Raystown Lake is the largest lake that lies entirely within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and also one of the state’s best fishing lakes. Few lakes in Pennsylvania offer a greater diversity of fish species and angling opportunities.
Spanning 8,300 acres, Raystown Lake is an impoundment of the Raystown Branch Juniata River. It’s a long, meandering reservoir that coils, snake-like, between Appalachian ridges, stretching close to 30 miles end-to-end.
Raystown Lake is 200 feet deep at its deepest point near the dam at the northeast end. This lower area of the lake is generally rocky and clear, whereas the upper (i.e., southwest) end of the lake is more riverine, with weed beds, standing timber, and somewhat more turbid water.
Perhaps best known for its abundant landlocked striped bass, Raystown Lake also offers excellent fishing for a wide range of game fish. It’s the type of lake where you never quite know what will be at the end of your line.
Raytown Lake Striper Fishing
Raystown Lake is arguably the best striped bass lake in Pennsylvania. The PA Fish & Boat Commission stocks over 100,000 striped bass fingerlings here every year, and Raystown Lake has developed into an exceptional landlocked striper lake.
Striped bass are the biggest fish in Raystown Lake.
Pennsylvania’s monstrous 53-pound, 12-ounce state record striper was caught here in 1994. Fish of that stature are once in a lifetime, but Raystown continues to kick out a few 20-pound linesides every year.
Striped bass prefer temperatures between 55 and 68 degrees, and they spend the warmest and coldest parts of the year hunkered down in the main lake, usually in the deepest areas near the dam.
Spring and fall, when temps are more moderate, are the prime striper seasons.
Although they aren’t known to reproduce naturally here, stripers still make a good run at it, migrating toward the upper end of the lake every spring. From March to May, the best striper action is above Tatman Run.
Crankbaits and jerkbaits catch a lot of stripers in fairly shallow water this time of year.
Points and the mouths of coves are good areas to target, as stripers frequently use structure to corral schools of shad.
Raystown Lake striped bass disperse throughout the lake in May, and by mid-summer, the best approach is to troll from the mouth of Great Trough Creek down to the dam. Summertime stripers are most often caught right around the thermocline between 25 and 30 feet.
Trolling with plugs, spinners, spoons and live shad is the go-to tactic in summer. You can also start by looking for clouds of baitfish on your electronics, and then jig or drift live bait around the outskirts of the bait ball.
As the lake cools off in fall, stripers can show up practically anywhere. Creek mouths, channel swings and standing timber are prime areas, with spoons and Rat-L-Traps being some of the best fall lures.
Fall is often the best season to take advantage of surface action. Some days, you’ll spot stripers blowing up on shad along the surface. You can catch some good fish by casting into the midst of the commotion.
More: Including Raystown, we’ve compiled a guide to all of the best striper lakes and rivers in PA.
Raystown Lake Bass Fishing
Raystown Lake is one of the best bass lakes in Pennsylvania, with abundant populations of both largemouth and smallmouth bass. Anglers have a good shot at catching 5-pounders of either species.
The month of May is arguably the best time to be on the water. This is partly due to the bass’ reproductive cycle—they’ll be in pre-spawn mode early in the month, and generally spawn mid to late May—but also because of Pennsylvania’s fishing regulations and seasons.
Raystown Lake is a very popular lake for bass tournaments. But no tournaments are permitted during the catch-and-release only season from April 8 through June 9, making this the perfect window for anglers who don’t mind returning their catch to the lake.
As a general rule, you’ll catch more largemouths in Raystown Lake’s weedy bays and creeks. In contrast, smallmouths favor main lake areas, especially toward the lower end of the lake, where the water is clearest and rocky structure is abundant.
The Seven Points area is at the top of the list of great smallmouth spots on Raystown Lake. The Cliffs area, where exposed rock faces plunge straight down into the water, is also known as a consistent smallmouth haunt.
Smallmouths favor 10- to 15-foot depths throughout much of the season. Anglers frequently catch them using tube jigs and drop-shot-rigged soft plastics close to the bottom. A jerkbait or spinnerbait can also be excellent when smallies key in on baitfish.
For largemouths, some of the best areas include James Creek and Shy Beaver Creek, where extensive weed beds develop over the course of the season. Try running a crankbait or spinnerbait over the tops of submerged weed beds, or work the edges with soft plastics.
There are also several hard-bottomed flats toward the upper end of the lake, above Shy Beaver, that produce a lot of largemouths. You’re likely to tempt some of them with a buzzbait early or late in the day.
More: We have Raystown Lake in not just one best bass fishing articles for Pennsylvania. Check out both our largemouth and our smallmouth listings.
Find more about tactics that catch both largemouth and smallmouth bass, read our easy bass fishing how-to guide.
