One of the Greatest Fishing Experiences in the Northeast:
Bass, muskies, walleye, trout & channel cats
By Sandie Corbin Biddle
Sparky Price has been fishing Raystown waters since he was a boy, knee-high to the champion stripers he’s landed during his career. Owner of Trophy Guide Service for 35 years, Sparky has been asked every question about the lake and its fish hundreds of times. Maybe thousands. He’s lost count. And he knows all the answers.
Recently he pulled out with a boatload of fishermen from Philly and after puttering a few feet into the lake, stopped, reversed, slowed, and, looking very serious, said, “Let’s get this out of the way first.” After an expectant pause, he continued with a smile, “Raystown Lake is the largest lake contained in Pennsylvania. It’s about 30 miles long with 118 miles of shoreline. It’s an average of 100 feet deep, 180 in some places. And the stripers are not the hybrids, they’re the real saltwater species that adapted to fresh water. Now, did I answer all your questions?
They smiled and one man said with a laugh, “That was everything on my list!”
“Then let’s go fishin’,” Sparky said. It was another great day on Raystown Lake.
Easily one of the greatest fishing experiences in the northeast, the lake has more species of fish than most U.S. lakes, including stripers, muskies, lake trout, large- and small-mouth bass, channel cats, walleyes, brown trout, white and yellow perch, crappies, carp, bluegills, and, well, you get the idea.
Sparky still holds the PA record for a striper at 53 lb. 12 oz. Call them stripers, striped bass, or rockfish, they are Raystown’s biggest fishing attraction. Though you’ll find them in other PA lakes, all the state records were caught here. Sparky’s set four state records himself.
Stripers from March to December
Lucky for us, Sparky decided to lend plenty of his wisdom for this article. Read on for a fighting chance at landing your own big ones at Raystown Lake, Pennsylvania.
Stripers can be caught from March through December by targeting your approach.
Early spring casting lures on the shallow flats on the southern end of the lake will produce the year’s first stripers.
By mid-May, the entire lake is active. Live bait such as alwife, shad, trout, and shiners are the baits of choice.
Late May through the summer months, the Seven Points area and north to the dam is the area to fish for stripers.
The easiest place to catch bait is in the Snyder’s Run Boat Launch area, from 3 a.m. until daylight. Sparky says you’ll need a light, a throw net, and a good bait tank.
In the summer, beginners will do best around the dam and mile marker #1.For serious striper fishing, go out on summer nights for the 30- to 50-pounders. This takes down riggers, a vast variety of lures, and an extreme knowledge of the lake, because of all the underwater standing trees.
Muskies & Walleyes & Trout, oh, boy!
Huge stripers, 40-pound muskies, and walleyes over 15 pounds are caught at night every summer.
“The fall is always exciting, from mid-September until Thanksgiving,” Sparky said. “Anything can happen anywhere.” Now it’s all daylight fishing. Bait fishing, trolling deep diving lures, or umbrella rigs will all work.
Sparky’s TGS clients have caught huge muskies more than 50 inches and 40+ pounds – at night in the summer or daytime on the fall. The big ones are caught by trolling. Sparky said, “Fall can be intense!”
Lake trout can be caught all year from Seven Points Marina to the dam. Both downrigger fishing with spoons or bait fishing work well.
The large- and small-mouth bass are Raystown’s structure-oriented fish. Trees, weed beds, and rocky points are all favorable targets. The entire lake is good bass fishing, but the southern half offers easier fishing because of water clarity. Early morning and evening fishing with surface-style bait will work. During the day, he recommends deeper in the underwater weeds and trees.
Panfish and channel cats hang out all through the lake. Mile marker #12 to the southern end of the lake seems to be much easier to fish for these. “To catch a lot of catties, use cut bait and stink baits,” Sparky advises.
The most commonly stocked fish are stripers, lake trout, and walleyes. Along with panfish and catties, they’re all good eating. The bass should be released to replenish the lake for future fishermen.
Quit wishin’ & let’s go fishin’
Raystown hasn’t hosted any large national striper tournaments since the conclusion of the National Striper organization. However, if you like competition fishing, there are a number of local clubs that hold tournaments. Sparky notes that most of the pros and full-time striper guys don’t sign up so everyone “gets a fair chance to compete and have fun.”
Sparky believes that Raystown is one of the best fisheries in the U.S. “But it can also be very humbling!
“I want everyone to enjoy Raystown as I have all my life. May God bless all your visits to beautiful Raystown Lake.”
Sparky Price is owner of Trophy Guide Service, 814-627-5231, http://www.trophyguide.com