By: Joey Usher
In the dead of winter angling opportunities for bait fishermen are limited in Southwest PA. However, to keep us on the water and still be able to enjoy time outdoors fishing many of us turn to the pay lakes. There’s a half dozen year round pay lakes open in the region, many of which are popular with even the hardcore steelhead anglers that make the trip to Erie.
While there are several pay lakes available to trout anglers I’ve been spending most of my time at Seghi’s 5 Lakes, which is near Uniontown. The lake is stocked weekly with rainbow trout in the winter. Starting next week when our local steams close to fishing until the general PA opener in mid April they’ll stock every Wednesday and Saturday. These fish tend to range from 12 to 14 inches, but you’ll catch a few 10 inches and some up to 25 inches, too.
People think because this pay lake is stocked weekly that catching trout is easy, which isn’t the case. The lakes receive a ton of pressure. These trout see literally every bait there is and can become wary of baits. It depends on the weather, but if it’s nice out the lakes will be packed. You’ll have hardcore guys, families and retirees.
Trout bite all year. Meanwhile, during the winter fishing always is best on overcast days. The bite slows when the sun is out, so if you are planning a trip and the weather is favorable make sure to arrive early or late when the light is low. It’s also good when there’s a chop on the water. The chop on the water breaks up your reflection so the fish don’t get as wary of anglers. The wind blows often in this area. It’s important to fish the side of the lake that the wind is blowing toward. When this happens the trout congregate on that side of the lake.
We are allowed two rods per angler and I always use both. Most anglers focus on three baits: salmon eggs, minnows and jigs. However, if you are around right after trout are stocked spinners work great, too. On the other hand, I’m a bait guy and most people use bait here, too.
This season I’ve been using a lot of eggs. The key is you don’t need to cast them in the middle of the lake. The trout that are here spend their days cruising the banks. They can often be caught within a few feet of the shoreline. I focus all my efforts within 10 feet of the shoreline. It’s simple fishing.
My favorite technique this winter has been using a single salmon egg below a float near the bank. The most productive eggs have been Natural Deluxe, Premium and Pink Shrimp. The key is using a single egg at a time with a size 16 single egg hook and four-pound P-Line fluorocarbon or Trilene XL Smooth Casting. It’s important that the egg doesn’t rest on the bottom. You want it to be roughly six inches from the bottom. If you can achieve this you’ll catch fish all day. If you don’t get a bite within 15 minutes make sure to put a fresh egg on.
With my second rod I either use a minnow three feet below a bobber or cast and retrieve a 1/8 ounce jig with a Power Worm on it. We always tip our jigs with either a Pautzke egg, maggots or a wax worm. Dough bait will work, but hasn’t been producing the numbers the eggs have this year.
Editor’s note: Pennsylvania resident Joey Usher operates SWPA Fishing. More for info on his page please visit https://www.facebook.com/FISHSWPA/?fref=ts. For more information on Seghis trout fishing please call 724-569-5329. No fishing license is needed. A day use fishing fee applies.