Striped bass provide some of the most exciting fishing opportunities in Pennsylvania. Commonly exceeding 10 pounds (and capable of reaching 50 pounds or more), stripers are known for jarring strikes and reel-stripping runs.
Native to waters along the eastern Atlantic Coast, including Chesapeake Bay, stripers are part of a group of fish generally referred to as temperate basses.
You might also hear them referred to as “true” basses. That designation sets them apart from unrelated black bass species like largemouth and smallmouth bass, which are technically part of the sunfish family.
In Pennsylvania, stripers run every spring in rivers that are part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, most notably the Delaware and its tributaries. But they have also been stocked in several reservoirs across the state.
Anywhere they swim, adult striped bass are at the top of the food chain. They gobble up forage species like shad and alewives with reckless abandon, often pursuing schools of these baitfish in open water.
The best time to catch striped bass in Pennsylvania is April through June. This is the season during which they’re most likely to be found in relatively shallow water close to shore.
But anglers catch stripers in summer too. Doing so often requires trolling at 15 to 25 foot depths, sometimes over water that is 50 feet deep or more.
The temperate bass family also includes white bass, which inhabit waters all over Pennsylvania. Hybrid striped bass—a hatchery-created cross between a striped bass and a white bass—have also been widely stocked in many PA reservoirs.
Hybrid stripers behave much like pure striped bass, favoring deep, open water throughout much of the year. In appearance, hybrids look similar to stripers, but with a stockier body shape and less distinct stripage.
And although hybrid stripers don’t get quite as massive as true stripers, generally maxing out at close to 20 pounds, most anglers who catch them would agree that they fight even harder.
Top Striper Rivers & Lakes
Many of these top striper fishing lakes and rivers in Pennsylvania offer opportunities to catch both pure striped bass and hybrid stripers.
Plenty of rivers and lakes across Pennsylvania have been stocked with what are essentially landlocked stripers. But the Delaware River is different.
Forming the state boundary between Pannsylvania and New Jersey, the Delaware River hosts Pennsylvania’s only major run to wild Atlantic stripers.
These fish enter the Delaware River system from the Chesapeake Bay every spring, and offer an amazing fishing opportunity.
It hasn’t always been that way. But thanks to efforts that helped restore Atlantic striped bass populations throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, catch rates in the Delaware River are higher than ever. These include some truly massive fish.
The months of May and June tend to be the most productive time for striper fishing in the Delaware, though the run usually extends from April into July.
The biggest fish, some weighing over 40 pounds, are among the earliest to arrive in April. By June, there’s fast-and-furious action for “schoolies,” which are smaller but highly aggressive and relatively easy to catch.
The tidal portion of the river, which extends from the PA state line up to the Calhoun Street Bridge in Morrisville, offers the best striper fishing. A lot of the best fishing opportunities are within the Philadelphia metro area.
Focus your attention on current breaks, including bridge pilings, piers, rocks and various other natural and man-made structures. Stripers also tend to hug river edges, where the current is weakest.
Anglers catch stripers on the Delaware using a wide range of minnow-imitating plugs, jerkbaits and streamers.
Still, live bait usually outfishes the artificials, with live shad being a local favorite, followed closely by bloodworms and nightcrawlers.
The Linden Avenue Access, Frankford Access and Station Avenue Access (all in the Philly area) are all excellent places to either launch a boat for fish from shore. A little farther upriver, Neshaminy State Park is another good spot.
Know before you go: Seasons and limits on striped bass in the Delaware River are different from striper rules elsewhere in Pennsylvania. Be sure to check the current regulations before you hit the water.
More: Complete Guide to Delaware River Fishing
Spanning 1,450 acres in Eastern Pennsylvania’s Bucks County, Lake Nockamixon has long been one of the most consistent striper lakes in the state.
That consistency comes about thanks to regular stocking by the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission. Hybrid striped bass have long been stocked here every year, and pure striped bass have also been stocked as fingerlings more often in recent years.
These days, both species frequently show up in anglers’ catches. Lake Nockamixon commonly yields striped bass in the 15- to 20-pound class, as well as hybrids that weigh around 10 pounds.
