Exploring the Pennypack Creek in Northeast Philadelphia

Hello, Readers!

Today I would like to introduce you to one of the most known Creeks in Philadelphia -- the Pennypack Creek! 

Here is a quick introduction of the place:

Located in Northeast Philadelphia, the Pennypack is a small Creek with a rich aquatic biodiversity. The Pennypack Park, which encloses a big section of the Creek, starts at the intersect of Montgomery and Philadelphia Counties -- right next to the Fox Chase Farm. The same ends close to the Torresdale Avenue, where the Creek becomes tidal. If one takes the Pennypack Park as a fixed location, the Creek continues upwards to the Lorimer Park and downwards to the tidal Delaware River (right next to the correctional facility). Note that this post will be focusing mainly on the Pennypack Park section of the Pennypack Creek.

Miniature map of the Pennypack in Northeast Philadelphia, from Google Earth. White indicates the beginning of the Lorimer Park, red indicates the Pennypack Park, and black indicates the tidal Pennypack Creek.

Here are a couple facts about the Pennypack Park: (1) it can be easily accessed, since it contains many entrances at different locations: i.e. Frankford Ave, Torresdale Ave, Welsh Road, Roosevelt Blvd., Bustleton Ave, Verree Road, Rhawn st, etc; (2) a main paved bike/jogging path runs through it, making access to its banks much easier; and (3) parking lots are existent and available at certain spots (i.e. Rhawn st).

If you are not familiar with the Pennypack Park in Northeast Philadelphia, you may click here for additional information. Apart from fishing, please take note that the park offers free local band concerts during the Summer time at the Welsh Road auditorium. You can get the events' schedule here.

Now that you have a basic idea and image of the Pennypack, let's talk about fishing! After all, that's what we are here for, right? :)

In the past 2 years, I've personally seen many different types of fish in the Pennypack Creek. Somehow, it turns out that certain Species can be found throughout the Creek -- i.e. Redbreast Sunfish -- whereas other Species can only be found at specific locations -- i.e. Rock Bass. Therefore, please keep in mind that even though I'm portraying all of the known and available Species of fish in the overall Pennypack here, some Species of fish are quite a challenge to catch because of their low numbers and habitat patterns!

Another fact: the Pennypack is also a part of PA's "approved trout waters." In other words, apart from its natural aquatic biodiversity, the PA Fish and Boat Commission stocks it with three different types of Trout: the Rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), the Brown Trout (Salmo trutta), and the Golden Rainbow Trout (modified Oncorhynchus mykiss). It turns out that the Golden Rainbow Trout are very rare and the least stocked among them. For a photo of a Golden Rainbow Trout, you may click here. There are multiple stockings in one year; however, they are divided in two main seasons: Spring and Fall. For more details on Trout Stocking, you may access the PA Fish and Boat Commission website here. Finally, please don't forget that in order to fish for Trout, a Trout Stamp is required, apart from the regular PA fishing license! Fishing and harvesting Trout without a stamp can result in very bad penalties...

Below is a list of the numerable Species of fish that I've caught so far in the Pennypack:

Redbreast Sunfish: Probably the easiest Species of fish that you will be able to catch at the Pennypack Creek. The Redbreast Sunfish can be easily spotted by naked eye and fished at almost all portions of the Creek, excluding shallow "dead spots." If you are looking for entertainment or fishing with kids, these fish will definitely not disappoint you. All you have to do is to find a good spot!

April 10th, 2013 - Redbreast Sunfish caught at the Bustleton Avenue portion of the Pennypack Creek, on an in-line Spinner.

July 11th, 2011 - Beautiful adult Redbreast Sunfish caught at the Old Bustleton Avenue portion of the Pennypack Creek, on a nightcrawler.

June 23rd, 2012 - Redbreast Sunfish caught on a piece of kernel corn, close to the Old Bustleton Avenue.

June 25th, 2011 - Redbreast Sunfish caught on a piece of nightcrawler at the Verree Road section of the Creek.

Green Sunfish: Also a part of the Sunfish family, these little guys are literally the "hidden gems" of the Creek -- they live under logs and branches, and also among rocks. Particularly, the Green Sunfish are the most aggressive among the four different types of Sunfish that can be found around Philadelphia (as a reminder: the Bluegill, Pumpkinseed, Redbreast Sunfish, and Green Sunfish). Thus, even a small piece of nightcrawler can attract one of these little fellas to strike! Who knows? Maybe they will even go for small lures! After all, they are fast and they have a big mouth compared to the other three Species of sunfish.

