Walleye rank highly among the most sought-after fish by Pennsylvania anglers, and the Keystone State deserves a place on any list of the best U.S. states for walleye fishing.
Walleye are valued not just for their fighting ability and impressive size—Pennsylvania’s state record weighs a hefty 18 pounds—but also as table fare. There are few fish in freshwater that make a tastier fish fry than freshly-caught walleye filets.
Even so, walleye have a reputation for being somewhat mysterious. Perhaps it’s their reflective, moon-like eyes, or their tendency to seemingly vanish into deep water during most of the year.
Those eyes have a lot to do with walleye behavior. They offer great night vision, but are extremely light sensitive. If you’re fishing for walleye during daylight hours, some cloud cover and a bit of wind make success more likely.
Most anglers would agree that the best walleye bite starts at dusk and extends well after dark. Pennsylvania’s walleye season begins the first Saturday in May, and stretches until mid-March the following year.
Spring and fall are traditionally the best seasons for walleye fishing in Pennsylvania, but many of the lakes and rivers listed below offer great fishing during the dog days of summer, and some are even productive during the harshest winter months.
Walleye Lakes in Pennsylvania
Lake Erie is a world-class walleye fishery. It’s a lake that anglers travel from all over the U.S. and Canada to fish every year, and walleye are near the top of the list of most-targeted species.
Pennsylvania lays claim to 76.6 miles of the Great Lake’s shoreline, and routinely churns out remarkable numbers of walleye.
There are some real giants, too. Fish weighing 3 to 7 pounds are average, but there’s always an outside chance that a 10- to 12-pound brute will take the bait.
That said, fishing (and actually finding fish) out on the big waters of Lake Erie can be intimidating.
This is the kind of lake where going out with a guide is wise, especially if it’s your first time. You’ll learn a lot of tricks that you can apply when you go out on your own.
If you’d rather strike out solo, start in May. The weeks immediately following the season opener offer the opportunities to catch walleyes in relatively shallow water (which in Lake Erie means less than 40 feet).
During low-light hours, you can even catch them from shore.
The best spots for spring walleye along Pennsylvania’s Erie shoreline are in and around the mouths of tributaries like Walnut Creek. Jointed Rapala and Rebel lures are great for casting from beaches and piers this season.
These fish are local residents, meaning they live in eastern Lake Erie year-round. But there’s a separate population that migrates eastward from Ohio every year, offering unique summer fishing.
Pennsylvania borders the Eastern Basin of Lake Erie, which is the deepest part of the lake. That also makes it the coolest part of the lake.
Every year starting in June, big walleyes from Ohio’s warmer, shallower Western Basin make their way eastward, seeking cooler water and chasing schools of alewives and threadfin shad.
These fish stay in deep water, and anglers catch them by trolling deep-diving crankbaits, usually at depths ranging from 40 to 70 feet. The perfect trolling speed tends to be right around 1.5 mph.
The bite starts in early summer close to the Ohio state line. The drop-off known as the First Trench is a killer spot this time of year. The edge of the First Trench is about 9 miles out from the mouth of Elk Creek, and 7 miles out from the mouth of Walnut Creek.
By late summer and early fall, the structure known as the Mountain in eastern Lake Erie is the place to be. It’s about 3 miles out from North East Marina, the easternmost launch point just shy of the New York state line, and some massive walleye are caught here.
A large impoundment on the Allegheny River, 12,085-acre Allegheny Reservoir lies across the border between Western New York and Northwestern Pennsylvania. It’s a walleye powerhouse that has produced former state records in both states.
The lake was created in 1965, and almost immediately gained a reputation for walleye fishing. It’s held in place by the Kinzua Dam, and to this day, many local anglers refer to the whole reservoir as “Kinzua.”
While New York’s portion of the reservoir is made up of shallow flats and sloping points, Pennsylvania’s share has a more dramatic underwater landscape. The steep, often cliff-like banks drop off quickly to very deep water.
This is actually a benefit to walleye anglers, who often catch big ‘eyes close to the bank by pitching jigs or trolling nightcrawlers on worm harness rigs. There’s great fishing from spring right through summer, especially on overcast days when there’s a light chop on the water.
Walleye tend to grow slowly in this lake. Giants are always possible, but walleye ranging from 14 to 20 inches are the norm. And there are lots of them.
Some of the biggest walleye in Allegheny Reservoir are pulled up through the ice in winter. This is a very popular ice fishing lake, and safe ice is usually available throughout January and February most years.
Emerald shiners are the bait of choice among local anglers, and they’re readily available at most bait shops in the Kinzua area. Anglers typically set tip-ups over 20- to 30-foot depths. Shallower setups are more likely to catch northern pike.