Raystown Lake Walleye Fishing
You’re likely to hear mixed reports about Raystown Lake walleye fishing. Some local anglers consistently walk away with hefty limits of chunky 5-pound ‘eyes, while others may scratch their heads and wonder if there are walleye in this lake at all.
To put it simply, they’re in there. But finding them is the trick, as walleye have a tendency to be nomadic in Raystown Lake, following schools of shad and alewives up and down the reservoir.
One pattern that seems to be quite consistent is that the night bite is best. Pulling Rapalas up and down the flats in the midsection of the lake after dark tends to be the most reliable way to put some walleye in your livewell.
Raystown Lake’s walleye population is sustained through a combination of stocking and natural reproduction. The Fish & Boat Commission stocks anywhere from 80,000 to 300,000 walleye fingerlings every year.
Walleye spawn in spring, primarily in feeder creeks in the middle section of Raystown Lake. Great Trough Creek is arguably the top walleye spawning stream, but it’s not the only one.
Walleye fishing is not allowed from March 15 to May 5 to protect the fish while spawning. As soon as the season opens, Great Trough Creek gets a lot of angling attention. The Pee Wee Island area, located in the arm formed by James Creek, also has potential.
For catching walleye on the main lake, the stretch of flats from Great Trough Creek up to around Tatman Run offers some of the best opportunities. Troll in 8 to 15 feet of water, focusing on points, weed edges and flats with timber.
Walleye are also common in the Raystown Branch Juniata River, and an excellent tailwater fishery is available below the Raystown Dam. Some hefty walleye are pulled out of the river every spring and fall.
More: Raystown Lake is rated an honorable mention on our list of best walleye fishing lakes and rivers in Pennsylvania. See what other waters made the cut.
Also, check out our simple guide to walleye fishing techniques and tips, including lure and bait ideas.
Other Fish Species
Raystown Lake offers a diverse fishery that includes several additional game fish species. Other common catches in the lake include…
Raystown Lake produces some beautiful lake trout, including lots of healthy fish that top 24 inches and weigh 5-plus pounds. An occasional big brown trout turns up in anglers’ catches as well, likely washed downriver from nearby stocked trout streams.
The PA Fish & Boat Commission stocks yearling lake trout in Raystown Lake every year.
Lake trout favor temperatures as cold as the 40s, and catching them here almost always requires deep-water trolling.
Look for lake trout around schools of baitfish on the main lake, along deep points and drop-offs, and at the mouths of bays. Depths around 60 to 75 feet are a good place to start, though fish may be even deeper.
Once Raystown Lake stratifies, the best option is to identify the thermocline and fish right around that depth.
Anglers use downriggers to get baits down to the desired running depth, and large spoons like Michigan Stingers are the bait of choice for Raystown lake trout fishing.
Lake trout are seldom caught from the bank, but it’s possible in late fall and early spring. During years when the lake freezes over, lake trout can also be caught through the ice.
Catch More Trout
Learn some of the top fishing techniques in our easy guide to trout fishing.
Interested in Pennsylvania’s best trout fishing streams?
Raystown Lake has a prolific channel catfish population, with abundant eating-size fish weighing 1 to 3 pounds. Some much bigger cats are also available, and it’s not uncommon to hook into a 10-pounder.
Spring through summer offer excellent catfish angling, with the exception of a week or two at the end of June, when Raystown Lake catfish are spawning and have things other than food on their minds.
Coves and inlets are the best areas to fish, and channel cats are more likely to be shallow at night.
Fishing after dark can be excellent on summer nights, but lots of catfish are caught during daylight hours on Raystown Lake as well. Some cloud cover and a light chop on the water tend to help the daytime bite.
Any smelly, natural bait can get the job done. Chicken livers and live nightcrawlers are perennial favorites, and a wide range of catfish dough baits are also effective.
Some of the best areas include the coves around James Creek and the Aitch boat launch, along with Tatman Run and Snyder’s Run. The upper end of the lake around Weaver Bridge (Logging Road 31019) can also be excellent.
Catch More Catfish
We have compiled a list of the best catfish fishing lakes and rivers in Pennsylvania.
We also have a how-to guide for catfish fishing that covers bait, tackle and techniques.
Crappie fishing is known to be a little hit-or-miss in Raystown Lake. Chalk it up to the cyclical nature of crappie populations or the large size of the lake, which gives papermouths plenty of places to hide.
But on a warm spring day, it’s not uncommon to see folks walk away from the lake with pails of feisty 10- to 14-inch crappies.
These fish are drawn into shallow areas as early as March when the lake begins to warm, and there’s often a good nearshore bite through May.
Early in the spring, dark-bottomed backwaters warm fastest, drawing crappies like a magnet. If there’s some rock or wood to absorb heat and provide cover, so much the better. Crappies spawn in shallow brush and timber in late April to early May.
