Thousands of hungry Carp fight for stale bread at Pymatuning Lake
Pymatuning Lake straddles the Ohio-Pennsylvania Border in Ashtabula County in northeast Ohio.
The name “Pymatuning” comes from early Native Americans who once inhabited the area. It was a word used by the Indians that translated as “The crooked-mouthed man’s dwelling place.” Legend has it that the name didn’t refer to a facial disfigurement but more to his ability to tell lies.
14 thousand years ago as the great glacier that covered much of the North American Continent started to melt it left in its wake so-called “kettle-lakes”, small depressions dug out by the glaciers movement and filled by the melting glacier water that eventually grew into great swamps in the rolling countryside. Two rivers in Pennsylvania were formed also by the glacier’s retreat: The Shenango and the Beaver Rivers which flowed into the Marshy Swamp area.
In 1933, during the Great Depression, a flood control dam was built to control the flow of the Beaver and Shenango Rivers. It created the reservoir of water that became Pymatuning Lake shared by both Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Today the lake sprawls over fourteen thousand acres on both sides of the Ohio-Pennsylvania Border and has become one of the top recreational areas in both states.
The lake is considered one of the best fishing spots in Ohio. Walleye is the prize catch but there are also catfish, crappie, bluegill and bass. Oh yes, let’s not forget the carp.
Pymatuning Lake is also home to the place where the “ducks walk on the backs of the fish”. At the Linesville Spillway, on the Pennsylvania side of the lake, the gathering place for thousands and thousands of huge two and even three-foot long carp, feeding the fish has become a favorite tourist activity.
The fish feeding has become so popular that a cottage industry has sprung up along the roads leading to the spillway; signs abound with roadside merchants selling loaves of stale bread to tourists to use as fish-food. In fact so much bread has been fed to the fish over the years that environmentalists are now concerned that it may effect the eco-balance of the lake.
At the recently remodeled and enlarged visitor area at the spillway tossing a slice of moldy bread onto the waters causes an eruption as thousands of hungry carp, their snouts madly poking out of the water grasping for the bread as they also compete with wild ducks and geese who literally walk on top of the churning fish to also get a beak full of the soggy dough. The huge bubbling mass of fish going after the bread reminds most onlookers of the fabled Piranhas of the Amazon River and how quickly they can attack and devour anything unfortunate enough to have fallen into the river.
I once asked the operator of the privately-operated concession stand at the spillway if anyone had ever fallen into the water while feeding the carp. He admitted that he had recently taken a tumble into the water while cleaning up debris along the water’s edge.
“What happened?” I asked.
He replied that he scrambled back out of the water so quickly that the fish hardly knew he was there. He said he believed that while the fish might nibble at a human, he didn’t think they would actually bite or harm a person.. But, he added, he didn’t want to stay in the water long enough to test his theory.
Linesville Spillway, Linesville, Pa., located two miles south of Linesville on the Hartstown Road. 724-932-3142
Besides fishing and fish-feeding the Pymatuning Lake area offers two state parks. One in Pennsylvania, the other on the Ohio side.
At the Ohio Park there are nearly sixty cottages, some of them air-conditioned and heated for year-round use, and over three hundred camp sites for those that want to bring their own shelter. The Ohio Park also offers a unique Rent-a-Yurt campsite where families can try the camping experience with everything they need except bedding and food for as little as 40 dollars a night. The Yurt is a tent-like structure modeled after the homes used by Mongolian herdsmen. It is strong enough to withstand heavy winds, is erected on a wooden deck, and includes a skylight, ceiling fan, internal electrical outlet, and convertible futon beds, a cooler or mini refrigerator, and gas grill.
Pymatuning State Park, 6260 Pymatuning Lake Road, Andover, Ohio, 44003, 440-293-6030, http://www.dnr.state.oh.us/parks/parks/pymatuning.htm
The state park on the other side of Pymatuning Lake is the largest in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. It covers over 21 thousand acres including the lake.
The Pennsylvania Park has three separate campgrounds all near fishing, swimming, hiking and boating. This park also offers furnished cabins to overnight visitors. Cabins that range from primitive log cabins have no indoor plumbing but do have a refrigerator, and a fireplace, gas heater or wood stove for heat and a gas or electric range to cook on
Like their Ohio counterpart the Pennsylvania Park also offers some modern cabins for those who like to “rough it” but not too rough. These cabins offer bathroom, electric heating and some are located on the Lake Front.
Around the park are three different marinas where you can launch your fishing boat or if you don’t have a boat there are rentals available. Everything from a canoe to motor boats to pontoon boats for the whole family. Also don’t worry if you forgot your fishing gear there are lots of stores around the lake on both sides of the state line where you can buy fishing equipment and bait..
Pymatuning State Park, 2660 Williamsfield Road, Jamestown, Pennsylvania, 16134, 724-932-3141, http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/stateparks/parks/pymatuning.aspx
For swimmers several sandy beaches are dotted around the lake in Both Pennsylvania and Ohio. The beaches are not large, like Lake Erie’s sandy shores, but there is an abundance of clipped green lawn surrounding the small beaches that allows plenty of room for sunbathing.
The last town in Ohio before the Lake is Andover. A good place to stop for lunch or dinner is the quaint restaurant on the village square called Cranberry Station. It’s had the same owners for many years and they specialize in home-made foods including several varieties of fresh, home-made soup every day. For example a cup of their chicken noodle soup literally spills over the edges of the cup with large chunks of white meat, fresh vegetables and noodles. All cold drinks are served in Mason jars. The prices are reasonable and the restaurant is decorated in antiques and crafts, many of which are for sale.
Cranberry Station Restaurant, 68 Public Square, Andover, Ohio 44003, 440-293-6651
A great family get-a-way and it’s only a One Tank Trip.