Second only to trout, black bass are the most popular sportfish in Pennsylvania. And the season for them kickes off this Saturday - minus the crowds of the trout opener.
The bass season opened with a creel limit of six and a minimum size limit of 12 inches. Despite this, most bass anglers wisely practice catch-and-release. It’s not because largemouth and smallmouth bass aren’t good eating, because they are. It’s because they’re more fun to catch-and-release as they can be caught again another day, especially when using lures as compared to live bait which could be swallowed and injuring the fish.
While smallmouth bass are predominately a river and stream fish, they can be caught in any one of Pennsylvania’s 4,000 lakes and reservoirs, most of which contain both bass species says the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission (PF&BC).
Of that number and for those new to the area, here are the more popular local waters that hold bass.
Blue Marsh Lake is the largest lake in the county where motorboats with unlimited horsepower can be used. It’s located off Route 222 northwest of Reading and in the area of Bernville.
Then there’s Ontelaunee Reservoir, also located off Route 222 in Maiden Creek Township. This impoundment has to be fished from shore (or wading) as no boats or watercraft are allowed. This lake probably holds the largest bass of any lake around this and other counties mainly because access is limited. Incidentally, you may latch onto a snakehead fish. If you do, it’s recommended it be dispatched as it’s an invasive species that no one seems to know how they got in the lake.
Lake Nockamixon, located between routes 313 and 412 outside of Quakertown, this expansive lake has a 10-hp limit on outboard motors. It has an extensive shoreline that contains good fish structure. It’s the premier lake in this county as it contains hybrid striped bass as well.
Beltzville Lake is an elongated lake that has no power limit for boats and is a popular bass water with Preachers Camp area being one of the hotspots. It’s located off the Northeast Extension of the PA Turnpike outside Lehighton.
Mauch Chunk Lake is much smaller in size (330 acres) as are the bass there. While there are some lunkers, many of the fish are on the stunted size but still fun to catch and release. Chunk is located on Lentz Trail Road west of Jim Thorpe.
Leaser Lake is producing some lunker bass but must be immediately released as only trout may be kept. Huge muskies too are being caught and they must also be released.
Locust and Tuscarora lakes, located west of Barnesville near Route 52, offer 52 acres of fishing at Locust Lake and 100 at Tuscarora. Both hold good populations of largemouths, albeit small ones with an occasional keeper.
If you don’t mind driving a little farther, Shohola Lake is prime bassin’ waters in that it’s shallow and loaded with above water structure. It holds some 8-pound largemouths. This is an electric motor-only lake that’s located off Route 6 between Milford and Lake Wallenpaupak. When bass fishing there many moons ago, I caught/released a huge snapping turtle that hit my white spinner bait.
This is but a fingernail summary of some of the local favored bass fishing waters. But don’t overlook farm ponds. You may be surprised as to the size of bass in these small waters.
Nick Hromiak has been an outdoors and automotive writer for over 30 years. He's been published in numerous national and state-wide outdoor magazines and newspapers.