There’s excellent ice access at Webb’s Ferry, close to the NY state line on the west side of the lake, and at Willow Bay on the east side. Both locations are within Allegheny National Forest, and they also have boat launch facilities to use during the warmer months.
Sprawling across 17,088 acres on the Ohio border in Western Pennsylvania, Pymatuning Reservoir is a vast walleye factory. It’s not really known for trophies, but there might be no better place in PA to catch your limit of eating-size walleye.
A trap net survey by the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission in 2019 (the most recent year for which data is available) brought in a head-swimming 3,296 walleye, the overwhelming majority of which were keepers in the 15- to 24-inch range.
Some might say that catching walleye here is challenging due to the abundance of forage, particularly alewives. But if you can find a school of baitfish, you’ll often find walleye nearby.
In spring, the best walleye fishing is along the eastern shoreline. On windy days, alewives follow plankton driven this direction by the wind, and walleye take full advantage.
Spring is a good time of year to don a pair of waders and target walleye in 5 to 10 feet of water starting at dusk.
During summer, most walleyes head deeper and follow roaming schools of shad in the lake’s main basin, but there’s another great fall bite in the shallows. Blade baits work well this time of year, along with classic crankbaits and worm harnesses.
Look for submerged humps along the eastern shore, many of which top out around 5 feet with 15-plus-foot depths nearby. These are great fall walleye spots.
One of the great things about Pymatuning Reservoir is how angler-friendly it is.
Pymatuning State Park includes multiple plots of land all around the shoreline, providing multiple boat launch sites, several fishing piers and tons of bank fishing access.
Because it’s a border lake, Pymatuning Reservoir has some unique regulations, most notably that you can fish any portion of it by boat with either a Pennsylvania or Ohio fishing license.
There is also no closed season on walleye on Pymatuning Reservoir. Walleye and saugeye—hybrids between walleye and sauger—over 15 inches may be kept year-round in any combination, with a limit of six per day.
Best Walleye Rivers in Pennsylvania
No river in Pennsylvania produces more walleye than the Allegheny, and this massive artery through the western part of the state often outclasses Lake Erie, if not for numbers then certainly for size.
A 15-pound walleye pulled out of the Allegheny in 2019 was the biggest officially recognized walleye in Pennsylvania’s Angler Award Program that year. In fact, it’s unusual to go through a year without at least a couple of 12-pounders being wrestled to the river’s banks.
The best walleye fishing in the Allegheny River is in the Middle Allegheny, the 125-mile free-flowing section from Kinzua Dam down to Brady’s Bend. This stretch hasn’t been stocked in many years, but the walleye population continuously sustains itself through natural reproduction.
As a general rule, walleye stick close to deep holes and pools here. This is especially true at the beginning of the spring walleye season. After a few weeks, you’ll start to see more and more fish venturing out into the current.
The Allegheny is often muddy and turbulent this time of year, which can be challenging, but also offers opportunity. The turbidity of the water and its tumultuous surface allow walleye to feed actively during daylight hours.
It’s common to catch walleye even in the middle of a bright, sunny day this time of year. Focus on seams—dividing lines between strong current and relatively slack water.
Some of the best walleye fishing in the Allegheny is in the first mile or so below Kinzua Dam, and that tailwater section also is among Pennsylvania’s best spots to catch trophy brown trout.
The area around the borough of Tidioute offers some great water too. The river splits to form a series of islands in this area, and the Tidioute Boat Ramp is a great place to launch.
Live bait usually works best, and creek chubs are the baitfish of choice. Jigs, curlytail grubs and jerkbaits are good for covering more ground. Some anglers let live bait drift on one rod while casting lures with another.
Once warmer weather rolls around, slower presentations work better. Nightcrawlers and leeches are great baits this time of year starting at sunset. The river is also easier to wade and bank fish during the relatively low flow of summer.
There’s some solid walleye fishing in the Lower Allegheny River too.
This lower part is regulated by a series of nine locks and dams, and deep pools below each of the dams have potential. Any spot where a smaller tributary empties into the river is also worth exploring.
The Susquehanna River is a legendary fishing river. The majority of this 444-mile waterway lies within Pennsylvania, and it drains about half the state.
Although the Susquehanna is best known for smallmouth bass, there are some amazing walleye fishing opportunities here.
Walleye are not actually native to the Susquehanna River system, but they’ve been stocked here for so long that there’s now a fully naturalized population.
This river harbors tremendous numbers of 3- to 5-pound walleye, with the occasional whopper pushing double digits. Best of all, just about every section of the Susquahanna, from the New York state line all the way down to Maryland, has potential.
