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What kind of fish and fishing will I find in Pennsylvania?

With 86,000 miles of streams and rivers, along with 4,000 inland lakes and ponds covering 160,000 acres, plus 470,000 acres of Lake Erie, the fishing opportunities are vast. 

More than 90 species of fish are found in three general categories of water:

    1. Streams - home to Trout, Steelhead, and Salmon
    2. Rivers - home to Bass, Walleye, Pike, Muskellunge, Catfish, Carp
    3. Lakes - home to Bass, panfish, Pike, Trout

What do I need to know before I go?

Refer to our Fishing Summary Book to know Pennsylvania's fishing regulations. 

How can I tell the different between a stocked and a wild trout?

Hatchery trout are typically more bland in coloration in comparison to their wild cousins primarily because they are fed a formulated diet that does not include many of the food items that provide the color pigments found in nature and more readily available to a trout foraging in the wild.

Where can I fish for specific species of fish?

Check out our Where to Fish page for fishing by species.

Important note to anglers - Many waters in Pennsylvania are privately owned, the listing or mapping of waters by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission does not guarantee public access. Respect the privacy and rights of landowners - always obtain permission before entering any privately owned land.

Can I fish for "black bass" in Pennsylvania?

When Pennsylvania anglers think of bass, two principal species usually come to mind: largemouth and smallmouth. Both of these species belong to a genus (or family group) of fishes that scientists call "black bass." Three of the species inhabit Pennsylvania and include our most popular group of warmwater game fish: largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and spotted bass. Within Pennsylvania largemouth bass and smallmouth bass occur throughout the state, whereas spotted bass are restricted to the Ohio River drainage.

What are yellow pike and are they found in Pennsylvania? 

One of the many nicknames for walleye is "yellow pike." Walleye have also been called been called "Susquehanna salmon" and even "pickerel." All these nicknames put it in the wrong fish family - walleye are neither a pike cousin nor a salmon. It's the biggest, toothiest member of the perch family.

Walleyes are found throughout the state. They are often the top predator fish in their habitat, eating other fishes, as well as frogs, crayfish, and large insect larvae. Although they can be caught at any time of day, night fishing or fishing the dim depths with live bait or fish imitation lures and jigs is effective for catching walleyes.

Do stocked fish reproduce in a stream?

Nearly all the species stocked from state hatcheries are capable of spawning in the wild. The exceptions are hybrids such as tiger muskellunge, hybrid striped bass, and saugeye.

We do not stock hatchery trout to spawn and provide any contribution to the wild trout community. This would be too expensive. We place them out there for anglers to have a chance to fish for them and to catch them. In several places we stock fingerling trout on a put-grow-and-take basis. In those cases the habitat is suitable for year-round survival, but spawning and nursery habitat may be missing. So we add the stocked trout.

Are stocking lists available online?

Yes. Trout stocking schedules are available online.

The Commission also stocks warm/coolwater species (Muskellunge, Walleye, Pike, etc.).

Where can I find information on where to stay in Pennsylvania?

A great resource is Pennsylvania’s official travel & tourism site, The “Places to Stay” section offers up travel deals and a variety of places to sleep in every region of the state.  Check out today or make a call to 1-800-VISIT-PA to reserve a room and start planning your trip.

Where can I find a campground?

Pennsylvania has 124 state parks boasting 7,000 campsites and 286 rustic and modern cabins available for rental. To reserve a campsite or cabin, call 1-888-PA-PARKS or visit the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources State Parks page for more information and list of campgrounds.

There are hundreds of commercial campgrounds and RV parks throughout the state as well. 

Where can I launch my boat?

Check out our Where to Boat page.

Where can I locate a fishing guide or charter boat?

The Commission maintains a list of registered commercial Charter Boats and Fishing Guides.

What are "Class A" and "Class B" regulated fishing lakes?

Class A:

    1. Lakes wholly opened to the general public for fishing and operated solely as commercial ventures. (ex. a fee-fishing lake)

    2. Lakes situated wholly within the grounds of a privately owned campground provided that the campground is open to the general public and operated as a commercial venture regardless of whether the campground operator sells admissions to fish at the lake to members of the public who are not camping at the campground. 

