Lower Juniata offers bronzebacks this fall
By Freddie McKnight
As the calendar turns to September, sportsmen may start thinking more of hunting than fishing as the seasons start to transition from summer to fall. However many a nice weather day will still be on hand, and with only a few hunting seasons open, angling will still take place.
What if there was a way to combine the two? That very well could happen if your destination is the lower Juniata River.
Winding its way eastward from Lewistown to its eventual connection with the mighty Susquehanna River at Duncannon, the Juniata River has many places where one can combine hunting and fishing.
This section of the river is best known for its smallmouth bass fishing, and as the waters cool in the coming weeks, the fish will go on a feeding frenzy to pack on fat for winter. This could provide some of the best fishing action of the year for anglers willing to hit the waters.
Key locations for fishing now will be at the upper and tail ends of the deeper pools where the fish will ride out the winter. You may find the bass still somewhat scattered across the river, but soon the migration will take place as the fish sense the impending cold.
Look for visible current breaks and cast your offering upstream of these to fish it through the strike zone. At this time of the year, both crayfish and minnow imitations will work well, with the minnow imitation winning out as the water gets cooler.
Some topwater action could also take place, but this will phase out as the temperature drops.
Another key spot to look for bass in this region will be at the tail end of the many small islands that dot the river. The downstream side will be the place to hold bass, especially if there is deeper water adjacent to the shallows.
Many of these locations have sandbars of sorts at the lower ends of the islands as a result of silt being washed into the slack water areas over the years.
Coincidentally, these islands are some of the best places to look for geese as well during the September season. The surrounding landscape has numerous agricultural areas where the birds fly off to feed, and then return to the river to loaf.
Setting up where the birds have been seen is a good tactic to catch them off-guard and in close gun range.
The trouble with the early season birds is that they seem to have no schedule and are as apt to fly in and out of these areas whenever they feel like it. Hunting pressure and weather could have an impact on that, so you need to scout just prior to your hunt to find the best spot for your adventure.
Dove hunters may also find this stretch of river attractive, as the birds will come to the river to get a drink and relax in the shade of shoreline trees. Scouting is a must as the birds also have their preferences as to the places where they hang out, but one key factor may help you in your quest to find them.
Look for areas of exposed rocks along the shorelines or the shores of the islands. Doves will flock to these areas looking for fine grit to ingest to help break up the foods they have eaten. These rock areas could be as productive as any nearby cropfield and, being hard to reach, may not see the competition of other hunting locations.
In this stretch of river, one will find numerous public boat ramps that will allow access to certain stretches of the water. One thing to keep in mind, especially if the water is low, is that navigation through some of the shallow areas can be hazardous.
If you are not familiar with the river, it is best to wait till daylight to launch your craft so that you are able to avoid the rocks and other obstructions.
If you don’t have a boat, don’t fret as you can always get in on the fishing action by wading. There are dozens of miles of shoreline you can access from parks, fishing areas and the little bit of public land adjacent to the river.
You may also be able to acquire permission to cross private lands by knocking on a door or two. You may also be able to gain permission to hunt land adjacent to the river for either species of bird if the crops have been harvested.
Geese can be especially troublesome to farmers, and they may allow you to try your luck at thinning out the local flocks.
This area has easy access with Route 22 paralleling the river all the way to its juncture with the Susquehanna. You can find all the amenities you will need along the way as well, so a multi-day trip is easy to do.
You may have to put up with the noise of traffic on this busy highway, but with the hunting and fishing action you will experience, there is a possibility that you won’t notice it at all.
Lower Juniata River
CLOSEST TOWN: Lewistown
FISH: Smallmouth bass, rock bass, channel catfish, muskies, carp, walleyes and fallfish
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: The lower section of the Juniata River starts in Lewistown and flows though Mifflintown, Port Royal, Thompsontown, Millerstown and Newport on its way to the Susquehanna River at Duncannon.
A key spot to look for bass in this region is at the tail end of the many small islands that dot the river.
These islands are some of the best places to look for geese as well during the September season.
There are dozens of miles of shoreline you can access from parks, fishing areas and public land adjacent to the river.