The Upper Susquehanna River (sometimes referred to as the North Branch) offers some of the best fishing. This portion of the river is broad and often shallow, but also has numerous deep pools where you can find walleye.
There are excellent access sites in Tunkhannock, West Falls and Bloomsburg, among others. Trail maps of the North Branch Susquehanna River Water Trail are great resources for finding fishing spots here.
Farther downriver, the river broadens and is held back by a series of dams between Harrisburg and the Maryland state line. Tailwaters below the dams including the York Haven Dam are some of the best spots on the lower Susquehanna.
Like most walleye rivers in Pennsylvania, the Susquehanna fishes well from May into June, and again in October and November. Drifting live shiners and hellgrammites below river bars and into deep pools is a productive tactic.
Curlytail grubs are also favored by many local anglers. Try rigging one on a floating jighead, with a split-shot or two about 16 to 20 inches up the line. This rig should keep the lure just off bottom; adjust the amount of weight based on the strength of the current.
One of the best times to fish the Susquehanna is the dead of winter, when the biggest walleye congregate in the deepest pools. Catch-and-release is recommended this time of year, as fish are particularly vulnerable and have not yet spawned for the season.
The Youghiogheny River spans 134 miles from its headwaters in West Virginia through the westernmost edge of Maryland and across Southwestern Pennsylvania, where it ultimately dumps into the larger Monongahela River.
The Yough, as it is often called, has always been a decent walleye river. But a new state record was caught here in October 2021, so we can expect to see increased attention on the Youghiogheny.
That 18 lb. 1 oz. monster, which unseated a 41-year-old record from Allegheny Reservoir, inhaled a live creek chub in the Connellsville section of the river.
If you’re looking to fish this area, check out Connellsville’s Yough River Park. There’s great bank access there.
Record fish notwithstanding, the Youghiogheny River can be challenging. Catches are inconsistent throughout most of the year, and arguably the most enjoyable way to fish this river is to approach it like the great multispecies fishery that it is.
Stickbaits, curlytail grubs and live minnows are likely to bring in a mixed bag of walleye and smallmouth bass. A nightcrawler could take either species, with a few hefty channel cats thrown in.
But if your heart is set on catching walleye, and only walleye, your best bet is during the colder months. Walleye congregate below dams and in deep pools from late October through the end of the season in early March.
The area immediately below Youghiogheny River Lake—a large reservoir that spans the PA/MD border—offers some of the best walleye fishing.
The Casselman River meets the Yough not far below the dam, and this whole stretch has a lot of deep water, as well as structures like bridge piers and river islands.
For anyone willing to travel on foot or bike, the Great Allegheny Passage Trail runs parallel to the Youghiogheny River for its entire length in Pennsylvania, and opens up a wealth of bank access.
The Yough is also a picture-perfect paddling river, and the Youghiogheny River Water Trail is a great resource for boaters and anglers alike. Check out the official maps of the North Segment and the South Segment.
Quite a few additional lakes and rivers offer excellent opportunities for walleye fishing in Pennsylvania.
While these next spots might not be quite on par with the next-level waters listed above, they still have the potential to put some feisty walleyes in your livewell.
A 5,700-acre reservoir in Northeastern Pennsylvania’s Pike and Wayne counties, Lake Wallenpaupack is the second-largest lake contained entirely within the state lines.
It’s also a solid multi-species fishing lake that is managed for striped bass and brown trout as well as walleye. The PA Fish & Boat Commission has been stocking walleye fingerlings here in huge numbers for many years.
Like a lot of lakes, the best time to go after walleye is May and June, when it’s often possible to find fish in less than 10 feet of water, especially at or a little after sunset. Some good spots include Boulder Point, Calico Point, Tafton Dike and the area between Kipp Island and shore.
Live baitfish are often the most productive baits on Lake Wallenpaupack, but plenty of walleyes fall for stickbaits as well. Deep-diving crankbaits are a good choice in summer when walleye move a little deeper.
PFBC population surveys over the last decade-plus have consistently brought up great numbers of walleyes, with fish in the 20- to 24-inch range being most common.
The State Boat Launch at Mangan Cove is a great place to get out on the water.
French Creek is a tributary of the Allegheny River that begins in the westernmost corner of New York, flowing 117 miles to meet its parent river in Franklin, PA. It’s an excellent warm water fishery for walleye, channel catfish and smallmouth bass.
Plenty of walleye are caught here in spring and early summer, but French Creek also shines as a fall walleye stream.
Lower water levels typically make wading easier in autumn, and cooling temperatures get big walleye in a hungry mood as they stock up for winter.
