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Frye: Good fishing still remains

| Saturday, Aug. 23, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

How's your favorite fishing hole been lately? Packed with people? Or devoid of any life that's not of the swimming variety?

Sometimes it's hard to know what to expect.

It's a crapshoot when it comes to calling bait and tackle shops each week to compile our fishing report. Some of those who answer the phone say hello, then politely beg off talking immediately because they're swamped with customers. Others will say they haven't seen enough customers that week to pay the light bill.

If there's a rhyme or reason to it all, it's hard to spot.

One thing's sure, though. Even though hunting seasons are fast approaching — doves and geese become fair game on Sept. 1, with deer next up for archers in the state's most urban wildlife management units, then the statewide archery deer and small game seasons not far behind — there's still some good fishing ahead.

Largemouth bass are one example.

We think of them as a summertime fish, maybe because of the focus on the spawn, or all the tournaments held then, or because they're a fish associated with the south. But did you know that the best month for seeking them out on Pennsylvania lakes is September?

That's what the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission says, anyway. It has compiled data over decades, looking at angler catch rates. It shows anglers catch more largemouths per hour in September than in any other month.

Catches of smallmouth bass peak next month, too.

If that doesn't do it for you, September also is a great time to be on rivers for Pennsylvania's toothiest fish. Angler catch rate data suggests September is far and away when fishermen do best on muskies in rivers, while northern pike action peaks just a bit later, in October.

The panfishing — for crappies especially — will soon be as good as it's been since spring, too. The first day of September will offer a couple of unique ways to take advantage of that.

The commission is offering two special incentives on Labor Day, Sept. 1.

Adults can get a special one-day fishing license, good for Labor Day only, for $2.70. It gives anglers all the privileges of a regular license and can be used anywhere in the state.

Also on that day, the commission is holding a mentored youth fishing day on 17 panfish enhancement lakes, which are managed to grow more and bigger bluegills, crappies and perch. On those waters, licensed adults can go out with children who have purchased either a voluntary youth license or a mentored permit and keep panfish without regard to the minimum sizes otherwise in place.

Regional waters in the program are Lower and Twin lakes and Northmoreland Lake in Westmoreland County, High Point Lake and Quemahoning Reservoir in Somerset, Cross Creek Lake in Washington, and Beaverdam Run Reservoir, Hinkston Run Reservoir and Wilmore Dam in Cambria.

The question, then, is not whether to fish, but where to go, right?

Bob Frye is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at bfrye@tribweb.com or via Twitter @bobfryeoutdoors.

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