Fishing with the Birds at Lake Pinchot

Fishing with the Birds at Lake Pinchot

A few weeks back we did some camping and fishing out near York, PA in the Gifford-Pinchot State Park. The park is nice and well kept out near Amish country here in Pennsylvania. Lake Pinchot is the fishery of choice here. It is a warm water system and designated a Big Bass lake with some solid reports floating around out on the internets.

The first day of the trip was rainy and overcast. We set up our camp and hid under the tarp while a few thunderstorms passed overhead. We were able to get out to Lake Pinchot for about an hour that night before sundown but didn't have any luck with the fish. I could have swore that I spotted a spawn bed, but being the first weekend in May, it seemed very early.

The second day of the trip was gorgeous. Bright skies and low 70s for the temperature. We stopped at the local tackle shop, HawgHead Marine & Tackle to pick up some bait. The guy working the register looked like he spent a lot of time in the outdoors so we asked him how the bite was going. His response was reserved but encouraging. Apparently the fish in the lake had just started waking up from a long winter as the water temperature began to climb.

We finally got onto the water around 11am, which is later than would have been ideal, but this was vacation and we were on no schedule. The boat rental stand hadn't opened for the season yet, so we fell back to waders and shore fishing.

I had spotted a nice point of land that jutted out into the lake the day before and decided this was not a far hike off the trail and that we should head in it's direction. We arrived to find that an unmarked trail lead almost right to the point that we wanted to fish. A bench and several large rocks greeted us and allowed us to store our unused gear up off the ground.

I headed into the water directly out from the point. As with many points of land, rocks below the surface jutted out into the lake, following the general contour of the point. Along the edges I noticed several submerged stumps and what appeared to be a pretty good drop off into the depths. I took a few more steps out and set up shop.

A Green Gary Spinnerbait was my lure of choice as it was a fairly bright day. I began tossing the lure around me, starting of to my left and working my way all the way to my right. I was able to discern a weed bed approximately at my 10 o'clock facing out from the point. While it was frustrating to remove weeds from my lure every few casts, I finally found what I thought to be the edge.

I noticed a loon fishing just above the weed bed as well. The bird would go under the water and pop back up a minute or so later with a fish in his mouth. I saw a few other water birds around, but he seemed to be by far the most successful. His success and the knowledge of the weed bed gave me some hope that there would be active fish in the area. I was careful to wait for the loon to resurface before casting so-as to avoid any unwanted advances from the bird. Sorry loon, you're just not my type.

Lake Pinchot CrappieI swam the Green Gary fast at the top, I drug him slow along the bottom, and I bobbed him haphazardly through the middle of the water column. I don't recall what I was doing at the time but whatever it was suddenly started to work. My first catch was a nice sized Black Crappie. The picture doesn't do it justice as the angle was weird, but he was probably about 8 inches. This guy hit my hook not too far in front of me, maybe 15 feet away, which was probably about half way between myself and the weed bed that I had been pitching toward.

Encouraged, I kept tossing in that direction. Some time passed and no more bites so I started tossing to my right just to test the waters but also to let any fish that were in the weed bed become comfortable again. A few kayakers floated by and the loon was forced to vacate for a time as well.

16" Largemouth Bass at Lake PinchotA little while later, I turned back to the weed bed. The loon followed suit. We fished the bed for a few more minutes when I felt a short tug on my line. I set the hook and began reeling in at a pace that caused the loon to give me a quizzical if not patronizing look while he gulped down yet another baitfish. Well, whatever was on my line was giving me a fight and I could hear some line being shed as I tried to get him into my range. Finally I caught a glimpse of him and could see he was a nice sized largemouth bass...nothing for the record books, but it did give me a rush. I drug him into my feet and grabbed him by the mouth. A fisherman in a kayak was floating by shouting some words of encouragement. I determined that this guy was about 16 inches after measuring my rod later in the day. I snapped some pics and put him back into the water.

More time went by and the loon kept sucking them down while my forearms began to burn from the first significant sun that I had received since the winter ended. At some point, the loon switched sides of the point and began fishing what I thought to be a rocky bottomed area to my right. I did likewise and began to get hungry as the afternoon wore on. I was just about to call it a day when a few sharp hits on the end of my rod garnered my attention. This didn't feel like a bass, so my hook set wasn't as aggressive.

Yellow Perch at Lake PinchotI gave it a yank and started reeling in. It wasn't much of a fight but once I got the little guy in I was pleased to find a beautiful yellow perch on the other end. I was pretty pleased with this catch as it has been a while since I had seen one of these up in our neck of the woods. And with that I said goodbye to the loon and headed back to shore.

All in all, Lake Pinchot was a good trip and I do recommend it. There appear to be a good variety of decent sized fish out there. Not having the luxury of a boat, I was fortunate to pick a good spot and read my surroundings accurately. The Green Gary Spinnerbait never left my line and proved himself to be a versatile and fun lure to work in the water, as are all of our handmade spinnerbaits. Although my gear couldn't quite compete with the thousands of years of evolution exhibited by the resident loon, I can confidently say that time, testing and dedication did pay off with this lure.