Top 15 Pennsylvania Game Fish Species

Top 15 Pennsylvania game fish species

This post will list the top 15 Pennsylvania game fish species. Pennsylvania offers anglers some outstanding freshwater fishing opportunities, from tiny streams to the open waters of Lake Erie! They are listed in no particular order. Fishing tips and locations will also be included.

Pennsylvania is a land locked state. Therefore, it only offers anglers freshwater fishing opportunities. There are many different species available and quite a few different techniques that can be used successfully.

Top Pennsylvania game fish species

smallmouth bass fishing tackle and lures

The list of the top 15 Pennsylvania game fish species:

  1. Largemouth bass
  2. Smallmouth bass
  3. Walleye
  4. Rainbow trout
  5. Brown trout
  6. Brook trout
  7. Striped bass
  8. Bluegill and panfish
  9. Northern Pike
  10. Muskellunge (musky)
  11. Catfish
  12. Crappie
  13. Chain pickerel
  14. Carp
  15. Yellow perch

There are opportunities and waters for every freshwater angler in the state of Pennsylvania. Anglers can fish ponds for bluegill, fly fish streams for trout, cast lures for bass in lakes, or troll for walleye in Lake Erie. Many anglers practice catch and release, however many species are good to eat as well.

Pennsylvania largemouth bass

best soft plastic lure

Largemouth bass are a popular freshwater game fish species in North America. Pennsylvania offers anglers some excellent fishing for them. They our first on the list of the top 15 Pennsylvania game fish species. Lakes abound throughout the state, as well as smaller farm ponds and slow moving rivers. Bass are decent to eat, but the vast majority of largemouth bass are released to fight another day.

Michigan fishing

Most anglers targeting largemouth bass do so using artificial lures. Soft plastic baits are very effective! Plugs, spinnerbaits, jigs, spinners, and even flies will fool them. Anglers using live bait opt for nightcrawlers, crayfish, and minnows.

check out my post on the best freshwater fishing tackle and lures

Pennsylvania smallmouth bass

Pennsylvania smallmouth bass

Smallmouth bass are a terrific game fish species and Pennsylvania has an excellent population! The cool, clear waters of the state are perfect smallmouth bass habitat. They are found in streams, rivers, and lakes, including Lake Erie. Smallmouth bass are fine eating, though most are released.

Pennsylvania smallmouth bass

Smallmouth bass are a bit of a mix between largemouth bass and trout. They prefer clear water with some current. Mid sized rivers like the Susquehanna are great spots to fish. However, they can tolerate warmer water than trout. The same lures and baits that produce largemouth bass work fine for smallmouth, though usually smaller in size.

Pennsylvania walleye

walleye fishing, a beginners guide

Walleye are a game fish that are prized by Pennsylvaia anglers. They are third on the list of the top 15 Pennsylvania game fish species. While they are a pretty fish that puts up a decent tussle, the reason for their popularity is the fantastic value on a dinner plate. Walleye are perhaps the finest tasting fish in freshwater! Lake Erie is the top spot, though they are found in many larger lake and river systems throughout Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania walleye

Trolling is the most effective method when pursuing walleye. It allows anglers to cover a lot of water in search of fish. Anglers can present multiple lures and baits at one time. Plugs are very effective, as are nighcrawlers on a harness. The famous Erie Dearie was invented there. Drifting works as well and anglers can even cast lures in shallow water. Ice fishing for walleye is also popular and productive.

Pennsylvania rainbow trout


Many anglers associate Pennsylvania with trout fishing, and for good reason. The state offers countless miles of productive trout streams along with lakes and larger rivers. Pennsylvania has an aggressive stocking program to keep the waters full of fish. There are areas of puts intake fishing where the trout are meant to be harvested. This usually occurs and bodies of water that get too warm in the summer for trout to survive.

Rainbow trout are one of the most recognizable game fish species in the world. They are also widely distributed and are the most popular of the major trout species. Many anglers fly fish for rainbow trout, but lures such as spoons and spinners are effective, as is live bait. Rainbow trout are very good to eat.

Minnesota trout fishing

Some rainbow trout exhibit a particular behavior. They move out into the open waters of Lake Erie, then return to their native creeks and rivers to spawn. This same behavior occurs when rainbow trout move out into the open oceans as well. These fish take on a distinct color pattern and are known as steelhead trout. They are large and strong and put up an incredible fight.

Pennsylvania brown trout

best trout lures

Brown trout are plentiful in Pennsylvania as well. They are the largest of the three main trout species and can tolerate water that is a bit warmer. They grow large in lakes and are found in most of the same rivers and streams as rainbow trout. Brown trout are heavily stocked. Like most trout, they are excellent to eat.

Brown trout are caught by anglers casting flies, lures, and live baits in creeks, streams, rivers, and lakes. They inhabit many of the same waters as rainbow trout. The largest brown trout are caught by anglers in the open waters of Lake Erie. These trout feed heavily on the abundant forage and grow quite large.

Pennsylvania brook trout

brook trout fishing

Brook trout are the smallest of the three trout species, and perhaps the most beautiful. They have a bit of a cult following for anglers seeking “native brookies”. Brook trout can be found in the tiniest of streams, often high in the mountains. They are stocked as well in the larger, more accessible waters. They are terrific eating and are often fried whole for breakfast.

