Pymatuning Lake Fishing: Complete Angler’s Guide

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Sprawling across more than 17,000 acres on the border between Pennsylvania and Ohio, Pymatuning Lake offers an exceptional warm water fishery.

Officially called Pymatuning Reservoir, the huge impoundment consistently ranks among the best walleye, crappie and muskellunge lakes in either state. 

It’s also the largest lake in either state—or, at least, the largest that isn’t Lake Erie—and a highly underrated destination for bass and catfish fishing as well.

Pymatuning Reservoir was created in 1934 with the construction of a dam on the Shenango River, which flooded a vast wetland area. The resulting hook-shaped lake stretches 17 miles from end to end, and offers 70 miles of shoreline.

Anglers can take advantage of diverse habitats beneath Pymatuning’s surface. In addition to shores lined with brush, laydowns and riprap, the lake offers numerous submerged humps and rock piles, as well as flooded roads, bridges and timber.

A 2-mile causeway spans the lake at its midpoint, connecting Pennsylvania’s Pymatuning State Park with Ohio’s Pymatuning State Park, and dividing the lake into what are generally considered to be its northern and southern basins.

Pymatuning Lake’s Top 3 Fisheries

The following trio of sport fish brings many anglers to Pymatuning Reservoir, although keep reading for some addition excellent options.

Pymatuning Walleye Fishing

Pymatuning Reservoir is an exceptional walleye fishery.

At times, the lake has enjoyed a reputation for producing trophy walleyes. However, in recent years it has developed into more of a numbers lake, with lots of healthy 15- to 24-inch fish and occasional monsters over 8 pounds. 

Excellent fishing for walleye starts right after ice-out. Walleye head toward rocky points and humps early in the season to spawn, and these areas are the primary focus in March.

The area right below the Linesville Spillway at the upper end of the lake is a popular early-season spot. Shallow fishing in springtime is best after dark, and anglers commonly wade out around rocky banks starting at twilight.

Stump fields in the lake’s northern basin and the area around the mid-lake causeway are also productive.

Curlytail grubs and stickbaits like Original Floating Rapalas are effective for casting around shallow rocks, and live nightcrawlers and alewives are also great baits.

During the day, deeper structure is usually better. Common methods include trolling worm harness rigs and drift fishing with live nightcrawlers and leeches. 

The night bite on shallow humps and points continues to be a major pattern as late as May.

However, as the lake warms, the best walleye fishing shifts to deeper structure. This pattern is especially true in the southern basin, which is deeper and rockier overall than the northern basin. 

Trolling along drop-offs and the deep edges of offshore humps is the best summer tactic. Try trolling crankbaits like Shad Raps, Reef Runners or Hot N’ Tots early in the day, and then switch to subtler baits like crawler harnesses as the sun gets higher.

It’s worth keeping in mind that walleye don’t always stay deep in summer. The movements of baitfish (especially alewives) are a key factor, and it’s even possible to catch walleye suspended 10 feet off the bottom over 20-foot depths at times.

Catch More Walleye

Pymatuning Lake is one of about a dozen excellent walleye fishing spots in Pennsylvania and a similar number of great walleye angling destinations in Ohio. Check the links for the full lists in your state.

Once you know where to catch them, we cover how to catch more walleye in our simple how-to fishing guide.

Crappie Fishing at Pymatuning Lake

Panfish anglers consistently find some of the best crappie fishing in Pennsylvania and Ohio at Pymatuning Reservoir. Both black crappie and white crappie are abundant, with black crappies​ being the dominant species.

Despite the fact the crappie populations are notoriously cyclical—the strength of any given year class can have a major impact in the years that follow—Pymatuning is seldom anything less than excellent.

Crappies tend to average about 9 inches here, and fish up to 12 inches are usually common. 

Crappie fishing can start right after ice-out in springtime. Early in the season, day-to-day weather plays a crucial role, and a string of sunny, unseasonably warm days will get fish moving and draw them into the shallows. 

Peak months are April through June, and prime crappie fishing overlaps with the best walleye action. Fishing for crappies during the day and walleye at night is a good approach on Pymatuning in springtime.

The best bets are shallow, muck-bottomed bays and coves, particularly in Pymatuning’s relatively shallow northern basin. These areas are some of the fastest to warm up. 

Look for the remaining stalks of last year’s lily pads, which invariably attract crappies in spring. Stumps are important, too, especially the vast stump fields behind Clark and Harris islands. Stewart’s Bay and any of the other shallow bays at the north end of the lake can be excellent. 

There’s also some great shallow cover near the Padanaram Boat Launch, and any areas with shallow brush close to a drop-off are prime locations to toss a lively shiner beneath a slip float. 

