Great time for ice fishing at Kettle Creek Lake
By Freddie McKnight
The Alvin R. Bush dam was put in place as part of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers flood control project in the 1960s. While the dam has helped control flooding and erosion in the area, it has also created a great year-round fishing hole in the middle of the Pennsylvania wilds region.
At 167 acres, the lake is simply a wider, slower and deeper section of Kettle Creek. As with other dams of its type, the pool created by the blockade is shallow at the top with the deeper waters nearer the dam. The deepest water found in the little lake is listed at 34 feet.
Ice fishing is quite popular on this body of water, with trout being the most sought-after species. Close behind though should be the impoundment’s abundant population of panfish, which includes yellow perch, black crappies, bluegills and rock bass.
All can be caught through the ice with regularity, but you may have to sort through the populations of each to find some specimens big enough to fillet.
Bass also inhabit this water; both smallmouths and largemouths are found here. Though small in size, this lake can produce some trophy-sized fish. Many are caught each winter through the ice in and around the steeper drop-offs located in the lower third of the lake.
Visible shoreline structure can aid anglers in picking out key locations to drop their lines. Also available is a map of manmade fish structures scattered throughout the lake. This map can be located on the homepage of the Kettle Creek State Park website.
The lake is stocked with trout several times a year and one of those stockings is made during the late fall months in preparation for winter ice fishing. Most of those fish are rainbow trout of average size, but there are some bigger fish from previous stockings that always make it through the fishing season.
Each winter a few trophy- sized trout are brought through the ice and these could be brown or brook trout as easily as they might be rainbows.
One fish that has surprised more than a few ice fishermen is the brown bullhead. This little catfish can remain quite active in the winter months and is caught mostly by those using small minnows fishing at or near the bottom at this time of the year.
These fish are most commonly caught in or around the creek channel in the midrange area of the lake, presumably using the current to their advantage to push food to them.
This species is abundant in this water, with the average size of the fish just about right for the frying pan.
Ice thickness is not monitored by the park staff, so anglers are on their own to determine safe ice conditions. The valley in which the lake is located gets only a small portion of the winter sun into it, so the cold conditions can make ice safe and keep it that way for months on end.
Still, it is best to go prepared with the necessary gear and other anglers to remain safe.
One thing that visiting anglers will learn quickly is that bait shops are few and far between in this area, so if you plan a visit to the lake, you may want to call ahead to find the nearest available location.
Even with this minor inconvenience, the lake remains a popular winter fishing destination and the lake surface can be quite active during weekend afternoons.
If you don’t want to deal with such crowds on the ice, or want to explore more of this lake without rubbing elbows with others while doing so, weekdays offer the opportunity to do so without so much competition.
The lake and park are easy to reach. Go five miles west of Renovo on Route 120, then turn north on Kettle Creek Road for 8.7 miles and you will arrive at the lake and park.
The road runs parallel to the western shoreline of the lake, with one parking area near the lower portion of the impoundment that provides immediate access to the most productive ice fishing water.
The boat launch parking lot, located at the upper reaches of the lake, allow anglers to explore the shallows that are loaded with lily pads and the main channel of the inflow for active fish.
One last note, keep tabs on the weather in this region as it can change fast. This will have to be done physically as there is no cellphone reception in this area due to its mountainous nature.
Also because of the COVID pandemic, state park facilities statewide are closed to the public through at least the end of March. Come prepared for changing conditions and the possibility of getting temporarily stranded in this isolated section of the state.
The isolation is what makes this park such an attraction to so many. And by planning ahead, you, too, will become one of those who can’t wait for the water to freeze over so you can start drilling holes in the ice at Kettle Creek Reservoir.
Kettle Creek Lake
LOCATION: West of Renovo
SIZE: 167 acres
MAXIMUM DEPTH: 34 feet
GAME FISH: trout, yellow perch, black crappies, bluegills, rock bass, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: Ice fishing is very popular at the lake.
The lake is stocked with trout several times a year.
Surrounded by high mountains in a wild and scenic area, Kettle Creek State Park provides day-use recreation facilities on Alvin R. Bush reservoir and campground adjacent to Corps land on the lake and downstream of the dam.