Pennsylvania striped bass

striped bass fishing tips and spots

Striped bass are a fishing management success story throughout the United States. They are a species that can tolerate salt and fresh waters and our next on the list of top 15 Pennsylvania game fish species. Striped bass are an open water fish and were perfect for the large, deep reservoirs. Herring and shad were stocked as forage and striped bass have thrived. Trolling is the preferred method, though casting lures can be productive as well. Live herring and shad are terrific live baits. Striped bass grow large, fight hard, and are very good to eat!

Pennsylvania bluegill and panfish

Sarasota freshwater fishing

Bluegill and other panfish species may be the most popular and sought after of all fish. There are several reasons for this. They are abundant, widely distributed, fairly aggressive and easy to catch, great fun to catch, and are fantastic eating! Pennsylvania offers anglers some very good bluegill and panfish fishing opportunities.

Many panfish are caught by anglers using live bait such as worms and crickets. Fishing a live bait under a float is a time proven successful method that anyone can do. Bluegill and panfish are most often found in fairly shallow water, around weeds, boat docks, and fallen trees. Warmer months are generally best, but they can be caught by anglers ice fishing as well.

Pennsylvania northern pike

spinnerbait fishing for pike

Northern Pike are an apex predator. They are one of the largest of all freshwater fish species in Pennsylvania offers anglers excellent pike fishing. Northern pike prefer cooler water temperatures which many Pennsylvania lakes offer. They do not prefer areas with high current flow, instead preferring to ambush prey on shallow water flats. Submerged weed beds in particular are prime northern pike fishing spots.

Most anglers fish for Pike with artificial lures. Spoons and large spinners in particular are very effective, as are plugs and even soft plastic lures. This allows them to cover a lot of water and searching fish while also appealing to the aggressive nature of pike. It’s northern pike continue to feed when the water is cold, they are prime target for anglers who enjoy ice fishing. A live bait fish such as a sucker is the top choice. Pike are bony, yet are very good eating for anglers who take the time to learn how to clean them.

Pennsylvania muskellunge

river fishing for musky

Many anglers consider muskellunge, also known as musky, to be the ultimate freshwater fishing challenge. They did not earn their nickname “a fish of 10,000 casts” by accident. Musky fishing requires dedication as well as the ability to cast heavy artificial lures for a long period of time in search of a feeding fish. However, the effort will pay off in the fish of a lifetime. Pennsylvania offers anglers some very good musky fishing in both lakes and river systems. Almost all musky are released unharmed.

Pennsylvania catfish

channel catfish bait

Catfish are another popular and plentiful fish species found in Pennsylvania. Some anglers failed to consider them a game fish, but this is a mistake! Catfish are aggressive and grow quite large. The reputation of being bottom feeding scavengers is not deserved. Catfish much prefer a fresh or lively bait and are regularly taken by anglers fishing for largemouth bass with artificial lures.

There are two main catfish species in Pennsylvania; channel catfish and flathead catfish. Channel catfish are smaller and much more plentiful, being available and most waters that are warm enough to support them. They have a varied diet and can be caught on just about any live or cut bait. Flathead catfish grow larger and are more solitary, thus less numerous. They are primarily taken by anglers using large live bait fish.

Pennsylvania crappie

top freshwater species

Crappie are the largest member of the pan fish species and are found in decent numbers throughout Pennsylvania, though they are not as abundant as some other states. Crappie fishing has become quite popular throughout the United States, particularly due to the advent of tournaments. They are normally found in large schools and are most often sought after in the spring and early summer. Live minnows and small jigs are the top baits used to catch them. Crappie are fantastic eating!

Pennsylvania chain pickerel

top freshwater fish list

Chain pickerel are basically a smaller version of northern pike. They have all of the same aggressive tendencies and behaviors, just in a smaller package. They are great fun when caught by anglers using appropriately light tackle. Like the other members of their family, they are bony and very few anglers keep them to eat. Shallow, weedy lakes and rivers are prime spots to catch chain pickerel.

Pennsylvania carp

fishing for carp

Carp are another fish that often suffers from an unfair reputation. They are bottom feeders that swim about feeding on whatever they run across. However, they grow large and can put up a fantastic fight for anglers using light or medium spinning tackle. Most carp are caught by anglers bottom fishing with corn, dough balls, and nightcrawlers in slow-moving rivers and in some lakes and ponds. They are not considered to be good to eat.

Pennsylvania yellow perch

yellow perch fishing

Yellow perch are smaller cousins to walleye, though they are often included in the panfish family. For the purposes of this list, they are listed separately due to their habits. Yellow perch are most often caught in the open waters of lakes in fairly deep water. Lake Erie in particular is a prime spot to target yellow perch. They also make runs up into tributary creeks in the spring to spawn. Yellow perch are beautiful fish that put up a great little battle on ultralight spinning tackle. They are a very popular species for anglers ice fishing as they still feed well in cold water. Many anglers consider them to be the best tasting freshwater fish that swims!

In conclusion, this article on the top 15 Pennsylvania game fish species will help anglers catch more fish in the Keystone state!


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