Shy Beaver Creek is the best-known area for Raystown Lake crappie fishing. The Aitch boat launch is a popular spot for shore fishing, and the Great Trough Creek and Brumbaugh Crossing areas also produce solid spring catches.
For crappie bait, it doesn’t get much better than a small minnow suspended on an Aberdeen hook beneath a float. A wide range of small jigs are also effective, with chartreuse being one of the most reliable colors.
Catch More Crappie
Find the top crappie fishing lakes and bays in Pennsylvania.
Now, catch more of them with the top lure and bait tips and techniques.
Muskellunge are elusive in Raystown Lake, but some impressive fish are pulled out of the reservoir every year. Numbers here aren’t quite enough to make Raystown one of Pennsylvania’s best muskie lakes, but some solid 40- to 45-pound fish are available.
The Fish & Boat Commission stocks pure strain muskellunge in Raystown Lake as well as tiger muskies, which are a hybrid species between true muskellunge and northern pike.
Muskies tend to be scattered throughout the lake, and one generally needs to put in some solid hours on the water to catch them. Points and creek channels are some of the best areas to start, with trolling being the go-to method.
Depths ranging from 10 to 20 feet are usually best, though muskies may be shallower in springtime.
A lot of standing timber was left above Shy Beaver Creek, and timber areas in the upper lake are often the best places for Raystown Lake musky fishing.
Oversized crankbaits and stickbaits ranging from 9 to 12 inches in length are commonly used, along with similarly gargantuan soft plastics and spinners. Try lures at the smaller end of that range when the water is cold, but don’t be shy about chucking a huge bait in summer.
Planning Your Trip
Raystown Lake offers excellent fishing throughout most of the year. Spring and fall are arguably the best times to be on the water, partly because the fishing is excellent. Also, Raytown Lake gets a lot of recreational boat traffic in the summer.
Many of the lake’s coves and inlets are designated ‘no wake’ zones, making them the best places to beat the crowds, especially when fishing from smaller craft.
Getting to Raystown Lake
Raystown Lake is located in Huntingdon County in South-Central Pennsylvania, about 2 hours west of Harrisburg and an hour south of State College. Pennsylvania Route 26 runs roughly parallel to the length of the lake along its northwest-facing shore.
Bank & Boat Access
Raystown Lake offers no shortage of access. Aside from public facilities like boat launch sites and campgrounds, the shoreline is mostly undeveloped. Although bank fishing spots are available in many areas, this is a lake where a boat is extremely helpful to get the most out of fishing.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers operates numerous recreation areas around the shoreline of Raystown Lake, including eight public launch sites. This official map and guide published by the Corps is a good way to get the lay of the land.
A handful of state and private launch sites are also available at Raystown Lake. Some of the best places to get on the water—starting at the lower end of the lake—include:
The Snyder’s Run Boat Ramp is the northernmost launch on Raystown Lake, and is the closest launch to the dam. Ample parking and modest bank access are available. This launch site is ideal for boats of all sizes but is popular among kayakers for its secluded location.
One of the more highly-developed recreation areas on the lake, Seven Points offers ample shore fishing access, a fishing pier, a swimming beach, and a lakeside picnic area. The Seven Points Campground is open from April to October.
The Seven Points Marina offers boat launch facilities and docking, as well as boat rentals and a well-stocked marina store. The Corps of Engineers also operates a nearby public boat launch separate from the marina.
Aitch / James Creek
Two launch sites offer boat ramps on the James Creek arm of Raystown Lake. The James Creek Boat Ramp is a three-lane concrete ramp with parking for over 100 vehicles and trailers. The nearby Aitch Boat Ramp also offers a fishing pier with some of the better bank access on the lake.
The Tatman Run area, on the southeast side of Raystown Lake, features a two-lane launch ramp with ample parking and courtesy docks adjacent to the Tatman Run Beach. There is also some quality bank fishing access here.
Lake Raystown Resort & Marina
Just a short drive up the lake from Tatman Run, the Lake Raystown Resort & Marina provides the largest marina facility on Raystown Lake, with boat rentals, launch facilities and docking. Accommodations range from tent and RV campsites to cottages, bungalows and lodge rooms.
A Corps of Engineers launch site is located on the long, narrow Shy Beaver Creek arm of Raystown Lake. The site has concrete ramps, ample parking, and a good stretch of riprap-lined bank where shore fishing is allowed.
The southernmost public access on Raystown Lake is at Weaver Falls, where the Corps of Engineers maintains a boat launch with docks, bank fishing access, a lakeside picnic area and spacious parking lot.
Raystown Branch Juniata River Access
In addition to the aforementioned access sites on the main lake, boat ramps and bank fishing are also available on the Raystown Branch Juniata River below the lake. The Raystown Dam tailwater is accessible through the Corbin’s Island Boat Launch.