Try fishing Laurel Hill Creek in August, September
By Kevin Phillips
Last August, I fished Laurel Hill Creek for the first time. Though I had been thinking about trying the creek for a year or so, it was an impromptu trip with little planning.
I began fishing at noon, took a break to eat around 5 o’clock and fished in the evening. Wading water I was unfamiliar with, I hooked more than 30 smallmouth bass and enjoyed lots of excitement from a mixed bag of panfish.
After that fulfilling day, I eagerly made several visits to Laurel Hill Creek before October arrived.
Laurel Hill Creek is a famous fishery that flows solely in Somerset County. Roughly 15 miles downstream from the creek’s headwaters, a dam creates Laurel Hill Lake. The lake is 63 acres in size and the centerpiece of Laurel Hill State Park.
Below the dam, nearly three miles of the creek flows along park land with about three quarters of a mile of stream flowing completely within the park. There are two spots that keep the creek from continuously running along park property.
About 350 yards above Gary Road, Laurel Hill Creek leaves the park. Downstream about a mile and a half from this point, it becomes part of the Blue Hole Division of the Forbes State Forest.
A mile and a quarter of the creek courses along land that belongs to the Blue Hole Division with about a mile of stream flowing within the division.
In the spring, stocked trout draw anglers to these destinations. They belong to a part of the creek that’s classified as a stocked trout water. In August and September, fishing pressure is light, yet great opportunities abound during these months.
Below the dam, the significant amount of stream along park land can provide fun experiences in August and September. It’s possible to enjoy tremendous action and hook a variety of fish.
Smallmouth bass flourish and are frequently active. Catching smallies 9 to 11 inches is common and latching onto a 13-incher is possible.
The rock bass population offers periods of constant activity. They rarely exceed 8 inches but unusually thick specimens are prevalent.
Bluegills are fairly plentiful, plus largemouth bass, green sunfish and hybrid sunfish can be caught. Stocked trout and wild browns occasionally turn up.
Below the dam, the creek mainly ranges from 35- to 50-feet wide as it flows along park property. A combination of rural, recreational and wild settings combine to create an overall pleasant atmosphere for fishing.
Large, slow, relatively deep areas exist where various species thrive. Also, good-looking pools are abundant. It is possible to spend long, productive periods at some of the sizable pools.
Near the dam, there’s a segment of stream that boasts lots of nice holding water. This is a great place to target shortly after sunrise. Looking up at the dam as it looms in the morning light is a treat.
Nearly a mile from the dam, the creek starts bordering the Trent Picnic Area. Here, a unique stretch of stream manifests that’s a mile long.
On the whole, this stretch is slow and rather deep; only one prominent riffle exists. Densely populated rock bass hangouts and sections that are teeming with smallmouth bass can be found in this long span of water.
Thick riparian buffers are prevalent, but openings can be found to fish from. A combination of wade fishing and bank fishing is a great approach. The general depth of this long stretch makes wearing chest waders or wet wading practical.
Laurel Hill Creek is bigger and more powerful as it flows along land belonging to the Blue Hole Division. Even when it’s low, there are spots that are quite swift. It averages 50 feet wide and reaches 75 feet across in several locations.
While fishing the creek at the Blue Hole Division, aesthetic scenery can be appreciated. Lush trees and rhododendrons make up a large percentage of the surroundings, and there are sections where steep grades shoot up sharply from the water.
Two stone ruins that blend in with the natural environment can be observed. The stream is very rocky and large rock faces are plentiful. When the creek is low, exposed patches of rubble stand out.
The stream is characterized by small rocky pools, fairly deep runs and pocket water. Sizable pools are sparse, but the ones that do occur are smallmouth havens.
In August and September, fishing the creek at the division can lead to productive days. Smallmouth bass and trout rule the stream (panfish exist, but in low numbers).
Stocked trout that have persevered strongly impact the fishery. In general, the ones I caught last year seemed to be thriving. Wild browns still occasionally turn up and encountering a wild brookie is possible.
The smallmouth population isn’t as dense as it is at the park, however, hooking 15 during a morning jaunt is a realistic expectation. Battling a strong smallie in a swift segment of stream is a thrill.
If the condition of Laurel Hill looks unappealing, visiting Fall Creek may salvage a trip. More than 80% of Fall Creek, which is approximately six miles long, either borders or flows within land belonging to the division. Much of the stream is classified as a Stocked Trout Water Open to Year-Round Fishing.
Fall Creek is a special fishery where wild brook, brown and rainbow trout can be caught. Furthermore, stockies from the spring provide action.
County Line Road and state Route 653 are major arteries in Somerset County. Near Trent, there are two park entrances off County Line Road. Useful parking sites are within minutes of these entrances.
About a mile from the Kings Covered Bridge, Covered Bridge Road can be accessed from Roue 653.
After a short distance, Fall Run Road appears. The road leads to a parking lot in the division that’s by Fall Creek and 250 yards from Laurel Hill Creek.
By consulting weather.com and waterdata.usgs.gov/pa/nwis/rt, the condition of the creek can be judged. If there hasn’t been an abundance of rain in the area for about five days and the gauge height at Ursina is 1.25 or lower, enjoyable wading and fishing conditions are likely to exist.
LOCATION: Laurel Hill State Park and Blue Hole Division of Forbes State Forest are located in Somerset County
NEAREST TOWNS: Rockwood and Somerset
SPECIES: Smallmouth bass, rock bass, bluegills, largemouth bass, green sunfish and hybrid sunfish. Wild browns and stocked trout occasionally turn up.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW:
Below the dam, nearly three miles of creek runs along land belonging to Laurel Hill State Park.
A mile and a quarter of the creek flows through state forest land owned by the state DCNR.
The stream is characterized by small rocky pools, fairly deep runs and pocket water.