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

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Buffalo Creek, Washington County

Try Buffalo Creek’s hunting-season smallmouths

By Kevin Phillips
Contributing Writer

Buffalo Creek is an excellent smallmouth fishery that flows in Washington County.  Around the middle of October, Buffalo Creek offers anglers a lengthy period when exceptional outings can frequently occur.  

This span generally lasts six to eight weeks, and State Game Land 232 is a great place to fish the stream.

Buffalo Creek originates in Washington County and is part of the Ohio River Watershed. After flowing in the county for approximately 24 miles, it exits Pennsylvania into the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia.

Spread out over three parcels, about 10.5 miles of Buffalo Creek flow along property that belongs to State Game Land 232. The majority stretch runs totally within the game land. The creek in this vicinity ranges from 20 to 60 feet wide.

Usually by the time mid-October arrives, a long fishing peak is starting or already flourishing at Buffalo Creek. As this peak is happening, big stream bass can be predictably found congregating in wintering havens.  

These fish are vulnerable and often willing to bite. 

During the first two or three weeks of the peak, it’s possible to hook a half dozen smallies a day that reach or exceed 15 inches. Also, activity from smaller bass is likely to generate excitement.

As November progresses, several big stream bass can be encountered during an outing, though fewer and fewer bass provide action.  

A trip to Buffalo Creek in late November and early December can be rewarding.  Multiple nice bass can be caught and 17-to 19-inchers make a strong impact.

Around this time, the weather is an especially big part of an exceptional outing. A great day for fishing is during a bout of unseasonably delightful weather. However, a memorable visit can occur a few days into a stable, moderately pleasant period.

Considering that the stream in the area of the game land gets very narrow, simply catching a couple 15-inchers is enough to make my day.

On the outskirts of Taylorstown, Buffalo Creek meets up with State Game Land 232. The creek here only averages 30 feet wide, yet great smallmouth fishing can be experienced just the same.

In the game land, the creek eventually averages 50 feet wide.

State Routes 221, 231, and 331 are major arteries in the area. Smaller roads that can be useful are Green Cove Road, Backbone Road and SR3001.

There are 10 parking sites that are handy for fishermen to use. Seven of these are close to the creek. From the other three, the stream can be reached by walking less than 15 minutes.

Buffalo is rather gentle as it courses along, though riffles are abundant. To truly enjoy fishing the creek, wading is necessary. Much of the bottom consists of loose rocks and there is plenty of bedrock; the stream is mostly easy to traverse. Silty segments do exist and some should be avoided.

Rolling and steep hills combine to make up the general terrain of the area. Much of the land is heavily forested and there are many fields. From the creek, common sights are rocky and wooded cliffs, riparian buffers that separate fields, ridgelines and high hillsides.

Around mid-November, when most of the leaves have fallen, rocky cliffs scenically emerge. Also, when viewing a wooded ridge, instead of mainly just seeing the treetops, the line of the land can easily be seen.

At the time of the peak, a deep area with a minimum depth of around 3 feet may be a hotspot. Deep water is a key feature of a wintering hole where bass gather.

Potential wintering havens are slow eddies, troughs in the streambed, sharp drop-offs, wide, slow bends and areas of slow water by undercut banks.  Along Buffalo Creek, all these types of spots commonly consist of water that is quite deep.

Rocky and semihard bottoms almost always attract more bass than bottoms that are soft.  Even so, a silty segment with substantial wood cover can be something special.

Artificial lures will produce well when fishing for bass that have congregated in distinct locations. Great choices are tube jigs, Texas-rigged worms and soft stickbaits. However, using live bait usually results in way more excitement.

Throughout the fishing peak, minnows, crayfish and whole nightcrawlers will tempt bass that are grouped together. Of these baits, minnows produce the best. Last year, I had considerable success with large fatheads, creek chubs, longnose dace and  blacknose dace.

Minnows do not have to be very large to attract a big stream bass. Late last October, I caught a powerful looking 16-incher on a tiny blacknose dace. Nevertheless, a 3½- and a 5-inch minnow will more likely coax a special fish.

There is a long, secluded length of stream in the game land that stands out. It begins about 250 yards below the Saw Hill Covered Bridge and flows for nearly three miles. 

Smallmouth opportunities abound along this part of the creek and magnificent scenery can be observed while fishing. The vast majority of this section is less than 200 yards from Buffalo Camp Road, an administrative road that’s a pleasure to use.

At State Game Land 232, Buffalo offers great opportunities while a traditional hunting period is going on. Keep in mind that from Nov. 15 to Dec. 15, including Sundays designated as hunting days, an angler must wear 250 square inches of fluorescent orange while at the game lands.

Buffalo Creek

LOCATION: Taylorstown is the nearest town.

SIZE: Ten miles of Buffalo Creek flow through State Game Land 232 in Washington County.

SPECIES: Smallmouth bass

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: A long, secluded length of stream can be fished in the game land that’s nearly three miles long.

• Around mid-October, Buffalo Creek offers a lengthy period when exceptional smallmouth outings can frequently occur. Live minnows are great to use during this period.

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