Long-line trolling with minnows is also a popular tactic, and casting around shallow cover with a wide range of soft-plastic jigs will do the job. White and chartreuse are favorite colors, especially at the north end of the lake where the water is often quite turbid in spring.

Catch More Crappie

Pymatuning Reservoir scored some of the prime spots on both our best crappie fishing in Ohio and top crappie spots in Pennsylvania rundowns.

Catch more of one of America’s favorite panfish with these easy crappie fishing tactics.

Muskellunge Fishing

Pennsylvania and Ohio are each home to several excellent muskellunge lakes, but trophy seekers catch some of the biggest muskies in either state at Pymatuning. Muskies grow fat on abundant alewives, gizzard shad, perch, suckers and juvenile carp.

A 2022 trap net survey by the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission turned up 113 muskies averaging 35.4 inches in length, with the largest measuring 48 inches. Muskellunge that cross the coveted 50-inch mark are caught here most years.

Spring, summer and fall each offer some unique muskie fishing opportunities on Pymatuning Reservoir. Like a lot of fish, muskellunge are attracted to quickly-warming shallows in spring, making it a good season to focus on Pymatuning’s north shore. 

From Padanaram to Linesville, the shoreline is an undulating series of shallow bays that can all produce muskellunge in spring. Stump fields and submerged road beds around Clark and Harris islands and north of Tuttle Camp are additional areas to target. 

The maximum depth in this part of the lake is about 13 feet, so it’s often not too hard to get your lure in front of a few muskies. Casting with large crankbaits and swimbaits is a good spring tactic. 

In summer, trolling is more efficient because muskellunge become more widely dispersed throughout this massive reservoir. A good running depth is about 12 feet. Fall also produces a lot of nice fish as they feed heavily leading up to winter.

The southern basin produces the most muskellunge in summer and fall, particularly ledges, drop-offs and weedy humps.

The area south of Stocker Island is especially productive, with Beer Can Island (actually a barely-submerged hump, not a true island) being a favorite spot.

Catch More Muskies

We have compiled lists of the best fishing lakes for muskies in Ohio and a similar musky-fishing list for Pennsylvania.

Other Fish Species

Pymatuning Reservoir is an excellent all-around warm water fishing lake, and dozens of species can be caught here.

In addition to the fish listed above and below, catches of carp, white bass, bullhead, bowfin, bluegill, pumpkinseed sunfish and rock bass are common. 

Pymatuning Lake Bass Fishing

A highly underrated bass lake, Pymatuning Reservoir offers abundant largemouth bass, along with a more modest population of smallmouth bass. Typical catches of either species weigh 2 to 3 pounds.

It’s possible that bass go unnoticed here simply because the fishing is so good for so many other species. Or perhaps nearby Lake Erie steals some of Pymatuning’s thunder. Either way, anyone not fishing for bass at Pymatuning is missing out. 

There’s usually good early-season bass fishing around stumps and old lily pad stems along the north shore of the lake. Subtle presentations like wacky worms work well this time of year for largemouths in shallow water, especially in bays and coves in the Padanaram area. 

Pymatuning bass fishing continues to be excellent in summer. Laydowns along the shore are prime targets.

Submergent beds of milfoil develop out to a depth of about 6 feet, and the outside edges of these weed beds also are great largemouth lairs in summer. Tempt them out of the salad with flukes and spinnerbaits.

Smallmouths are more common in rocky parts of the lake. Tuttle Point and Stocker Island are a couple of good smallmouth fishing options, and the riprap that lines the causeway in the middle of the lake is a reliable area to catch a mixed bag of both species.

Catch More Bass

Find the best largemouth bass fishing in Pennsylvania along with PA’s best smallmouth bass lakes and rivers.

In Ohio, Pymatuning scored an honorable mention among the Buckeye State’s best largemouth bass lakes. If you love bass, also check out our top picks for smallmouth bass fishing in Ohio.

Brush up on some of the topic tactics for catching either of these popular black bass relatives with our simple bass fishing how-to guide.

Catfish Fishing

Channel catfish are common in Pymatuning Reservoir, though the lake isn’t really known for producing trophy cats. It’s a great place to catch a mess of eating-size fish from 1 to 4 pounds. 

Recent PA Fish & Boat Commission trap net surveys show a healthy and abundant channel catfish population, with fish averaging a little over 18 inches. Catching a 10-pounder isn’t impossible though. 

Catfish are commonly caught from the bank in springtime, and they bite especially well after dark during the summer months. Omnivorous feeders that hunt primarily by scent and taste, channel cats are known to gobble up chicken livers, shrimp, cut shad and other smelly, natural baits. 

