The best time for catching big fish

Posted on: July 28, 2017 | Bob Frye | Comments

My name’s not on the list. Chances are yours isn’t either.

There are only so many, after all.

Ah, but hope, like dirty laundry in a house full of teen-aged children, in inexhaustible. There’s always another basketful of it to be had tomorrow.

That’s not poetic, I know.

But we’re talking focus here. Sometimes you gotta dig deep and put dirty, gritty, sweat-stained substance over style.

After all, every cast – every one – could be the one.

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission’s list of biggest fish reported caught in 2016 proves that. You can see it and previous lists here.

Maybe you’ve seen it. The commission puts such a list out every year. They break down, by species, as many as the top five fish of each kind caught in Pennsylvania the previous season.

OK, so they’re not official in that none of the fish are examined the way a potential state record is. Anglers are taken at their word as to weights.

Might one occasionally stretch the truth??

Hey, we’re all fishermen and women. And what’s a few ounces between friends anyway?

But the list is fun to look at.

And one thing it shows is that giant fish can be caught at any time.

Most of the whopper trout that showed up last year, no surprise, were caught in April. Probably a lot of big breeders bucketed to the water from the back of a hatchery truck there.

October was tops for steelhead. No surprise there either.

That’s the month when fresh chromers rushing one way — namely upstream – encounters another stronger, wilder, madder rush, this one of anglers coming the other way.

Big fish and occasional chaos usually occur, with about equal frequency.

The hottest days of summer, from July through September, but especially in August, are when the most big catfish turned up, at least when it came to channel cats and flatheads. Bullheads – eager biters that they are – were a little less choosy as to timing.

But beyond that?

The five biggest walleyes came in five different months, from January through November. Same with the five biggest muskies – the largest of them a reported 53-incher – and the five biggest largemouth bass and the five biggest smallmouths.

Citation-sized crappies showed up from February through December and chain pickerel from March through September.

So what’s it all mean?

Beats me.

Except, perhaps, that there’s never a bad time to go fishing.

I don’t expect to catch a finny giant every time out, or even any time, for that matter. But I never rule it out, either.

It’s the possibility that’s the draw.

That special moment could come while sitting dry on the bank or while wet wading in the stream. It could come from low in the water in the kayak or higher up from the cane seat of the canoe. It could come this time or next time.

Doesn’t matter.

Any time, from any position, on any water, could be the time.

You just gotta be there.

So maybe I’ll get on the list. Maybe you will. Maybe neither of us will.

Either way, it’s OK. It’s the trying that’s the thing.

Bob Frye is the editor. Reach him at 412-838-5148 or See other stories, blogs, videos and more at

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