Small southeast lakes produce good bass
By Vic Attardo
What: Southeast Pennsylvania bass options.
Fisheries: Muddy Run Reservoir, Speedwell Forge Lake, Williams Lake, Redman Lake, Conewago Lake.
When: April should see some good action on all five of these fisheries.
Why: Because they’re small and shallow, they should heat up quickly this month, producing some good largemouth bass fishing.
Info: Muddy Run: Phillip’s Bait & Tackle (717-284-2574) in Quarryville;
Speedwell Forge: Great Barrier Fishing Company (717-859-3211) in Akron;
Conewago: Bargain Hut Bait & Tackle (717-432-4505) in Wellsville; Williams and Redman: Shearer’s Bait & Tackle (717-227-0771) in Glen Rock.
HOLTWOOD, Pa. — In the early stages of the Pennsylvania bass season, small is often better.
Relax, I’m not referring to the size of the fish, I’m talking about the extent of the lake.
Small lakes are often better for spring bass because their waters warm up faster.
While bass can be caught even with ice on the surface, water temperatures starting in the low 60s are more advantageous to an aggressive bite.
They’re not necessary, but warming waters usually allow you to employ a wide variety of offerings and catch bass that are feeling like they need a good meal.
Throughout the southern tier of the state there are scads of waters under 350 acres.
When you combine their smaller size with their warmer southern location, you have the recipe for some early-season largemouth success.
But just because these lakes don’t register acreage like the big boys, doesn’t mean they are flat, featureless ovals.
In fact, the runts can have more contoured shorelines, more depth changes and, yard for yard, more structure than their cousins.
Here are some of the southeast’s best, five lakes that heat up quickly:
Muddy Run Reservoir
In western Lancaster County, Muddy Run Reservoir is a place you might drive past on the way to the heralded waters of the Susquehanna River.
That’s too bad. While the river can be quite temperamental in early spring — off-colored and flowing cold and fast with winter runoff — the sheltering hills often keep the 98-acre lake calm and workable.
With two shallow bays — one at the lake’s lone boat ramp and another uplake on the eastern side — its waters warm fairly fast.
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission rates Muddy Run as having a moderate population of largemouth with some excellent size fish.
Three-pounders should comprise a solid percentage of your catch.
The lake also has a fair number of very hefty smallmouth.
Muddy Run is located east of Holtwood and west of Buck. Take Route 272 south from Lancaster, or Route 372 west from Coatesville.
The lake is situated just off 372 a few miles west of the river bridge crossing and is operated by a utility company.
There’s a paved ramp and only electric motors are permitted.
Shore fishing is located near the ramp and at the lower end at the dam wall. Boat rentals are available.
For info/gear, contact Phillip’s Bait & Tackle (717-284-2574) in Quarryville.
At 106 acres, Speedwell Forge is rated by state fish biologists as the best small lake in the southeast for bucketmouths.
The lake has consistently registered the highest density of largemouth over 15 and 20 inches in the region. But there is a caveat: The Lancaster County lake is not easy to fish.
“That lake is prime, but you should know, anglers have a hard time catching fish there,” said state biologist Mike Kaufmann.
Two reasons account for this problem. The first is that it’s rather featureless — the exact opposite of how I view the other small lakes in the region.
It has some stumps, but otherwise it’s a bowl.
The second problem is water clarity. As water temps increases, Speedwell Forge is bound to see a crop of algae that would make an algae farmer happy — if it could be sold.
But ironically, if you get to the lake early enough in the season, the bloom should not have ripened and water clarity won’t be a problem.
However, if you run into a carp spawn on Speedwell, the water may look like a storm sewer outlet after a week of heavy rain.
I don’t mean to discourage you too much, just rate it honestly, because if conditions are right, you’ll find some very large bass on the lake.
You see, since few folks catch them, they get to be big. Ironic, isn’t it?
One way to crack the lake is to pay attention to the large population of gizzard shad and match the hatch with shallow-running crankbaits.
Another Speedwell trick is to finesse fish 4-inch plastic worms, motor oil and black neon.
Speedwell Forge is operated by the PFBC. It’s located northwest of Lancaster and about 5 miles north of Lititz.
Follow Route 72 to Route 501 to Brubaker Valley Road.
There’s a launch site and only electric motors are permitted.
Lake Williams, at 220 acres, is a little big for our mini-list but it warms quickly and rates high.
In fact, the PFBC ranks it as the best small lake in the southeast for bass 20 inches and over.
The first two things you should know about the York County lake are that only cartoppers are allowed, and it’s electric motors only.
The restriction is partially responsible for the standard of fishing.
Use lures that work on a steep-sided lake as about 50 percent of Williams’ shoreline falls off the table like a major-league forkball.
While the lake has a severe boating restriction, the amount of shore fishing is fairly extensive.
To reach Lake Williams, take I-83 to Exit 4, Leader Heights, and go west about a ½ mile to the junction with Old Susquehanna Trail.
Follow the trail south to Jacobus. At Water Street, turn right. You’ll find the entrance about a ¼ mile on the right.
Though Redman and Williams are actually connected — Redman discharges directly into Williams — they’re not twins but more like brothers.
At 290 acres, Redman has a higher population density of largemouth than Williams, but there are fewer fish above 20 inches on Redman.
However, Redman still has plenty of fish between 15 and 20 inches.
With no boat-size restriction, Redman receives more pressure than the lower lake, nevertheless the fishing is still very good.
The lake is also operated by the York Water Company. Only electric motors are permitted and rentals are available.
To reach Redman follow basically the same directions to Lake Williams by taking I-83 to Exit 4 then west to the Old Susquehanna Trail Road to the village of Jacobus.
Turn left on Church Street to reach a launch area on the left. A cartopper-only launch is located on Spartan Road, a ½ mile beyond the main launch.
Rated one of the best largemouth lakes in the region, Conewago Lake in Gifford Pinchot State Park should be a real treat.
Not only does the 340-acre impoundment have a high population density of largemouth, according to state agency surveys, it also has considerable numbers of bass over 12 and 15 inches.
Conewago’s shape is long and linear with lots of bays and coves.
In the upper end, it’s fed by Beaver Creek, and in this zone the lake is fairly shallow with lots of weeds that will grow quickly in a warm spring.
At the lower end, with the dam, you’ll find deeper and often less weed-choked waters.
As part of a state park, Conewago is operated by the DCNR. There are a number of launching and mooring areas.
Only electric motors are permitted here.
Pinchot has camping with 340 sites.
For more information on the state park, call (717-432-5011).
Pinchot is located on Route 177 between Lewisberry and Rossville.