One Local Waterway May Surprise You, When It Comes to Catching Fish

Outdoor Opportunities By COL(Ret.) Grey D. Berrier II

When I first started out as a fledgling outdoor writer, I received sage advice from several seasoned writers. One piece of wisdom they shared was “never give away your secret spots in print.” At face value, I initially took that as being somewhat selfish, but then they elaborated. “Don’t give them away because chances are your secret spots aren’t so secret after all and by telling folks about them in your writings, you will just really upset the ones who already knew about those productive places to hunt or fish before you spilled the beans.” Now, I’ve always tried to adhere to that practical advice, but this week I’ve decided to “let the cat out of the bag” and share with the world one local waterway that offers abundant fishing opportunities and receives substantially less fishing pressure than you would expect. I know there are some folks already in on this secret, because I‘ve seen their vehicles parked in the same spots numerous times or I’ve encountered them on the water as I’ve been fishing or just paddling through. At the risk of “opening Pandora’s box”, I’m just going to come right out and say it. The Shenango River, which many people simply think of as a meandering, muddy, polluted small river or overgrown creek, is actually home to a wide variety of gamefish and some of them grow quite large. Here in Lawrence County, we are downstream of the Shenango Reservoir at Sharpsville and just about every fish species you can catch in the impoundment, you can also hook into in the river, starting at the base of the dam and continuing on downriver until it merges with the Mahoning River to form the Beaver River. I’m not the first to share this info, you can check out the online videos, but in-the-know fishermen drive quite a distance to fish the Shenango River outflow. It’s a tremendous spot when it comes to smallmouth bass, walleyes, muskellunge, channel catfish, and several other gamefish species, both day and night. However, the productive water on the Shenango River isn’t just the first 1.5 miles below the dam, but continues throughout the waterway, at intermittent intervals. The Shenango River has numerous, long, slow moving pools with muddy banks and periodic strainers (trees that fell into the river). These pools are frequently productive spots to find panfish (bluegills, sunfish, and crappies), along with catfish (channel and flathead), and an abundance of massive carp. When targeting carp, I often average two 10+ lb. carp per hour and it becomes an enjoyable challenge landing those big bottom feeders on 8 lb. test line after a 15-minute battle. Where you find rocks on the Shenango River, you will find the water’s most abundant gamefish, smallmouth bass. I also find they like hanging around the many bridge pilings along the waterway and by the two low-head dams in the Sharon area. While fishing for smallmouth bass on the Shenango River with jigs, spoons, spinners, and crankbaits over the years, I have hooked into the occasional walleye, northern pike, muskellunge, and surprisingly, even a few striped bass. Latching onto a 6- lb. striper after numerous 1-lb. smallmouths, definitely gets your attention. This year, I plan on fishing larger lures at times in deliberate pursuit of the hefty muskies and northern pike that prowl the river. Past PA fish & Boat Commission electroshock surveys have recorded rock bass, perch, and largemouth bass in the Shenango River. I haven’t hooked into those species yet, but it’s only a matter of time. One of my most unusual Shenango River catches was a 17” redhorse sucker that took a 3” red & white Dardevle spoon. (Quite unusual for a sucker to hit a lure.) The PF&BC established a “Do Not Eat” Advisory in 2017 for all fish from the Shenango River below the reservoir, due to PCB contamination. That makes the Shenango River “Catch & Release”, which is fine by me and with other anglers who have discovered its true potential. This weekend, please remember the selfless sacrifices of our fallen and departed U.S. Armed Forces, the real reason we observe Memorial Day! God Bless, Be Safe, and Great Outdoors! ©WBB 2019

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