From late fall into winter, focus on deep holes. Areas throughout the length of French Creek can produce walleye, but some of the best fishing is in the lower portion of the creek.
Most of the creek is easily navigable by canoe or kayak, and there are several excellent launch sites along the Lower French Creek Water Trail. Many of these sites, like Shaw’s Landing in Cochranton, also provide excellent bank fishing access.
Lots of other unofficial pull-offs and access sites are available at bridge crossings all up and down the stream. Stickbaits including Original Floating Rapalas and Husky Jerks are some of the most popular lures.
Located just a few miles from Pymatuning Reservoir in Northwestern Pennsylvania, 1,724-acre Lake Wilhelm is an excellent largemouth bass and muskellunge fishing lake that also provides solid walleye action.
This lake is often overshadowed by its larger neighbor, but it would be a mistake to ignore it.
The Fish & Boat Commission has stocked tremendous numbers of walleye fry and fingerlings in Lake Wilhelm over the years, and many of these fish survive 10 years or more, reaching sizes up to 30 inches.
Catching them isn’t always easy here, because walleye have a huge amount of forage to choose from, including an abundant-but-invasive gizzard shad population. Trolling tends to be the best way to put fish in the boat.
The northeast shoreline of Lake Wilhelm has several small gravel-bottomed points that can be productive for trolling. These are great areas for ice fishing too, and good-sized walleye are pulled up through the ice every winter.
Lake Wilhelm is located within Maurice K. Goddard State Park, which provides multiple boat launch sites and numerous places to fish from the bank.
The strip of rip-rap along the dam is a popular place to cast from shore, and some big walleye have been caught here after dark.
Flowing 130 miles from West Virginia into Pennsylvania, the Monongahela River has a substantial walleye population, and it seems to be improving. Even so, this river often takes a backseat to its neighbors.
After all, the Monongahela River is fed by the Youghiogheny River, and later merges with the Allegheny River to form the Ohio River. If you’re out after ‘eyes on the Mon, the area right around the confluence with the Youghiogheny is a good place to start.
The Pennsylvania section of the Monongahela River is controlled by a series of lock and dam configurations. In essence, the river functions much like a series of long, narrow reservoirs.
Much of the best walleye fishing is in the tailwater areas below each lock and dam. Try fishing current breaks, sand bars and rocky structures around dawn and dusk. Spring and fall are the best times to fish.
The Monongahela River also supports a great population of sauger, close relatives of walleye. Though they’re smaller (typically 12 or 13 inches) they greatly outnumber walleye in the Monongahela, and often strike jigs tipped with soft plastics.
If you opt for natural baits such as nightcrawler, you’re likely to pick up some channel catfish as well.
One of the better walleye lakes in Eastern Pennsylvania, 946-acre Beltzville Lake has been stocked consistently with walleye, and puts out some of the highest catch rates in this part of the state.
Beltzville Lake is surprisingly deep—over 100 feet in some places—and has a distinct river channel that swings back and forth between opposite banks. Some of the best areas for walleye fishing are near steep drops where the channel bends close to the bank.
Alewives are walleye’s main forage in Beltzville Lake, and they’re also excellent bait. Some local anglers will spend an hour right around sunset catching alewives, and then fish them close to the bottom for walleyes after darkness falls.
There’s a good chance you’ll hook a few stripers this way too. Beltzville Lake has a lot of them, and they often hunt just slightly deeper than walleyes.
Fish live baits close to the bottom after dark. Depths between 15 and 25 feet are usually ideal, and walleye will often position themselves just beyond the deep edge of a weed bed. Access is available through Beltzville State Park.
Raystown lake is the largest lake entirely within Pennsylvania. At 8,300 acres, it’s a long, meandering reservoir with depths up to 200 feet. It’s a great multi-species lake that has a somewhat mixed reputation for walleye fishing.
You might hear anglers tell stories of catching 40-pound limits of chunky walleyes after dark, and you might talk to others who swear there’s not a single walleye in this lake.
Ultimately, there’s no doubt that Raystown lake supports a solid walleye population, but finding them isn’t always easy. With the exception of a brief window in spring, walleye spend most of the year roaming deep water following schools of alewives and shad.
Another thing that can be said for sure about Raystown Lake is that the best walleye bite is at night.
The most effective tactic is to troll crankbaits and stickbaits after dark. Look for schools of baitfish in your electronics, and then troll over the nearest point or flats.
Numerous access points, including the Tatman Run Boat Launch, are overseen by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
If you fish Raystown Lake in May, focus on the Trough Creek Arm; there’s a major walleye spawning run in this creek, and you might just hook a few as they return to the main lake.
Raystown Lake also is a solid lake for largemouth bass fishing.