Starting in the mountains of
Pennsylvania as some of the best trout streams and flowing south where two main streams
combine to create some great fishing waters and become a river, the West Branch of the
Susquehanna provides some of the best bass fishing waters as the stream picks up feeder
streams and takes on deeper water. Walleye seem to do quite well in the lower portion in
the deeper hole.
The East branch is noted for mixed
fishing from trout through bass, walleye and in the lower reaches Muskie. Some
found in the lower waters of the West branch, but not as well established.
South from Sunbury the
become more prevalent and on any cast you can expect to hook Muskie to twenty pounds.
While hammerhandle Muskie are fun to catch, an occasional good Muskie will take your lure.
So you fish thinking big rather than just fishing.
Drifting down river finds the river
ever changing from shallow flats to some fairly deep water where trolling offers its
rewards in walleyes arid Muskie taking turns on your lures. Walleyes run mostly to four
pounds but on occasion to 11 pounds, our biggest. Muskie run from ten to twenty-five
pounds with an occasional one at thirty pounds.
At an entrance of a fair size
stream, a deep hole showed some great possibilities. There was a lad fishing from shore
and as we started fishing the area he called across the stream to us that where we were
casting a big fish was chasing some thing in the weeds. On the fifth cast I had a
follow-up but he turned the underwater Cisco down. I switched to a Dalton Special a
surface runner, and kept on working the area. Perhaps fifteen minutes later I had a good
strike and hooked a Muskie.
After two jumps and a short fight I
boated a 16 pound Muskie. I noticed this fish had a big bulge in his gut and I noticed
that he was hooked in the gill rakers and bleeding too hard to survive. So, I slugged the
Muskie and pried open his mouth and noticed a tail deep in his throat. I pulled out a baby
muskrat. This was perhaps the Muskie the lad saw feeding along the weeds and had caught
Several miles down stream we entered a deep channel and worked the
shoreline casting without a strike. On the next run we decided to troll a pair of
waterdogs. Bets chose white and black stripes and I chose yellow and black stripes. I
mention color here because of the results of five runs fishing the same repeatedly, Bets
took two Muskie 10 and 14 pounds. I took three walleye without a Muskie strike.
The next trolling flat we tried a
color test again. Bets chose the white with black stripes and this time I repeated with
the ye1low and black striped waterdogs. The results were the opposite. This time I took a
Muskie 12 pounds and Bets took two walleyes. This was more proof that color wasnt
the Muskie's choice but rather that your lure offered the best action at the time and
mostly that your lure was the first one sighted by the Muskie. Test after test like this
over the years proved it wasn't color but lure action and being presented to a feeding
Going down near Harrisburg, the
river shallows out to nearly a mile in width, it offers some great casting waters. You
tilt your motor up and try to drift from one opening to another, dodging rock shelves and
pool type holes to fish. We would drift an opening and cast over rocky protrusions and
pick up an occasional bass, walleye and Muskie. When the Muskie hit you had your hands
full because he would run across the river rather than with the current.
Bets landed one under ten pounds in
short order because she chose to fight in the opening in which she hooked him. We had just
eaten shore lunch and I chose to cast an opening between the rocks as soon as we started
I hit this Muskie in an opening I
found out later was only four feet deep. After hooking this Muskie he chose to run over a
shallow rock pile into the next hole. I quickly jumped out of the boat and started wading
as he was heading out across shallow water and we couldn't follow with the boat. Three
holes our and finally enough deep water, I
landed a 29½ pound Muskie. But I was wading and falling and had shin bruises to show for
the fight. It was a rewarding battle and even though this Muskie was released, it's not
the best way to land a Muskie.
As you work your way down river, you
find better trolling waters with deeper longer channels; and the Muskie caught were
getting bigger. Around rocky islands with a few weed growths proved some great casting
waters. Bass were more plentiful and walleye were running to five pounds.
One flat above Three Mile Island
proved a great Muskie hole. We fished this hole on three different occasions and never got
skunked. Six Muskie over the three trips and a respectable 32 pounder, our top catch,
proved the great potential of the river.
At the lower end of Three Mile
Island, Bets took a 21 pounder on a Mepps spinner. She was catching bass one after the
other when she picked up the Muskie. From there on down you tried to pick the better
waters and it was a lot of hopping from one side to the other. There was never a lack for action even though most of it came from bass.
Walleye ran a close second if you ran deep water lures or just jigged. The big surprise
came while jigging for walleyes
you would connect with a Muskie to ten pounds.
We have fished the river all the way
down to Safe Harbor and have caught Muskie all along its way and have seen fishermen
wading or fishing from shore catching Muskie. While no records were broken, we did see a
fisherman in a boat that showed us a 37½ pound Muskie he had just caught. He told us he
was on his way in the taxidermist to have it mounted. It was a well proportioned female,
deep green in color.
On this river you can forget the
Muskie size lures as you will catch them on any size lure you fish with. I tried big lures
with negative results. Seems the half ounce lures worked best. Frog finish Jitterbugs
worked great along the weed beds. The reason was the weed beds were alive with frogs. Open
flats produced best on any type splashy lure you offered them. It was strictly in finding
a Muskie on the cast rather then tempting them to strike. The river Muskie are aggressive
and on one retrieve two Muskie just over ten pounds struck at Bets lure and neither caught
the lure. Actually, Bets said she was sure the one Muskie had clapped his jaws over the
other Muskie's jaws and she said they were thrashing a bit before the one let go of
The Susquehanna River is a big river
and has more varied water than any other river I have ever fished. You will find yourself
locked at the end of a run when you will have to pull your boat over shallow rocks to
continue to the next fishing waters. The river is hard on motors because of rock
up-cropping in the middle of a flat. If you like to earn your Muskie and have a ball doing
it, I would recommend it. Its challenging, but rewarding. Muskie are over forty
pounds in this river now and your next cast could just produce one. Rest assured you will
earn it with the problems you will have to land it, but thats what makes