You know if I get up at 5 a.m., I must be going fishing. Well, last Friday I did just that. I met well-known outdoors writer Ben Moyer up at Lake Wilhelm for a day of crappie fishing from a canoe. Except we didn’t catch any crappies, just a few bluegills and largemouth bass. Which is why you should never state the fish you’re trying for in advance. Wait until you actually catch some fish and then match your intentions with your results. So, to re-state accurately, Ben Moyer and I went fishing at Wilhelm last Friday for bluegills and bass.
It was a beautiful morning to be out on the lake, misty and cool early on with sunshine and breezes later in the day. We had information from a couple of local fishermen that there was structure along the shorelines at this, the upper end of Lake Wilhelm, which is ideal for crappies, I mean bluegills. So we put in our canoe, and enjoyed the slow travel from the Wilhelm Road causeway toward the northeast reaches of the lake.
Ben caught the first bluegill, a hefty slab specimen, and also the first largemouth bass, while I held out foolishly for other species. Until I got into a school of bluegills and enjoyed catching several in a row, strong fighters all, that made my spinning rig bend over double and fooled us into thinking they were larger fish.
There were a few other boats out that morning but not many, and we felt like we had much of the lake to ourselves. We enjoyed the quiet and fished and spotted wildlife all morning. We saw several Canada geese traveling in groups, and spied 3 solitary great blue herons poking for fish along the shorelines, and they didn’t spook until we got up close and got a good look. The herons were tall and slender with long beaks ideal for spearing fish out of the shallows, and to watch them awkwardly rumble into flight was a joy. But when we later spotted a squadron of wood ducks zooming out among the shoreline trees and brush, we were impressed with their speed and grace against a background of blue skies and small, thin gray clouds clambering in the breeze.
Located about 35 miles from the Shenango Valley, Lake Wilhelm was created in 1971 by the damming of Sandy Creek for flood control. It’s a long, shallow lake with a total surface of about 2,800 acres and a depth of 12 to 24 feet. Wilhelm is known for bald eagles and osprey, bluebirds, purple martins, and migrating waterfowl in the spring and fall.
The lake is also known for good fishing, with large populations of largemouth and smallmouth bass, bluegills, walleye, crappies (theoretically), perch, and catfish. I used to fish here often in the past but not much lately. In the 1970’s, my father took my 2 brothers and me to Wilhelm to fish from shore for bass, and we did pretty well, and my brother kept a pontoon boat here from approximately 2000 to 2010. We caught lots of bass and a good measure of walleyes. And also occasional crappies.
Motorboats are permitted with up to 20 hp, and pontoons are very popular. Boat rental is available at the marina just off the causeway on Lake Wilhelm Road, and kayaking and canoeing are popular as well. A 12-mile paved trail follows the shoreline and creates opportunities for hiking, biking, and wintertime cross-country skiing. There are 4 boat launches, a marina, and a fueling station. Picnic grounds and tables are available at the launches and in the park areas. Lake Wilhelm is open every day of the year, from sunrise to sunset.
DON FEIGERT is the outdoors writer for The Herald and the Allied News. His latest book, The F-Troop Camp Chronicles, and his earlier books are available by contacting Don at 724-931-1699 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Browse his web site at www.donfeigert.com. Or visit Leana’s Books at Shenango Valley Mall or in the Grove City Outlets.