June 25th, 2011 - This is the only adult Green Sunfish that I ever caught at the Pennypack Creek, and it was safely released. I caught this little guy on a piece of nightcrawler, close to Verree Road, and it came up with a deformed tail. Even so, the colors of an adult Green Sunfish are truly beautiful! Somehow, yellow always adds so much to the fish.

April 10th, 2013 - Notice the difference in color between the adult and this young Green Sunfish. Very different, huh? I caught this little fella dapping an in-line Spinner close to a submerged log. 

June 28th, 2013 - A colorful Green Sunfish caught on a small piece of nightcrawler. 

Rock Bass: this little fella is certainly one of the challenges of the Pennypack Creek. Small ones can be found at different portions of the Creek, but big ones are usually concentrated in very specific areas -- deep and rocky areas (which are few, by the way). I found out that "live bait" is best for them (i.e. Small minnows and nightcrawlers); although, in-line spinners and minnow imitations (i.e. Gulp! Minnow) work really good as well.

April 10th, 2013 - Rock Bass caught on an in-line spinner at the Dam between Roosevelt Boulevard and Bustleton Avenue.

June 25th, 2011 - Rock Bass caught at the Verree portion of the Pennypack Creek, on a piece of nightcrawler.

June 25th, 2012 - one year after catching the guy above, I caught this little guy on a Gulp! Minnow close to the Dam between Roosevelt Boulevard and Bustleton Avenue.

Largemouth Bass: They are rare in the lower portion of the Pennypack Creek (a.k.a. the Pennypack Park), being more common above Lorimer Park. A piece of advice: search for them at the dams and areas with enough shade and structure (i.e. submerged logs). Sometimes the Largemouth Bass can be seen while feeding for bugs on the top of the water.

June 25th, 2011 - A photo of a small Largemouth Bass from the border of the Pennypack Park with the Lorimer Park! It was caught on an in-line Spinner right next to the Fox Chase Farm. 

October 13th, 2013 - A small, yet beautiful Largemouth Bass from the Pennypack Creek, caught on a "Gulp! Alive Minnow" on a 1/64 oz. jighead.

Common Carp: If you are into Carping, please be aware that these are really rare in the non-tidal portion of the Creek nowadays. Unfortunately and sadly, most of them were harvested for human consumption! The logic is that most parts of the Creek are clear and shallow; therefore, the bottom can be easily seen by the naked eye. Under these circumstances, Common Carp became an easy target for anglers over the years. The biggest one that I have pulled out of the Creek was 8lbs, close to the Old Bustleton street. Unfortunately, I did not take a photo of it. At the time, I could still see some of them swimming around. As the number of anglers started to increase, the Carp started to disappear quickly. Unfortunately, I don't have a photo of a Carp caught in the Pennypack Park portion of the Creek; thus, I will give you a photo of a Common Carp caught at the tidal Pennypack Creek.

June 4th, 2013 - A 15.15lbs Common Carp from the tidal Pennypack Creek, close to the correctional facility on State Road.

Brown Trout: This is one of the three different types of Trout that are stocked by the PA Fish and Boat Commission. They are stocked frequently during the Spring Trout Season, and Browns can be caught on a variety of lures and live bait. Different than the Rainbow Trout, Browns will feed mainly on live organisms! They are also more aggressive than Rainbows and they put up a better fight as well. Nightcrawlers and in-line Spinners work best for them. Powerbait, corn, and other types of "dead" baits can be effective as well. Note: a bunch of scuds were found inside some of their stomachs -- empirical evidence of the argument above.

May 22nd, 2012 - Beautiful Pennypack Brown. This little guy was actually caught on a piece of kernel corn (it must have been hungry!), meaning that "dead" baits also work for Browns; however, less effectively.

March 31st, 2013 - My biggest Brown Trout for the Spring Season of 2013 (14.5 inches). This guy was caught on a huge piece of nightcrawler under the Dam between Roosevelt Boulevard and Bustleton Avenue.

April 10th, 2013 - A Brown Trout caught at the same spot mentioned above, on an in-line Spinner. This little guy put up a very decent fight! 

April 4th, 2014 - My biggest Brown Trout out of the Pennypack Creek (over 2lbs)! It was caught on a Nickel/Gold Thomas in-line spinner.

April 2nd, 2014 - As a bonus photo, here's my friend Karl Hayes with his first Brown Trout ever, caught between the Bustleton Avenue and Roosevelt Boulevard intersect of the Pennypack Creek.

Rainbow Trout: Also one of the three different types of Trout that are stocked by the PA Fish and Boat Commission. They are stocked frequently during the Spring and Fall Trout Seasons and they are caught more often on "dead" baits. Powerbait is a good option for Rainbows, as well as kernel corn, salmon eggs, etc. Similar than Browns in terms of Trout lies, Rainbows can usually be found in deep pools and currents as well. In other words, lures will work for both Species!

