Nice-sized crappies are available at both Lake Arthur and Shenango Lake.
Photo: PA Fish and Boat Commission
When it comes to crappies, anglers have two seemingly good choices among lakes.
Shenango Lake in Mercer County takes in 3,560 acres at normal pool. That can change; it’s a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers flood control dam.
Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission biologists surveyed the lake earlier this spring. The final report of that work, with specific numbers, is yet to be completed.
But it’s full of crappies.
The problem, said commission biologist Freeman Johns, is that big ones are relatively scarce.
“We saw a few up to 15 inches,” he said. “But most were maybe 8 or 9, occasionally up to 10.”
That’s not what anglers are reporting, though.
Guide Darl Black said the lake has “been on fire” with big crappies this spring. He forwarded a fishing report from Rich Como of Sharpsville as proof.
“Very large black and white crappies were being caught from shore and in boats,” Como wrote. “Average size is best I’ve seen in years. On one trip Julie and I keep 35; each crappie was 12 to 15 inches.
Then there’s Lake Arthur.
The centerpiece of Moraine State Park in Butler County, it takes in 3,225 acres. Survey work at it this spring showed that it, too, is home to lots of crappies, Johns said.
They tend to be nice.
“We got a couple of whoppers down there. Fish I’d say 16 inches,” he said.
The average crappie was around 10 inches, though, so the population is producing lots of good-sized fish.
Survey crews also collected a lot of nice bluegills at Lake Arthur, he added, so panfish anglers in general should have lots of opportunity.
Odds and ends
What else did biologists notice when sampling Shenango Lake and Lake Arthur?
Well, at Shenango, crews captured a number of flathead catfish. Several exceeded 40 inches in length.
“Those fish have to be many years old,” Johns said.
That’s interesting, he said, because biologists do not routinely catch flatheads there. They’re obviously surviving season to season, Johns said, but proving elusive at the same time.
Anglers will have a fight on their hands if they tangle with one.
“Some of those whoppers, the really big guys, they were hard to handle, even in the net,” Johns said. “They were pretty impressive fish.”
The news was less good on another front at Lake Arthur.
The catfish population there – all channel cats – is doing very well, Johns said. The musky population is not.
“We did OK on muskies, but not great. I was actually a little disappointed,” Johns said.
Some large specimens, including a female that went nearly 50 inches, turned up. But the numbers just aren’t there, Johns added.