Saturday, February 4th, 2023
Saturday, February 4th, 2023

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Close to home: Southeast’s smallmouth, panfish offer a good time

By Vic Attardo
Contributing Writer


They are plenty of warmwater smallmouth and panfish opportunities pretty close to the backyards of thousands of southeast Pennsylvania anglers. 


And if you have ever wanted to take up fly-fishing, now – really, now, – and on these southeast streams, is the time and place to try.


The warmwater flows in Montgomery, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lancaster and Lebanon counties are wide enough for backcasting and fairly easy to work. Also the species you’ll pursue will readily take a wide range of flies, not just the technically challenging dry fly.


However, I have one bit of proselytizing to perform.


Many anglers snub their noses at stocked trout, only wanting to pursue wild fish. Well, okay. All the fish in the southeast’s warmwater flows are wild fish, bred and born right here. 


So get off your high trout horse, fish these waters and learn to care about the warmwater creeks as much as you do the trophy trout ghettos. Furthermore, a redbreast sunfish is as beautiful as a brook trout and fights a lot stronger. So are you a fisherman or an elitist?


If you’re unfamiliar with these southeast waters perhaps the hardest thing you’ll have to do is learn how to pronounce many of them. 


The Neshaminy and Tohickon in Bucks County, and the Perkiomen in Montgomery County are tough if you never heard the names spoken. On the other hand Skippack (Montgomery), Maiden (Berks) and Brandywine (Delaware and Chester counties) aren’t so bad.


But can you pronounce Ontelaunee Creek (Berks) Unami (Montgomery and Bucks), Manatawney (Berks) or Swatara, Lebanon County?


Generally speaking, access to all these streams is rough. You must study a map looking for bridge crossings, adjacent county parks and parallel trails. Over the last 20 years, the Rail-to-Trails program has been a substantial boon to their fishing access. 


Collect all the municipal trail and park maps you can and poke around. Nobody is going to give up their “secret” access spots along these creeks, so you have to do your homework. 


Also look for streams where trout stocking ends in late April and early May as soon they will be taken over by warmwater species. With few exceptions, this is all wading water with canoes and kayaks also welcome.


A stream I’ll spotlight because I’ve never given it much attention here is the 40-mile Neshaminy Creek in Bucks County.


Neshaminy flows from Chalfont southeast to the Delaware River at Croydon. The best smallmouth and redbreast fishing occurs roughly from Route 611 south of Doylestown to about Hulmeville on Route 513. 


The further south one goes toward the Delaware River there is less smallmouth habitat. Good water can also be found southwest of Newtown near Route 532. Access is available at the Tyler State Park off Route 413. One area I like is Dark Hollow Road. Fish up or downstream.           


I’ve also enjoyed parts of Tohickon Creek in Bucks County. The best water lies below Lake Nockmixon, traveling through trout stocked areas to the mouth of the Delaware River, though the stretch above Route 563 has been known for redbreasts.


The area in Bedminister Township is worth a look as is the stretch through Ralph Stover State Park. This stream has caddis and craneflies.


My last spotlight is on Mantawany Creek in Berks and Montgomery counties. The upper Manatawany, around Oley, is nice trout water and even has wild browns, but the closer one gets to Pottstown and the Schuylkill River, the more it become a warmwater flow.  


Look for widely spaced above-surface rocks to support, at times, substantial numbers of mating and waring crayfish and this is when smallmouths and panfish make their best appearance.

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