Susquehanna & Lanco/York Smallies



Active member
Jul 7, 2021
Hey all,

I have recently started to try and fish for smallmouth on the Susquehanna and some tributaries. I must suck at it, because in 4 times of going out for them I have only caught one dink LOL; whereas for trout I can go out and have tons of success on any given day. I think my main area of confusion is locations. I have fished Mill Creek in the Lancaster County Park, but I think it is too early for smallmouth to have migrated this far upstream. In addition to this, when I fish on the Susquehanna, I have NO IDEA where to target for this time of year and going into the summer. Would it make sense for me to go fish at the mouth of a tributary that the fish migrate up into? I was thinking of hitting the lower Codorus down to the mouth at the Susquehanna, but not sure if this will be productive. I am fishing a 6 wt. with a sink tip line, but will switch to a WF6F line once top water action arrives (but I have never tried it before). Any tips or tricks on areas to target based on smallmouth behavior would be helpful. Not asking for honey holes, just general areas on the Susquehanna that are wadable, or areas that I can take my kayak out to and wade from there. Optimal wading flows at different river sections near Lancaster and Harrisburg would be so helpful too.

The longer I fly fish, the more alluring the warm water game becomes.

Thanks !
Welcome to the warm water game! For many of us, it's the central way we engage with the sport. I certainly spend more time chasing warm water species over the course of a year and, for out of state trips, I tend to prefer saltwater destinations.

Regarding your questions, know that many of us are tight lipped about where we fish. However - speaking broadly - you're likely correct about lack of species in creeks. I don't target creeks for bass or sunfish until usually mid June; July-Sept is better. For rivers like the Susquehanna, I hit 'em hard from mid-March to late April, but I prefer to lay off bass by May and focus instead on trout. During the early spring, I mostly fish from shore. To start your exploring, look up PFBC access sites (there are many on our state's large rivers) and walk the shoreline looking for deep, slow water (you will have to wait for levels to come down right now as shorelines are not accessible). Make note of the river's structure - generally you want to see a lot of current areas, boulders, grass islands, bridge pilings, and slower pools. These characteristics are very common on any big river in PA. Rocks are your friend - just know that wading the Susky is treacherous due to the rocks. During summer, when I'm wading, I wear sturdy, cleated wading shoes, knee pads and always have a sturdy wading staff. Usually by the end of June it's time to kayak/ wade and most public access spots are good for this. Optimal flows for wading would be under 4' at the Harrisburg gauge with 3.5' ideal - ditto for kayaks.

Good luck with your bass fishing journey.
I agree with the above. The warmer the water temp the more likely smallies will be in current - oxygenated water. I don't fish the Susky until June. If you're fishing earlier in the spring the smallies could be deeper in slack water - cold weather holding areas.