buffalo creek pa fishing

Fishing Buffalo Creek in Pennsylvania

Buffalo Creek is a long freestone stream in Western Pennsylvania. This stream is not to be confused with the stream of the same name that rises in Bald Eagle State Forest. The Buffalo Creek being described here rises near the town of Chicora in Armstrong County. It picks up several tributaries and increases flow in Butler County before emptying into the Allegheny River near Freeport.

Most of Buffalo Creek is stocked with rainbow trout and brown trout several times throughout the year. The artificial lures only Keystone Select section receives plantings of trout over 14 inches. The presence of larger fish and proximity to the city of Pittsburgh draws in a lot of angling pressure.

average pennsylvania rainbow troutA stocked rainbow from Buffalo Creek

This is not a place to go for solitude and peace. Several roads and railroad tracks run around the creek. In many area paths are beaten into the bank from the high number of people who fish the stream.

A few tributaries to Buffalo Creek support natural trout reproduction. As far as I know trout do not reproduce inside of Buffalo Creek itself. Some fish may be able to hold over from one year to the next, but they don’t seem able to successfully spawn here.

Projects to improve fish habitat have been carried out in Buffalo Creek. They have added some good holding locations and cover in the special regulations section. Nonetheless, the stream remains significantly impacted by pollution and sediment.

Fish species in Buffalo Creek

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission stocks Buffalo Creek with trout three times per year. Two plantings of rainbow trout and brown trout are done in the spring. In the fall, the Keystone Select section receives an additional planting of rainbow trout.

Stocked brown trout and rainbow trout are the most common fish in Buffalo Creek. Native creek chubs can be found throughout the stream. The occasional common carp will also show up around the mouth.

buffalo creek brown troutI caught this brown trout in Buffalo Creek

Some stocked trout may make it through the summer if conditions are right. In reality this is a put-and-take fishery with a delayed harvest section.

As mentioned above, Buffalo Creek gets a lot of fishing pressure in April and May. Many of the trout are caught and kept. Others are caught and released several times in a short period. Some of those fish do not survive, despite being released.

Fishing Buffalo Creek

Most of Buffalo Creek flows through private property. That’s especially true of the stocked section. That section does pass through Chicora Muncipal Park and State Game Lands 304. Otherwise it is surrounded by privately owned property. Thankfully the stream is still open and accessible throughout much of its length.

The 3.69-mile long Keystone Select section of the stream receives the most fishing pressure. The majority of people fish this section where the stream flows nearest to Fenelton, Nichola, and Bottom Creek Roads. If you are willing to walk away from the obvious parking areas you can find less pressured waters. Though the fishing isn’t necessarily better in these more distant areas.

Buffalo Creek butler county paSwift runs like this hold fish in Buffalo Creek

I’ve caught a lot of trout in Buffalo Creek. The fishing isn’t exactly difficult. Although the fish are pressured they are also stocked. With a limited amount of time in the creek, these fish have less time to adjust to angling pressure than wild fish would. There isn’t a ton of insect life in the stream either. So the fish do have to be a bit aggressive to survive.

The average trout in Buffalo Creek is between 9 and 15 inches long. Larger fish can be found. Especially in the Keystone Select section. But it’s still fairly rare to catch a very large trout here.

Drifting nymphs is a good way to catch trout in Buffalo Creek. European nymphing can work well here where you are able to get close to the fish. Especially with prince nymphs and perdigon flies. Stripping white, olive, or black woolly buggers and similar streamers also work here.

stocked rainbow trout from buffalo creekAn average Buffalo Creek rainbow

Spin fishing in Buffalo Creek can be decent to excellent. The deep holes and steady flows make this stream a good place to through trout lures. I’ve caught fish here on gold Swiss Swing spinners, Rebel Jointed Minnows, Original Floating Rapalas, and other lures.

No matter how I am fishing I tend not to wade in Buffalo Creek. The stream isn’t very wide or particularly fast flowing. I can cast to pretty much any section of the stream while standing on the bank. I try my best not to spook fish or muddy up the waters for anglers downstream. Especially when it is isn’t necessarily.

Buffalo Creek fishing regulations

Buffalo Creek is classified as a stocked trout water by the PA Fish Commission. That means the stream is closed to fishing throughout from late February until the opening day of trout season in April. The exception is the Keystone Select Delayed Harvest Artificial Lures Only area (DHALO) which is open to fishing year round.

This DHALO section starts at the confluence with Little Buffalo Run and continues until a point 6 tenths of a mile upstream of State Route 4035. In this area fishing can be done “with artificial lures only constructed of metal, plastic, rubber or wood, or with flies and streamers constructed of natural or synthetic materials.” In the DHALO area, three trout of at least nine inches can be kept from June 15 to Labor Day. You cannot keep any trout caught there at any other time of the year.

USGS Water-data graph for site 03045000

Most of the creek outside of this section are designation as stocked trout waters. The non-stocked portions of the creek include a section upstream of a Chicora Municipal Park and a longer section stretching from downstream of State Route 228 bridge to the mouth.

In the stocked sections of the stream fishing can be done with traditional angling methods using bait, lures, and flies. Anglers are permitted to keep five trout over seven inches during regular trout season. The limit is lowered to three trout during the extended season later in the year. Species other than trout fall under general fishing regulations.

To the best of my knowledge, this is accurate as of the time of writing. Of course regulations are subject to change. For current regulations be sure to check the Pennsylvania Fish Commission website.

Buffalo Creek fishing at a glance

  • Fish species present: Rainbow trout, brown trout, creek chub.
  • Closest tackle shops: Transue’s Tackle, Dunham’s Sports.
  • Recommend spin fishing tackle: Ultralight rod, 2-4lb fluorocarbon line.
  • Recommend fly fishing tackle: 4-6 weight rod, WF floating line, 3-4x fluorocarbon tippet.
  • Recommend bait/lures: Swiss Swing, Rebel Jointed Minnow, Original Floating Rapala.
  • Recommend flies: Bead Head Prince Nymph size 12, Bead Head Woolly Bugger size 8, Cone Head Woolly Bugger size 8.
  • Nearby hotels: .

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