Fishing at the Tacony Creek - The Discovery of Mummichogs

Hello, Readers!
This time I'll be introducing you guys to the Tacony Creek in Northeast Philadelphia - a place that has been forgotten by many over the years and certainly taken for granted when it comes to fishing.
The Tacony Creek is located in Northeast Philadelphia, on the eastern side of the 25th District (Juniata). It was once a glorious place to fish! In the 1800's, the Creek had a nice fish diversity: the Common Carp, Largemouth Bass, different types of Sunnies, and so on. Nowadays, however, little is left to say about what was once a wonderful Creek. The Tacony Creek of nowadays is deprived of game-fish. Period. And the main question is: "how did this happen?"
This is where this post begins...

After a little bit of online and field research, I learned a lot about Tacony Creek's past. Before the urban sprawl process in Philadelphia, when the boundaries of the city were still focused around City Hall, little was being developed in the area known today as Juniata Park. Prior to the 1920's, most of the area was composed of farmlands, not to mention that the only public transportation available in the area was the Reading Railroad's train from 3rd and Berks Streets to Newtown, Pennsylvania. For you guys to have an idea, the station was actually located on the northwest boundary of a 23-acre farm in "Wyoming Villa," mostly known today as Feltonville (west of Juniata Park).
At that time, the Creek was literally in the wild, surrounded almost completely by nature (with the exception of a couple mills).

It was around the end of the 1800's that people took knowledge of "the goods" that the Creek could provide. They built more gunpowder and textile mills around the Creek, and water wheels to provide enough energy to support it. At that time, urban sprawl started to occur, and Philadelphia started to expand at a high pace. It was around 1915 that the City of Philadelphia decided to purchase the watershed known as Tacony Creek. It was around the 1920's that the first rows of houses were built at Juniata Park - near Castor and Luzerne Streets.
Unfortunately, after that, the Creek's water quality started to slowly decline.

Anyways...Since I came to Philadelphia, I always had an itch for exploration. The Tacony was in the list, of course! However, unfortunately, most of what I heard about it was negative. Through locals, I found out that the Tacony Creek was now part of the Philadelphia sewage system. Also, locals advised me to stay there only during daytime. According to them, many people had died in the Tacony Park after being robbed, and "it was the perfect environment to dump a body."
In other words...From the ecological side, the water quality of the Creek was extremely low and the land was highly polluted. The Creek was mostly shallow, and the polluted environment was just "sketchy." Social conditions weren't better: people would often get robbed there, and the "dangerous" neighborhood held many people with guns. Respecting the curfew (at dusk) was a must, and going there alone was not recommended.
Oh well...I knew my risks, and I took them! I have fished there, and I have plenty of data to share with you guys! And this is where I'll start talking about what we are most interested in here: fishing!
To start with, this document was made by the academy of natural sciences at Drexel University. A certain portion of it addresses to the different fish Species that were found at the site of research. It's a very interesting article to read - informative as well. Enjoy!

Below is a little satellite map from Google Earth of the places that I've gone so far at the Tacony Creek. Note that I've only been to two places so far: #1 located at Roosevelt Boulevard, and #2 located at Crescentville.

#1 - Tacony Creek at Roosevelt Boulevard. #2 - Tacony Creek at Adams and Crescentville.
The water quality at Tacony Creek is very poor due to the city's sewage discharge and run-off water. At both positions #1 and #2, there are pipes that connect the Creek to the sewage system. Therefore, my suggestion is to never fish the Tacony when there's discharge! The smell is intolerable, and the contamination rate is pretty high. Believe me: you don't want to contaminate yourself...
I can definitely say that larger game-fish, such as Trout or Bass, wouldn't be able to survive there for extended periods of time. Only very strong Species of fish can actually survive in that kind of aquatic environment (i.e. Sunfish, the Mummichogs, Suckers). Also, the concentrations of plankton in the Creek are probably very limited as well; therefore, unable to sustain big portions of larger fish.

The picture above was taken right at Adams and Crescentville. The area is super shallow, not to mention that the left side of the Creek contains a pipe that is linked to the sewage system. Once the sewage water is discharged, the Creek's water color start to change to a grey coloration.

The picture above was taken at the Roosevelt Boulevard portion of the Tacony Creek, which is right next to another sewage pipe. As one may notice, the water is so shallow that the bottom can be seen from the picture.