As is the case in most lakes where stripers and hybrids have been stocked in Pennsylvania, spring offers the most productive fishing, with May generally being the best month to be on the water.
Stripers are more likely to be relatively close to the surface this time of year.
Even so, they can be hard to find. Most anglers troll Nockamixon to find stripers, using downriggers to keep baits at various depths. Focus on the edge of the river channel and nearby flats.
The best part of Lake Nockamixon for striper fishing tends to be the stretch from Tohickon Cove to the Haycock boat launch. This section includes the Nockamixon dam, as well as the deepest portions of the lake.
Striped bass and hybrids are often caught in open water, with seemingly no structure at all nearby. They’re known for following schools of alewives and gizzard shad, and many anglers find success by using their electronics to pinpoint schools of these baitfish.
The best access to the lake is through Nockamixon State Park, which offers several boat ramps including launch sites at Tohickon and Haycock.
More: Complete Guide to Lake Nockamixon Fishing
Lake Arthur might just be the best lake in Pennsylvania for hybrid stripers. Located in Butler County about 40 minutes north of Pittsburgh, this 3,225-acre reservoir routinely puts out great numbers and impressive sizes.
Hybrids have been stocked in Lake Arthur almost every year since the mid-90s. Most years, at least 16,000 fingerling hybrids are released into the lake, which has helped sustain consistent quality fishing. (The hybrids are sterile, and do not reproduce.)
With a maximum depth of 35 feet, Lake Arthur has a modestly deep main lake and several shallower creek arms. Hybrids are distributed across most of the lake throughout much of the year.
That being said, one of the great things about Lake Arthur is that you can catch hybrid stripers in shallow water, at least during certain seasons.
In spring, Lake Arthur’s alewives make a massive spawning run, and schools of hybrid stripers will follow them into waters that may be 5 feet deep or less. This time of year, anglers often catch hybrids from the banks.
Trolling along submerged roadbeds and the edges of the creek channel is a good way to cover water, but always keep your eyes on the surface. You might notice the telltale commotion of hybrid stripers blitzing a school of alewives.
When that happens, it’s time to switch from trolling to casting. Approach the area slowly and quietly, and cast alewife-imitating crankbaits, spinnerbaits and soft jerkbaits around the edges of the action.
Night fishing is also popular on Lake Arthur. Hybrid stripers are most likely to be in shallow water after dark, and they often push schools of alewives up against the banks in late-night feeding frenzies during May and June.
Moraine State Park offers ample access to Lake Arthur, including multiple boat launches and bank access sites.
Especially if you fish with natural baits, you might also find out why we also list Lake Arthur among the best catfish fishing lakes in Pennsylvania.
More: Complete Guide to Lake Arthur Fishing
Raystown Lake is for pure stripers what Lake Arthur is for hybrids. If any lake in the state could legitimately claim to be Pennsylvania’s best striper lake, this is it.
Pennsylvania’s inland state record striper, weighing 53 pounds, 12 ounces, was caught in Raystown Lake in 1994. And although fish of that stature are almost mythically rare in Pennsylvania waters, it’s safe to say that no other lake in the state gives up more big stripers.
The three biggest stripers entered in Pennsylvania’s Angler Award Program for 2021 all came from Raystown Lake. It might also be worth noting that all three were caught during the month of June, using either live shad or alewives as bait.
Raystown Lake is a long, meandering reservoir which, at 8,300 acres, is the largest lake entirely within Pennsylvania’s borders. The striper action gets going here as early as March.
Even though stripers don’t reproduce naturally in Raystown Lake, they still go through the motions of a typical spawning run, making their way toward the upper end in springtime. This is a great time to be on the water.
By late spring, they’ll start to disperse, and can become difficult to locate. But by the time June rolls around, stripers in Raystown Lake fall into predictable summer patterns.
Also worth knowing, a thermocline develops in Raystown Lake in summer, and the fish will stick close to that narrow band of water, mostly in the lower part of the lake.
