Cross a striped bass with a white bass and you get one of the hardest hitting, strongest fighting fish in fresh water. You might first believe that all of that hard hitting and strong fighting comes from the striper side, but not so. It comes from the white bass side, or as they are more often called at Lake Erie, silver bass. Pound for pound, or maybe better stated, ounce for ounce, white bass are one of the best sport fish around.
White bass are members of the temperate bass family that includes striped bass and white perch. Why they share the name bass with smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, spotted bass and a few other related species is a mystery to me since these bass are really large sunfish.
Probably it is the eating quality of white bass that prevents them from being more popular. Some people, though, like the taste of white bass, especially if they are fresh (never frozen). One thing that improves their eating quality is removing all of the dark flesh. But of the three temperate bass mentioned, stripers are the best table fare, especially those caught from saltwater.
Somehow white bass found their way into the Allegheny Reservoir, then into the Kinzua Dam tailwaters. Likely they got into the reservoir through anglers' bait buckets, mixed with emerald shiners.
For a while when they were colonizing the reservoir, extremely large white bass were caught on both sides of the state line, but mostly during spring in Seneca water. Some were as long as 22 inches, which probably would have been state records for both New York and Pennsylvania if they had been weighed on registered scales and entered into official state big fish programs.
Examples of very large fish are common for the first few years a species inhabits a lake or river.
The official New York state record white bass weighed 3 pounds 6 ounces and measured 18.5 inches in length. It was caught from Furnace Brook, in Westchester County.
I have seen a few considerably larger white bass caught from Chautauqua Lake. One night several years ago after fishing for walleye we stopped at Hogan's Hut where two white bass were weighed on the registered scales, one over 4 pounds and the other over 5 pounds. And I have seen white bass that exceeded the New York record caught from the Allegheny Reservoir.
The official Pennsylvania state record white bass weighed 3 pounds 15.7 ounces. It was caught in 2002 from Conneaut Lake.
Several larger white bass have been caught from the Pennsylvania section of the Allegheny Reservoir and from the Kinzua Dam tailwaters.
Just in case record fish interest you.
Of more direct importance, fishing for white bass is great fun if done with either ultra-light tackle or fly fishing tackle. I suggest a 5-weight, 9-foot fly rod for the Kinzua Dam tailwaters. Likewise and for the same reason, casting distance, I recommend an ultra-light spinning rod at least 7 feet in length.
White bass are extremely finicky about what they will strike. In local waters at least, they want shiners such as emerald shiners, spottail shiners or golden shiners. Or they will readily strike spinning lures or streamer flies that look like shiners. Lures that have been productive for me in the Kinzua Dam tailwaters are Rebel Minnow, Rapala Minnow, Rebel Pop-R and Cordell Spot.
Lures or streamers should be about 2-1/2 inches in length.
Vary the retrieve until the white bass let you know what they prefer. Most often a series of twitches has been most productive for me.
The right lure and the right retrieve usually will mean the difference between numerous white bass or just a few. This can be chiseled in stone. Of course this depends on the number of white bass that inhabit the water where you fish.
Sometimes good shore fishing for white bass can be found at Webbs Ferry or Kinzua Point. This is generally night fishing. Good fishing does not last long at Webbs Ferry, maybe for the month of June. Fishing at Kinzua Point may last through summer. Likely the artificial light is the reason for this fishing.
White bass fishing has been very good lately at Presque Isle Bay from several places along the shoreline. Stop at one of the local tackle shops for current information. You should find that the local Erie bait and tackle shops provide very reliable information. In fact, the information provided by Erie-area bait and tackle shops is the best I have found in my extensive fishing travels.