The bank fishing areas along the causeway are good places to catch catfish, and any boat launch sites offering bank access have potential, especially on the lake’s northern end.

Pymatuning Reservoir also has a very modest population of flathead catfish, although some real whoppers have made local headlines.

Catch More Catfish

Pymatuning Lake eeked out an “honorable mention” among the top catfish fishing spots in Pennsylvania, while it missed the cut among the most outstanding catfishing rivers and lakes in Ohio.

Catfish may not be pretty, but they’re fun to catch and delicious to eat. Learn some fishing tips to catch more catfish.

Yellow Perch Fishing

One of the most frequently caught fish species in Pymatuning Reservoir, yellow perch are extremely abundant, with lots of healthy 9- and 10-inch fish. Anglers commonly catch perch alongside crappie and walleye in shallow water in spring. 

The best perch fishing on Pymatuning Reservoir tends to be around the rocky and weedy humps throughout the southern basin; some humps top out at just 5 or 6 feet with 30-foot depths nearby. The lake’s many submerged bridges are also reliable perch haunts. 

Jigging spoons and blade baits are commonly used, along with live minnows, nightcrawlers and soft plastic jigs.

Perch are also commonly caught through the ice in winter.

One of Pymatuning Lake’s most popular ice-fishing spots is Jamestown Marina, which is inside Pennsylvania’s Pymatuning State Park.

The marina’s docking slips extend out to 20-plus feet of water, and anglers often drill holes in the ice just off the sides of the docks.

Catch More Yellow Perch

Pymatuning Reservoir rates among the best perch fishing lakes in both Ohio and snagged the same honor in Pennsylvania.

Learn the top fishing tips and techniques to catch more yellow perch. We also consulted with an expert to come up with a list of literally dozens of baits that catch yellow perch, ranging from the obvious to the surprising.

Planning Your Trip

Also known as Pymatuning Lake, this reservoir offers the widest variety of fishing opportunities in spring. That makes April through June arguably the best time to visit, especially for crappie and walleye.

That being said, there is also excellent fishing for bass and panfish in summer, and a 20-horsepower limit keeps boat traffic from getting too out of control.

Getting to Pymatuning Reservoir

The lake is roughly 90 minutes north of Pittsburgh via I-79 and slightly closer to Cleveland via I-90 and US-6. It’s also about an hour southwest of Erie.

The landscape around the lake in Crawford County, PA, and Ashtabula County, OH, is largely rural. Small communities like Andover on the Ohio side and Linesville in Pennsylvania provide lodging and other amenities.

Bank & Boat Access

With a significant portion of Pymatuning Reservoir’s shoreline falling within the boundaries of both Ohio’s Pymatuning State Park and Pennsylvania’s Pymatuning State Park, anglers have an abundance of options when it comes to getting on the water. 

Both parks consist of multiple units and include campgrounds, bank fishing sites, and more than a dozen boat ramps. Though this is by no means an exhaustive list, some of the best places to launch or fish from the bank include: 

  • Linesville, PA: Offering the closest developed boat launch to the upper end of Pymatuning Reservoir, the Linesville area includes the lakeside Linesville Campground and Linesville Marina. Bank access and a fishing jetty are also available.
  • Padanaram, OH: The Padanaram Ramp is the northernmost launch site on the Ohio side of Pymatuning and offers bank and boat access to a prime area for spring walleye and crappie fishing.
  • Tuttle Point, PA: Located on the point at the main bend in Pymatuning Reservoir, the Tuttle Campground is one of the most popular camping areas in Pennsylvania’s Pymatuning State Park, and also includes boat ramps and bank fishing access.
  • Pymatuning Causeway: The Pymatuning State Park Causeway Road connects the Pennsylvania and Ohio sides of the lake and also divides it into its northern and southern basins. A bank fishing area is located on the Ohio side on the causeway itself, and the Espyville Marina offers launch facilities at the Pennsylvania end.
  • Jamestown, PA: An excellent site for camping and fishing toward the southern end of Pymatuning Reservoir, the Jamestown area includes a boat launch, fishing pier, campground, and the popular Jamestown Marina

Several additional launch and access sites are also available on both sides of the lake. This Ohio Department of Natural Resources map and this Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission map are handy guides for finding your way around Pymatuning Reservoir.

Know Before You Go

Pennsylvania and Ohio have a reciprocal agreement that allows anglers to fish anywhere on Pymatuning Reservoir from a boat with a valid fishing license from either state.

Bank anglers must have a license from the state they are standing on. 

Fishing seasons, limits, and other regulations may differ from the statewide regulations in either Pennsylvania or Ohio, so be sure to read up on the current rules before you hit the water.

The very northeastern tip of the lake, east of the Linesville Spillway, is closed to fishing.