WCO Report for Erie and Western Crawford County 1/08/2003: Erie area, PA,
WCO Report Posted: January 08, 2003

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Posted by DWCO Randy Leighton on January 08, 2003 at 12:56:55:


With night time temperatures in the high 20's and daytime temperatures just cracking the freezing mark, conditions have varied from very slushy to partially ice covered. The Manchester hole is about 50% iced over as of this writing and still loaded with fish. Good current and flow has kept a good bit of the Walnut Creek project waters open. Most of Crooked creek is still flowing at present. Elk Creek has been slushy with the riffles open and ice forming along the edges. Fishing is still good and there is plenty of elbow room. (I've always considered frozen toes and iced up lines to be an integral part of real steelhead angling). The Walnut basin is nearly frozen over, but not nearly strong enough for walking on yet. Generally, all areas are still a little thin for walking. Typically in our area, especially on Presque Isle Bay, it takes a number of nights and days in the teens to really produce safe, solid "blue" ice. Anglers braving the current conditions are having good luck with shiners, suckerspawn flies in cream, pink, and white, and egg sacs. (not to mention handwarmers and warm clothing)

Law Enforcement:
A reminder to be sure you have renewed you license as officers will be on the lookout. Violations over the last two weeks have included fishing in state nursery waters, no licenses and lack of trout stamps, stop sign violations and littering. The litter cases involved several individuals who elected to clean a dozen fish along one of the tribs which in and of itself was ok, however, they failed to properly dispose of the entrails by leaving a rather large mess along one of the tribs. Not only is this a violation, it is a disturbing issue with landowners in the area, not only because of the mess it creates but because of the scavenger animals it invites. Anglers are reminded to review their 2003 summary books that are now available where licenses are purchased and be familiar with the state nursery waters in our area as well as local regulations regarding Lake Erie and the tribs.

Distinguishing Steelhead from Coho:
Recent area Internet discussion has resurfaced the proper identification and differences in coho and steelhead. Anglers through out the fall and winter season often have trouble distinguishing the difference in these fish. It is understandable since they are very similar looking at first glance, however there are many subtle and unique differences.

1) Steelhead have small black spots scattered on the upper back and in uniform rows
along the tail (caudal) fin.

2) If you run your thumbnail along the tail fin rays, they will feel smooth

3) Steelhead normally have between 8 and 10 rays on the anal fin

4) A pinkish color is apparent on the cheek and along the lateral line

5) Steelhead will normally have a wider mouth with white gums along the base of the
teeth on the lower jaw

Coho Salmon:
1) Coho have small black spots scattered on the upper back and only on the upper
half of the tail fin

2) Tail fin rays are rough. If you rub your thumbnail along the tail rays, it will feel like the
edge of a dime

3) A coho will typically have 13-19 Anal fin rays

4) Coho will typically have a black mouth with white gums at the base of the teeth on the
lower jaw

5) Coho will have a slight fork in their tail fin as compared to a steelhead.

(A Chinook Salmon will typically have a nearly all black mouth and lower gums)

Comparing by color alone can be confusing, especially when the fish go through their color changes as they enter and remain in the tribs through the fall and winter months.


Well, the holidays are finally over and the weather is turning nice and cold again. Presque Isle Bay is starting to freeze over and there is even a little ice down in the fingers of Edinboro Lake as you will see in the current pictures. What a good time to write a little about ice fishing. The popular ice fishing spots in my district are easily accessible to anyone willing to give it a try. Locally the Marina in Presque Isle State Park and Misery Bay givens when is comes to ice fishing. Horseshoe pond where the house boats are located is a great area as well. On the downhill side of the County, check out the fingers of Edinboro lake in Washington Twp Park. Below are a few items related to Ice fishing I hope they help out the beginners and maybe inform the Veterans. Good luck and stay warm and safe.

When ice fishing for perch, use a small jig or spoon and fish near the bottom-usually no more than one foot off the bottom. 6" is preferred.
The key to catching perch under the ice is finding them. They tend to school together so if you find one, others should be nearby.
When the perch are biting well, you may not need to bring your bait all the way down to the bottom again, usually the aggressive ones will meet your bait on the way down.
During the early part of the season the perch should be in the flats.

They are easy to catch and provide a nice sporting fight. Finding them is another story. Crappie tend to school together and wander all over the lakes they inhabit.Tackle needed to ice fish crappies include:
small split shot
small shiner or fathead minnow
small bobber
small hook
light action ice fishing rod Hook your bait just behind the dorsal fin....and hang on!

You have to drill a lot of holes. Fish concentrate in holes, dips, along weedlines, and around cover and you have to find the spot where these fish are concentrated. Just drilling one or two holes won’t give you enough locations to check to increase your odds of finding fish.

