Think Pymatuning for muskies, walleyes

Posted on: May 4, 2017 | Bob Frye | Comments

This is a musky captured in a net at Pymatuning Lake in spring of 2016. Fish and Boat Commission biologists say they caught more than 200 such fish in this year’s sampling effort.
Photo: Pa Fish and Boat Commission

So you want to catch a musky?

You could do a lot worse than try your luck at Pymatuning Lake in Crawford County.

Biologists from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission sample the fish populations on the 17,088-acre lake straddling the Pennsylvania-Ohio border each spring. They always catch muskies.

But this year was exceptional.

Biologists collected more than 200 individual fish in their nets.

“I think our previous record was in the 120s, maybe 124, 125,” said Freeman Johns, a biologist in the agency’s Linesville office. “So we really crushed them. It was pretty incredible.”

Most were in the 36- to 40-inch range, Johns said. But biologists also handled some up to 45 inches, at least.

The fish were spread throughout the lake, too, he said.

All appeared healthy.

“There were not only a lot of them out there. As always, they were big and fat, as they typically are at Pymatuning,” Johns said.

Biologists have yet to complete the write-up of their survey. Johns said they’ll release a report with more specifics soon, perhaps later this month.

One thing he noted, though, was how far some of the muskies moved.

All of those caught were implanted with passive integrated transponder – known as PIT – tags. They’re rice-sized transmitters stuck under the skin near the anal fin with a syringe.

Each tag is unique. Biologists who collect those same fish in subsequent surveys can scan them, identify the fish and note how it’s grown in terms of length and weight.

This spring, Johns said, biologists caught some fish in the southern end of the lake, then recaptured them later in the northern end. Some moved as much as five miles in one night.

One traveled nearly eight miles in less than a week.

“There’s some literature out there that says they move after being handled. They don’t like it,” Johns said.

“But I was surprised that three of them moved from south of the causeway such a long way north.”


Don’t overlook Pymatuning for another species either.

Johns said biologists caught a “tremendous” number of walleyes, too. Final figures on that catch are likewise still being compiled.

“But we got 970, plus or minus, in one day alone,” Johns said.

Just don’t assume that abundance will lead to easy catches.

“The downside is that they’re pretty well fed,” Johns said.

Pymatuning is chock full of baitfish, he noted. Survey nets were routinely overloaded with gizzard shad, spottail minnows, alewives and even small yellow perch.

“I don’t know if that means the walleyes are going to hard to catch or not. There’s just so much for them to eat,” he noted.

For information on Pymatuning Lake, check out previous Fish and Boat Commission surveys here. Click on the magnifying glass in the upper left corner and do a search for Pymatuning Reservoir.

Information on camping, boat launch sites and more can be found at the Pymatuning State Park webpage here.

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

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