    3. Lakes with a total water area of less than 20 acres situated wholly within the grounds of a private fishing and boating, rod and gun or sportsmen's club or organization when fishing in the lake is limited to members of the club or organization and the sponsoring club or organization operates a cooperative nursery recognized by the Commission, provided that fish raised by the cooperative nursery shall be stocked in waters of Pennsylvania open for free public fishing and not in the regulated fishing lake.

Person patronizing a Class A regulated fishing lake may catch, kill and possess fish without regard to any size, season or possession limit and need not possess a Pennsylvania fishing license.

"Class B" :

    • Lakes that meet all other requirements of a Class A lake, but are not open to the general public or operated as a commercial venture. Persons patronizing a Class B lake may catch, kill and possess fish without regard to size, season or possession limitation. A Pennsylvania fishing license is required to fish in a Class B lake.

The same application is used for both Class A and Class B lakes.

Is it legal to breed fish of different species? 

Various fish species have been crossbred over the years either as pure research or as a matter of routine for aquaculture purposes. In order for cross-breeding to succeed, parent fish have to be somewhat closely related.

A few examples:

  • tiger muskellunge - a hybrid between muskellunge and northern pike
  • hybrid striped bass - cross between white bass and striped bass
  • tiger trout - hybrid between brook trout and brown trout
  • splake -- hybrid between lake trout and brook trout
  • saugeye -- hybrid between walleye and sauger
  • hybrid sunfish -- cross between two sunfish species such as pumpkinseed and redear sunfish

It is legal to propagate approved hybrid species. Some species are prohibited from being possessed, transported, sold, etc. in Pennsylvania. For others, we do not permit aquaculture operations unless fish are included on permits issued by the PA Department of Agriculture or raised in a closed system.

For the aquarium hobbyist working on species that are not native to PA, it is legal to raise hybrid fish, as long as the fish and progeny are NOT released into waters of the Commonwealth anywhere in the state. Further, it is illegal to introduce a species into a watershed where it doesn't already exist.

There are also regulations for specific species where it is unlawful to sell, offer for sale, purchase, possess, introduce, import or transport. Some commonly known species include northern snakehead, black carp, silver carp, bighead carp, round goby, tubenose goby, European Rudd, and grass carp/triploid grass carp (unless by permits authorized by the Commission). To assemble a comprehensive list of all species forbidden would be a major undertaking as possibly any species in the world would have to be included, just remember it is illegal to introduce a species into a watershed where it doesn't already exist.

Is there such a thing as a natural fish kill? 

Yes. Although people frequently associate fish kills with a pollution event, natural fish kills are not uncommon. These can result from a variety of causes including:

    1. Depletion of oxygen. In the summer, oxygen depletion can occur during periods of prolonged calm, cloudy, hot weather, especially when water levels are low. In the winter, oxygen depletions can occur when ice and snow reduce light penetration into the water. These depletions are usually associated with high concentrations of organic matter, abundant growths of rooted vegetation, or heavy algal blooms. 

    2. Hydrogen sulfide poisoning. Larger fish are the most affected by this condition. Signs of hydrogen sulfide poisoning include disoriented and dying fish; dark, decaying organic material; and the odor of hydrogen sulfide.

    3. Toxic algal blooms. Under certain conditions, blooms of blue-green algae and dinoflagellates can produce toxins that are toxic to zooplankton, insects, and fish. Fish kills due to toxic algal blooms begin early in the morning and continue through early afternoon. Daily mortality continues until the toxic algae bloom ends.

    4. Spawning related mortality. Spawning and post-spawning fish have reduced resistance to pathogens. Fish that have heavy infections by parasites, bacteria or viruses, and that are exposed to environmental stressors, such as abnormal and/or fluctuating water temperatures or depressed oxygen levels, can suffer significant spring mortality. These fish kills are usually restricted to the adult fish of the spawning species; however, multiple species may be involved if their spawning periods overlap. 

 Content Editor

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