Remember to be careful of ice thickness when attempting this sport, wear your PFD and carry a set of ice awls with you in case you need to pull yourself out. Good luck.


East County tributaries were reported as near perfect on Friday (01-03-03), with fresh fish entering the streams; however, this new snow (6+" had fallen at my place by the end of this last weekend) has put things on a bit of a hold. I had the weekend off, but by the start of patrol today (Monday) blowing snow was causing whiteouts and poor driving conditions throughout the southern-Erie area. Little activity is available to report, as anglers were in short supply throughout the evening hours and I had the last three days off. However, as this week continues, conditions should moderate, as forecasters are calling for clouds with temperatures in the mid-thirties by mid-week.

Reports are a might slim at this point; so, since some of you are trying your luck for walleye on French Creek, I thought that a historical review of the area might be appropriate…

As taken from the French Creek Project's 'Winter 2002-2003' Newsletter…

Native American History of the French Creek Region
Prior to the arrival of Europeans, the Seneca Nation (Iroquois League) populated the land area around Western New York State and Northwestern Pennsylvania. The League was a confederacy that united the Seneca, Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga and, eventually, Tuscarora. The Senecas at that time were the largest and most powerful of all the Iroquois Nations, and were the furthest west of all the Nations, considered guardians of the "western door" by the League.
In the mid-seventeenth century, the Seneca fought with a small tribe known as the Erie's, which dwelled along Lake Erie. The defeat of the Erie's, in a battle where French Creek joins the Allegheny River, opened the French Creek area to Seneca settlement, where they remained for many years. The Pymatuning region (to the West) remained neutral ground between the Senecas and the Shawnees. The Seneca interacted with the French as they built their forts at present-day Erie, Waterford, Franklin, and Pittsburgh.
During the Revolutionary War, the Iroquois tried to remain neutral, but eventually sided with the British. The neutrality was officially ended at Oswego in July 1777, after which they attacked the Americans at Fort Stanwix near Rome, New York. At this time, Kiasutha and his nephew, Cornplanter, led the Senecas. Following the War, when Cornplanter took over as Seneca Chief from his uncle, Cornplanter negotiated one of the only lasting land treaties with the United States, and was even given land personally by the U.S. government. Because Chief Cornplanter and the Senecas, theoretically, held a domain that stretched from present-day Buffalo to Pittsburgh, and from Chautauqua Lake to Cleveland, the French Creek Valley existed inside of this area. For the most part, Cornplanter and his people existed in relative harmony with the American settlers, and even defended them against attack on several occasions.
Although eventually treated harshly and forced out of most of the French Creek region by American military campaigns and broken treaties, the Seneca held influence there for many decades. In addition, the Seneca's social and political structure rivaled that of America's (in fact, many believe that the Iroquois Confederacy provided a model upon which much of the U.S. Constitution is based). Particularly, women held positions of high respect within Seneca society, and played major roles not only in family life, but also in shaping governmental decisions, settling disputes, and fostering community planning. The Iroquois also seemed to be much more accepting of other people than America has been historically. By most accounts, the Iroquois readily accepted European whites into their nations and families.
French Colonialism and George Washington
Throughout the period of colonization of the North American continent by European countries, both England and France claimed the French Creek region as their own, creating obvious tension between these two nations. French settlers utilized the region's natural abundance for resource extraction such as timbering, hunting, and fur trapping. However, by 1750, there were at least 1.5 million English living along the east coast of the continent, anxious to expand their area of inhabitancy. So, during the early 1750's, the French established a series of forts in Western Pennsylvania in an attempt to stem English penetration of the West. These French forts included: Fort Presque Isle (at present-day Erie); Fort LeBoeuf (at present-day Waterford); Fort Venango or Fort Machault (at present-day Franklin); and Fort Duquesne (at Pittsburgh).
In 1753, a 21 year-old George Washington was called upon by Virginia's Lieutenant Governor Dinwiddie to make an arduous journey to the French Fort LeBoeuf, located at present-day Waterford. Sent on a mission to gather strategic information about the French for the British, and to warn the French that they were encroaching on British territory, Washington was accompanied by several Virginians, a small band of Tuscarora Indians, and later by some Seneca Indians. Washington and his party left Virginia (on horseback) in November 1753, and traveled first to the French Fort Machault (at present-day Franklin) where Washington expected the French Commander to be.
At this point in history, French Creek was not known by this name. In fact, one early French name for the waterway was "Riviere au Boeuf" or "The Beef River" due to the number of bison (which resembled beef cattle to the French) occurring in the region at that time (most historians believe, however, that this particular bison species-- different from our typical picture of the Western Plains bison-- never had very large numbers in Northwestern Pennsylvania and was extirpated from the area at a relatively early date). Upon his arrival at Venango (present-day Franklin), where the French Fort Machault was located, George Washington wrote in his journal that the party had finally reached "the French Creek." although called "Venango River" on many maps even up through the late 1800's, the river is now called French Creek as named in Washington's 1753 journal entry.