November 16th, 2012 - A beautiful "Fall" Rainbow Trout caught on a piece of kernel corn at the Rhawn street portion of the Creek. Keep the colors in mind because the Fall and Spring Trouts can look very different in terms of coloration.

November 21st, 2012 - I caught this Rainbow Trout at the Bustleton Avenue section of the Creek on a piece of kernel corn.

March 30th, 2013 - My first Trout of 2013, caught a couple minutes after 8:00 a.m. on the opening day! As soon as I threw my corn under the bridge, this little guy swallowed it all!

April 4th, 2013 - A Rainbow Trout caught at the Rhawn Street portion of the Creek. The colors of a "Spring" Rainbow Trout are pretty different than a "Fall's," isn't it?

October 12th, 2014 - As a bonus photo, here is my friend Bryan KL's daughter (a.k.a. Sofia) with the biggest Rainbow Trout that I've seen pulled out of the Pennypack Creek. The fish was caught on a #2 Aglia Mepps in-line spinner, which is one of Bryan's favorite lures.

Golden Rainbow Trout: The last type of Trout stocked and a rarity around these areas! It's usually referred as the "Palomino Trout," which is the wrong definition of it (for more details, click here). Some Trout anglers exaggerate and refer to it as the "fish of a life time:" it's rare, big, and it can be easily distinguished in the Creek (their wariness is top notch). Even though the Golden Rainbow is a variation of the Rainbow Trout, they seriously behave like a combination of both the Brown and Rainbow Trout -- they will strike lures, eat Powerbait, nightcrawlers, bugs, etc. If caught and released, they become ten times harder to catch (no exaggeration here)...So, consider yourself lucky if you ever catch one of these! You have two options: (1) catch them on the opening day, in the middle of all those lines and chaos, or (2) you can challenge the ones that have been caught and released - the "elders" of the Creek (usually because they are the last ones to be caught). Legend among local anglers is that the Rooveselt Boulevard dam holds ancient Golden Rainbow Trout with top class instincts! I don't have a picture of a Golden Rainbow Trout from the Pennypack Creek; however, I do have a picture of one from the Wissahickon Creek.

I do have a video of a Golden Rainbow Trout swimming in the Pennypack Creek. As cited previously, note how it can be distinguished from the other Trout in the Creek.

White Sucker: I've fished very little for them at the Pennypack Creek. In any case, it's evident that they are almost always "sucking on the bottom of the creek" -- motionless creatures, eh? Heh. They usually travel in schools, and they are easier to find during the Spring's "Sucker run" (for spawning purposes). The best time to fish for them is around dusk. Nightcrawlers and meal worms (or wax and super work too) are the best baits for them. Now...I'll let you in for a little "secret" of mine -- something that you won't find around: if you want to catch nice Suckers, make sure you find a nice and flat submerged stone. Think of the stone as the "dinner table." If you get the right idea, you will land nice Suckers!

April 4th, 2014 - A beautiful female White Sucker, caught on an entire nightcrawler (on a rock!).

American Eel: Yes -- they are present in the Creek as well! I would particularly avoid these "knot masters;" However, a fish is a fish! That being said, it cannot be forgotten that they are a very good type of bait for other Species of fish around Philadelphia. Thus, I would definitely recommend anyone to freeze it and use it. Also, I truly believe that one can only perfect the "fish manipulation technique" after handling American Eels in a proper way. In other words -- if one can hold an American Eel without letting it slip through his/her hands, the fish manipulation technique is perfected! Hah. That person will probably be able to hold any other type of Species without a problem. By the way...fish for them on the bottom. A small piece of nightcrawler will do it; although, a small piece of fish would be best. Unfortunately, I do not have a photo of a "Pennypack Eel." Thus, I'll be using some of my friends' photos! :)

Unfortunately, I don't have the exact date for this photo. However, here's a legit Pennypack Eel for you folks! And, of course, notice the amount of slime on the line... Heh.

July 15th, 2013 - An American Eel by my friend Peter Scharf.

Creek Chub: They are very rare in the Creek nowadays, only to be found at Specific sections of it. Nothing too fancy about Creek Chubs -- a piece of nightcrawler or meal/wax worm will do the job! They are very weak fighters and there is not much purpose in catching them, other than the fact that they are really good bait. 

June 25th, 2011 - This little guy was caught close to Verree Road, on a piece of nightcrawler. This Creek Chub is the perfect size for bait for a nice sized Catfish!

September 7th, 2014 - A small Creek Chub caught on a sliver of nightcrawler, size #26 hook. 