They rise to the surface to feed at times (usually in the morning and evening), but you can often find a consistent bite if you’re able to identify the thermocline, typically between 18 and 24 feet deep.
As the lake cools in fall, striped bass will become more willing to return to the shallows. The backs of the bays and coves on Raystown Lake stay warmer longer, which attracts schools of baitfish. Stripers reliably follow them there.
Raystown Lake is maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which operates several access sites around the shoreline, the largest of which is Raystown Lake Recreation Area.
More: Complete Guide to Raystown Lake Fishing
Right in the heart of Pittsburgh, the Allegheny River and the Monongahela River merge to form the Ohio River. The area around the confluence is known as the Three Rivers, and it offers a wide range of fishing opportunities.
Although they might not be the first species that springs to mind for the rivers, the Fish & Boat Commission has been stocking hybrid stripers in this area consistently for the last decade.
Almost every year, several thousand hybrids are stocked in the lower Allegheny and Monongahela rivers, as well as the upper portion of the Ohio. For anglers in the know, they represent a great, untapped fishery.
Of course, it’s not that well-kept of a secret.
On any spring weekend, you’ll see anglers lined up along Pittsburgh’s Allegheny Riverfront Park, Monongahela Wharf Landing or Point State Park. Many of them will have a few chunky hybrid stripers in their pails.
As in most waters, spring is prime time for hybrids in the Three Rivers. That being said, it’s possible to catch a few all summer long, and there’s often a second peak in fall.
Some of the best spots are tailwaters immediately below dams. Try right below Allegheny River Lock and Dam No. 2 (also known as the Highland Park Lock and Dam) or Monongahela Lock and Dam No. 2 (also called Braddock Lock and Dam).
It’s also common to catch hybrids immediately below bridge piers throughout the Three Rivers area. Pittsburgh famously has more bridges than any other city in America, so you have a lot of options here.
A lot of the classic hybrid striper lures will work, like Rapala X-Raps and Zoom Flukes.
Live bait rigs tend to fare best in the river, however, and a good-sized shad or alewife could just as easily nab a walleye or catfish as a hybrid striper, making this an exciting place to try your luck.
It’s hard to believe fishing around Pittsburgh that the Allegheny River begins as one of Pennsylvania’s best trout fishing streams.
Several additional waters offer great striper and hybrid striper fishing in Pennsylvania. Don’t sleep on these honorable mentions!
Shenango River Lake
Built as a flood control reservoir in 1965, Shenango Lake has become one of Pennsylvania’s best hybrid striper lakes.
The Fish & Boat Commission has stocked hybrid fingerlings here almost every year since 2007, usually at a rate of 17,800 per year.
And enough of these fish live long enough to reach 20 pounds than anglers take notice. Hybrid stripers grow fat on an abundance of gizzard shad, of which this Western Pennsylvania reservoir has plenty.
The lake also supports a self-sustaining population or white bass. Every year starting in June, white bass and hybrids will often school together, following roaming schools of shad around the lake.
The best time to fish here is right around sunrise and sunset during early summer.
Hybrid stripers and white bass typically set up shop on a main lake point or some piece of structure along the river channel, and commonly feed on shad near the surface.
Rat-L-Traps and Shallow Shad Raps are excellent lures for picking off hybrids within 10 feet of the surface. Shenango Lake has a maximum depth of just 27 feet, so fishing deep is seldom necessary.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers manages and maintains recreation facilities around Shenango Lake. The Mahaney Recreation Area is a great place to start a trip fishing for hybrid stripers.
Other predatory fish might also find your striper plugs to their liking. For instance, fish the lures near some cover and you might also find out why Shenango Lake earned a spot among the best largemouth bass fishing lakes in the state.
Sprawling across over 5,700 acres in Pike and Wayne counties, Lake Wallenpaupack is a popular recreation lake in the Pocono Mountains of Northeastern Pennsylvania. It’s a solid smallmouth bass and walleye fishing lake, but Wallenpaupack really shines when it comes to stripers.
