybody

Move over bass tournament series, there’s a new kid in town. 2019 will mark the third full season for the Western PA Hardwater series, and each year it gets bigger and better.

Organized by tournament angler and ANGLR Expert, Gus Glasgow, this one of a kind ice fishing tournament series looks forward to its biggest kickoff so far with five events planned.

Glasgow had previously fished in three ice fishing tournaments. One was a professional event in Michigan and two on Lake Arthur. Those two were organized by Billy Hines for the Slippery Rock University Bass Fishing team as an open fundraiser. Glasgow can’t remember there ever being an ice tournament anywhere on Lake Arthur prior to that. So why not create one?!


What is the Western PA Hardwater Series?

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Hosted by the Western PA Tournament Fishing Association, the Western PA Hardwater is a series of ice fishing tournaments held across western PA. It’s the region’s only competitive ice fishing events for both amateur and professional anglers.

While there are a variety of ice fishing tournaments across the United States, there are really only a couple of tournament series for ice fishing. Being the only ice fishing series in the state of Pennsylvania makes the WPA Hardwater pretty unique. There are one or two in New York, a few in Vermont, and The Elite North American Ice Fishing Circuit is all the way out in the midwest, traveling around through multiple states.

“Someday we hope to grow big enough that we could consider doing that on this side of the country,” Glasgow pondered.

The series offers a collection of five tournaments located on five different lakes, including one two-day event on Presque Isle.

January 5th – Lake Arthur (Butler)

January 19th – Kahle Lake (Emlenton)

February 2nd – Sayers Lake (Howard)

February 16th-17th – Presque Isle Bay (Erie)

March 2nd – Pymatuning Lake (Linesville)

The Sayers Lake location in Central Pennsylvania was added this year as a step towards expansion in the future.

“Last year’s series brought in an average of 30 to 40 teams,” began Glasgow. “This year, based on the impact we had last year, we expect to easily double that, if not triple it.” He explains why:

“We had some really successful events last year, so we were able to turn around and reinvest back into marketing and advertising to really promote the series and get the word out.”

In the past, the WPA Tournament Fishing Association had relied heavily on word-of-mouth.

Anyone that wants to fish is welcome. “Anyone that has a desire is able to ice fish. Anyone can go get a rod and reel. They’re not expensive, so anyone can do it and be successful,” he says. “We’ve had a lot of father-son teams, and a lot of husband-wife teams, and a couple of female partnered teams. We’ve even had mother and son teams.” Diversity like that is really not something that you see so often in many other forms of competitions.

What to Expect of an Ice Tournament?

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Glasgow describes the ice fishing tournaments as being unique from other tournaments, ice aside. “They’re a lot of fun and friendly. These guys actually share information.” The atmosphere tends to be more relaxed than typical bass tournaments. No one is trying to hide information. You can literally walk right up next to someone fishing and watch what they’re doing and ask them questions. They’ll tell you all about what they’ve tried, what’s working, and what’s not.

Sometimes some anglers will be a little protective of what they’re doing in their spots, but anyone else can walk up next to or near your hole, so there’s no way to hide anything.

“Everything you do is in plain view and in the open, so we know where the guys are that are winning. We know what they’re doing and where they’re fishing, and everyone can share that.”

Unlike bass tournaments, one of the rules that Glasgow intentionally left out was the “no cell phone” rule. “We allow them to share information, and we openly want them to,” he said.

Glasgow recalls the event on Kahle Lake during the series’ first year. “It was about two in the afternoon, and we were to weigh in at three. All of the sudden, out of the 40 competitors we had, I saw about 20 of them pick up all their gear and almost sprint to one area. I’ve never seen anything like it! It was comical,” he reminisced as he wondered where everyone was going.

Here, one of the anglers was having success in this particular area and told his buddy, who told another. “Suddenly everyone packed up and moved to that one spot.” They all wound up catching fish when the beans were spilled, after a day where the lake hadn’t been fishing well all day.

“You can still run into the same handful of guys that tend to do really well,” he began, “but we’ve had teams that have never fished in a tournament before win!”

Ice Fishing is for Everyone

The WPA Tournament Fishing Association really appreciates the help that they get from their sponsors. They have a collection of great sponsors already, and several more came on board this year, donating products and prizes. ANGLR Labs, the creators of the super-helpful fishing tracker app is one of this year’s featured sponsors.

Everyone has a chance to be a winner. “We have one big item for each event that we save as a drawing, not as a fish catch prize. We’ll draw one random name out of the contestants for that event.” That means that literally everyone that participates can have a chance to win something, regardless of how they fish.

The first event is set to kick off on January 5th on Lake Arthur. Registration begins at 5:00 am, with the event beginning at “faint light.”

Safety is a primary concern, so the schedule may be subject to change, depending on the ice conditions on the water. All fishermen are required to wear an awl at all times on the ice. They also must either have life jackets within reach at all times, or be wearing a float suit, such as those made by Striker. The suit consists of a jacket and bibs that float, as an extra safety precaution.

Can Spectators . . . Well . . . Spectate?

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They sure can! This series gets a surprising number of people that show up to watch the events, cheering on their favorite angler.

On top of that, every single fisherman stays behind to watch the rest of the event and cheer their friends on. Warm weather tournaments tend to lose a lot of the anglers that don’t do well early on. “A lot of times, they’ve already loaded up their boats and are headed home, even before the official weigh-in time. Usually the only guys that tend to stick around are the top contenders that think they may have won a prize,” Glasgow explains.

With ice fishing, everyone that fishes in the tournament stays to watch the weigh-in. A lot of aunts and uncles, friends, siblings,  and cousins come out to watch the weigh-in, too. “For a lot of these guys, this is their first official step into any kind of tournament.”

In a time of the year when most of the general population is hibernating, ice fishing is fascinating to the rest of the public. News and journalists and videographers can usually be seen at several of the events.

All of the details are located on their page,, and you can stay up-to-date  with news and events information on their Facebook page, Western PA Hardwater Tournament Series.