Smallmouth Bass: Not good in numbers and not good in sizes for the Pennypack Park section of the Creek! However, it's great to know that they are present there. The bigger ones are above Lorimer Park (look at the end of this post). Look for them in the currents and deep pools. In-line spinners and Trout magnets work best. Two good spots for them are the dam between Roosevelt Boulevard and Bustleton Avenue and behind the auditorium (between Rhawn and Welsh).

June 25th, 2012 - A little Smallie caught very close to the entrance of the Roosevelt Boulevard section of the Creek. It was caught on an in-line Spinner against the current.

October 15th, 2012 - Caught a little bit above the previous spot, also on an in-line Spinner. To tell you guys the truth, my favorite in-line Spinner can be found in any Walmart around the city for about $3 dollars each! Look for the Thomas in-line spinner with a half silver/half gold blade and 4 golden beads below it, connected to a single treble hook. If you find it, buy a couple of them! They are super effective. 

September 5th, 2011 - Probably my first Pennypack Smallie, caught at the Roosevelt Boulevard Dam with a Trout Magnet. I recall being very happy about this "rare finding" at the time. :)

Now that I'm done presenting the main Species of fish in the Pennypack Park section of the Creek, let's talk a little bit about the rare catches in the overall Pennypack Creek, including the Lorimer Park and the tidal Pennypack Creek. Below is a compilation of photos that I've obtained from close friends who fish the Pennypack Creek constantly (especially my friend Peter Scharf -- he lives in that Creek). While you look at them, please keep in mind that catching those fish is extremely rare! 

Here's a very rare Brook Trout by my friend Peter Scharf. He caught it in the Lorimer section of the Pennypack Creek. Note that the Creek itself does not hold native Brook Trout anymore; thus, there are very few stocked Brook Trout left available in the upper Pennypack Creek.

Channel Catfish are extremely common in the tidal Pennypack Creek; however, my friend Donald Garvey caught this Channel Catfish around the Rhawn Street bridge! For the non-tidal Pennypack Creek, this fish is quite a find! One would ask why, and the answer is simple: it shows that fish from the Delaware River can swim up the Pennypack Creek during times of flood. 

My friend Peter Scharf is holding one of his best "Pennypack Largemouth Bass," caught in the Lorimer Park section of the Creek. As cited previously, the LMB are much bigger in the upper Pennypack Creek, above Fox Chase Farm and Lorimer Park. 

A 16 inch Smallmouth Bass from the Upper Pennypack Creek, once again caught by my friend Peter Scharf around the Lorimer Park section of the Creek.

A small male Mummichog from the tidal portion of the Creek. Not a lot of folks in Philly are into Micro-Fishing; however, we can't deny that this is a beautiful and colorful fish! They are abundant in the tidal Pennypack Creek. 

Another photo of a nice Smallie by Peter, also from the Lorimer section of the Creek. Note the clarity and depth of the Creek (normal anglers would pass by a spot like this and disregard its potential for holding fish).

Here is my friend Billy Ferris holding a small Striped Bass from the non-tidal Pennypack Creek! I still remember when he caught this fish -- I was truly astonished. The sample above was caught under the dam between Roosevelt Boulevard and Bustleton Avenue, showing that fish from the Delaware River can travel as far as to the Pennypack Creek at Bustleton Street! 

Using the same explanation above, here's a White Perch by my friend Karl Hayes. He caught this White perch exactly at the same spot where the Striped Bass was caught.

Here's a small Golden Shiner that I've caught in the Pennypack Park section of the Creek, a couple years ago. They are so rare in the Creek nowadays that I didn't quite cite them previously. Still beautiful, though...

Of course most of the Species of fish portrayed here are the only ones that I've personally caught. In other words, it's certain that there are other Species of fish in the Pennypack Creek watershed! It's during moments like these that I like to quote Robert Altman: "You put that line in the water and you don't know what's on the other end. Your imagination is under there."

I hope you folks enjoyed this introductory post, and I hope you catch A LOT if you decide to fish the Pennypack Creek one of these days! However, please keep in mind that conscious fishing always boils down to S.A.F.E. angling! In order to maintain the sustainability of our waters for ourselves and even for future generations to come, please practice Catch-Photo-Release (CPR) and selective-harvest (i.e. take only what you need and what you will consume; release endangered and rare Species of fish), Also, please avoid practicing non-point source pollution (i.e. littering)! 

If anglers were more conscious about these ideas, perhaps we would have a much higher number of Common Carp in the non-tidal Pennypack Creek nowadays. This is just one example; one of many! 

Best of luck for all of us!

Long Days and Pleasant Nights,


Leo S.