Lake Wallenpaupack is one of the most heavily-stocked striper lakes in Pennsylvania. Over 100,000 pure striped bass are stocked here as fingerlings most years, with a healthy number of hybrid stripers thrown in.
Quite a few 30- to 36-inch stripers are boated here every season—fish that size typically run 12 to 19 pounds—and smaller fish in the 5- to 8-pound range are incredibly abundant.
Trolling with alewives on downriggers is a popular tactic, at depths ranging from 10 to 20 feet. Vertical jigging can also be effective when a group of feeding stripers can be identified in open water.
Wallenpaupack is also a lake with an excellent night bite in shallow water, especially during May and June. Try free-lining a live alewife from shore in areas like Mangan Cove and Ironwood Point Recreation Area.
More: Complete Guide to Lake Wallenpaupack Fishing
The Schuylkill River is a major tributary of the Delaware, and it empties into its parent river right below the Philadelphia Navy Yard. Of the Atlantic stripers that run in the Delaware River every spring, a not-insignificant number spawn in the Schuylkill.
Much like the Delaware, the prime season on the Schuylkill is April through June. Big fish arrive earliest, but there’s great action for smaller schoolies later on in the season.
The lower portion of the Schuylkill flows through a fairly unappealing industrial landscape, but things start to change above Bartram’s Garden. From here up, a network of parks and greenways provide better access and increasingly appealing scenery.
The Fairmount Dam, located adjacent to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, marks the upper end of the tidal portion of the Schuylkill River. The dam has a fish ladder, but a lot of stripers bunch up below on their way upriver.
The stretch of river right below the dam is an especially popular spot among local striper anglers. No fishing is allowed within 100 feet of the fish ladder, which is at the west end of the dam.
The Schuylkill River has a lot of hidden snags and hazards. Boaters should use caution, and anglers would be well-advised to favor topwater lures. Luckily, stripers have a habit of blowing up on Zara Spooks and soft jerkbaits fished along the surface.
Nestled among the Pocono foothills in Carbon County, Beltzville Lake is one of the smaller lakes on our list at 973 acres. But it’s also quite deep—126 feet at normal pool—and stripers thrive here.
The Fish & Boat Commission has ramped up striper stocking at Beltzville Lake in recent years, and as a result, the fishery has really grown. Lots of 15- to 20-pound stripers are caught here, and an occasional giant may push toward the 40-pound mark.
There are both hybrids and pure stripers in Beltzville Lake, and it’s common for anglers to catch both on any given day. Like a lot of lakes, the best opportunities to catch these fish in relatively shallow water are in spring and fall.
Beltzville Lake stratifies in summer, and when it does, stripers spend a lot of time hugging the thermocline, often somewhere around 20 feet. Trolling is often the go-to summer method, either with deep-diving crankbaits or with live alewives behind downriggers.
At any time from spring to fall, it’s possible to find striped bass blitzing baitfish on the surface, which can offer some of the most fun fishing here.
There’s great access at Beltzville State Park, but arrive as early as possible to beat the crowds.
Beltzville also rates as a very good walleye fishing lake at times.
Blue Marsh Lake
Located in Eastern PA’s Berks County, 1,147-acre Blue Marsh Lake has been consistently stocked with hybrid stripers for years, but these fish often go under the radar. Most anglers who come here are either after largemouth bass or muskellunge.
That makes Blue Marsh Lake’s hybrid stripers a relatively untapped resource. Late April through June are great times to be on the water, and both trolling and topwater rod-and-reel fishing can be effective, depending on the conditions.
The best time to hit the water is during a warm stretch of days in spring, when the bays and coves heat up quickly and hybrids follow schools of alewives into the shallows. Lures retrieved just under the surface may work better than true topwaters.
Blue Marsh Lake has a depth of 53 feet at normal pool, but as a flood control reservoir, it is generally drawn down by winter. Blue Marsh Lake Recreation Area offers excellent access and boat launch facilities.
Pure striped bass have also been stocked in Blue Marsh Lake, but not since 2010. Given that stripers are capable of living up to 30 years, it’s conceivable that there are still a few giants lurking in its depths.