When Washington and his party arrived at Fort Machault in late November or early December of 1753, the French there tried to stall him, but eventually sent him north to Fort LeBoeuf along the Venango Trail, which followed French Creek. He arrived at Fort LeBoeuf in mid-December 1753, where he found French strength to be much greater than expected. Of particular interest was a substantial fleet of canoes, which indicated that the French might move south once the winter weather subsided. Washington accepted the French Commander's written response to the British-- a refusal by the French to leave the Western Pennsylvania region, which the French asserted was their rightful territory. If the British wanted to claim the area for themselves, in other words, they would have to fight the French to get it. Washington and his party remained at Fort LeBoeuf for five days, where the French again stalled them. The French claimed they did not have enough feed and fodder to keep Washington's horses, so Washington was forced to send the horses back to Fort Machault. However, Washington's party was able to negotiate the "loan" of several canoes, which they used to head south on French Creek to make their way back to Virginia. Along the way, the party was "harassed" by various Native Americans allied with the French. Washington also noted the difficulty of traversing the stream, which had formed ice jams during the winter: "We had a tedious and very fatiguing passage down the creek. Several times we had like to have been staved against rocks; and many times were obliged all hand to get out and remain in the water half an hour or more, getting over the shoals."
However, the party eventually did make it back to Fort Machault, where they picked up what was left of their riding and pack animals, and returned to Virginia by January of 1754.
French Creek as an Early Trade Route
Native Americans had used French Creek as a transportation corridor long before the arrival of the French and British. However, European settlers in the late 1700's and early 1800's capitalized on French Creek's usefulness as a trade route, and industries in timber, skins, salt, potash, and whiskey soon began using French Creek to float goods downstream as far south as New Orleans. In fact, traders could drag their goods roughly 15 miles over land (often by oxen) from the Great Lakes to LeBeouf Creek (near present-day Waterford). Once there, LeBoeuf Creek provided transportation into French Creek, which in turn led to the Allegheny River, the Ohio River, and eventually the Mississippi River and south to the Gulf of Mexico. Therefore, French Creek for over half a century served as an extremely important means of transporting goods throughout the eastern part of the North American continent. French Creek was not always the most reliable year-round travel and trade corridor, however. Humans had to deal not only with fluctuations of the water levels in the stream, but also with all kinds of natural strainers, which made it difficult at times to traverse. In 1761, for example, a French Colonel wrote to his commander that the river "would be one of the best communications if cleaned of trees and logs. They are so entangled and heaped in some narrow places and the channel so deep there, that it would require a great number of hands to do it effectually, as it continues from place to place for about 50 miles. And unless the trees hanging in the water on both sides are cut down, they will be daily falling in and form new obstructions..."
Some of French Creek's cumbersome conditions were bypassed through the completion of the French Creek Feeder Canal in 1837. The Feeder Canal stretched from just north of Meadville, over the aqueduct at Shaw's Landing, and through Conneaut Lake, and provided access to the Erie Extension Canal, with a direct route to the Great Lakes. This new path also eliminated the 15-mile overland distance between Lake Erie and LeBeouf Creek in Waterford, and marked the height of the commercial and transportation importance of French Creek. Another canal system-- the French Creek Slackwater Canal System that went from Shaw's Landing Aqueduct down to present-day Franklin-- encountered a number of engineering miscalculations, which assumed a higher volume of water than actually was the case. In addition, the system relied on a series of dams along French Creek that flooded adjacent farmers' fields, and also imposed various unpopular lock tolls on boatmen. This canal system, constructed between 1827 and 1833, therefore saw limited use for its intended purpose (although its tow path was later used as a rail bed for a number of rail lines). The last remaining lock on the French Creek Slackwater Canal System can be found adjacent to Polly's Ice Cream Shop, just off Route 322 as one enters Franklin.


Pymatuning Lake- almost all of the southern end of the lake is open water with only the bays having some ice on them but only about an inch, and that isn’t good ice. I have heard reports of guys being seen going out from manning on the north end however I wouldn’t recommend it do to the terrible ice conditions. There is just enough ice to not be able to launch a boat but not enough to stand on.

Conneaut Lake- There is open water here to but if someone was so inclined I believe they could launch a boat here. Most of the lake is open still and the firemen’s beach ramp on the south end is still open but our access area at the north is iced in with skim ice. Warm temperatures, winds and snow have prevented the formation of any significant ice being made.

Tamarack- I have had reports that there is 4 to 5 inches of ice here and guys are doing well through the ice but I haven’t seen it myself, but it might be

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