Between #1 and #2: a portion of the Creek that would be perfect for Trout fishing, if conditions allowed the Species to survive there. There's basically a deeper hole right after the current..
Now, let me emphasize a little bit on the "environment."
The reality is: everywhere can be dangerous at certain times of the day. Of course there are different "levels of danger" from area to area. The odds of something bad happening varies from neighborhood to neighborhood. Keep in mind, though, that the Tacony Creek is definitely not safe after sunset (the odds of something bad happening are extremely high!), however; it's far from being "so dangerous" as people usually say.
It's a matter of fact that the Tacony Creek is located in an area that is not so good; an area that is often portrayed for their "high violence rates." The term is in quotes because people can certainly be alienated by watching too much TV. However, watching/hearing from someone and being there are two very different stories: it's not as dangerous as it seems.
If you are planning to fish the Tacony one day, my advices are:
--> Don't go there alone. Be with someone - a friend, perhaps.
--> Be reasonable and go there only at certain times of the day.
--> Never stay there after dusk.
--> Don't walk too far away from the main path. Being isolated is never a good idea. (I never follow this one, though...haha.
--> Use sunglasses. Believe it or not, it's proved to decrease the odds of getting robbed. If you have a bad ass face, you will look even more intimidating with some shades on!
So far, these are the Species of fish that I've found in the Tacony Creek:
Mummichogs: I'll give all fisherman a good reason to step into the Tacony Creek, specially if you are an avid Flathead/Catfish fisherman, Pickerel fisherman, or even a "still-fisherman" for Bass: the place is overpopulated with Mummichogs - one of the best baits ever for many different Species of fish! Call it Mummies, Gudgeons, Mud Minnows, whatever you feel like - they will still work the same. Carrying an oxygenated bucket around is a smart idea, and the outcome is literally free bait of best quality: fresh and alive. Put a size 12 hook on, a little piece of nightcrawler, and you are good to go.
April 21st, 2012 - a little Mummichog caught on a piece of nightcrawler under a float.

April 21st, 2012 - another Mummichog. As you can see, the hook must be small since they have small mouths.
Eastern Silvery Minnow*: If you weren't able to locate any Mummichogs, worry not! The place is loaded with Eastern Silvery Minnows! My advice is to either micro-fish them with a very small hook (size 14 and up will work), or just drop a minnow trap (make sure you leave it overnight) in a deep pool. I was able to catch a bunch of them on hooks before, and they are fun to catch because they swim in schools.

*As for now, there are still doubts when it comes to the identification of this fish. After looking through many pictures, I'm still not certain yet if this is an Eastern Silvery Minnow, or a fish of the "Shiner" family. If you have any positive ID on the pictures below, please, send an e-mail to Thank you!*
My suggestion is to use very small hooks for micro-fishing. My favorite is a Daiichi #26 hook for dry flies, but plain. As for bait, I cut a very very small piece of nightcrawler for it, and I use very light line (2lb test) to give it a natural drop.
May 2nd, 2013 - an Eastern Silvery Minnow caught on a small piece of nightcrawler, size 10 hook.

May 2nd, 2013 - an even smaller Eastern Silvery Minnow caught on a size #26 hook and a very small piece of nightcrawler.
Redbreast Sunfish: As for Sunfish, the Redbreast Sunfish are the dominant Species in the Tacony Creek. They can be found in almost all portions of the Creek (excluding the dead shallow areas). The big ones are usually in deep pools; therefore, target deep spots for bigger Redbreasts! I like to use In-line Spinners for them, as well as nightcrawlers and waxworms.
April 21st, 2012 - A Redbreast Sunfish caught on a piece of nightcrawler under a float, right next to the Adams Ave. Bridge. 

May 2nd, 2013 - a nice Redbreast Sunfish caught in a deep hole, nightcrawler on the bottom.

May 2nd, 2013 - As one can see, the smaller ones can also be micro-fished with smaller hooks. Although minnows are good baits, small Sunnies can live longer while being hooked under a float. Think about it!
Bluegill: Surprisingly enough, Bluegills are pretty rare in the Tacony Creek. Their numbers are very limited, and I've caught only a few of them so far. I don't really know why someone would particularly target Bluegills over the other Species of Sunnies in the Tacony, I will just say that you can use the same technique above for all types of Sunnies in the Tacony Creek.
May 2nd, 2013 - Little Bluegill caught on a piece of nightcrawler, right under a sunken log.
Green Sunfish: Between all the Species of Sunnies around Philadelphia, the Green Sunfish has always been my favorite. Even though they don't grow as big as Bluegills, they are the most aggressive ones when it comes to the pack (Pumpkinseed, Bluegills, Redbreast Sunfish, Green Sunfish). On shallow water, you can actually see them inhale your bait. They will follow In-line Spinners, and they often ambush smaller fish, meaning that fish imitations also work for them. Nightcrawlers and "Gulp! Minnows" are my baits of preference for them.

May 2nd, 2013 - A nice Green Sunfish caught on a piece of nightcrawler. They often grab the bait and run! It's so much fun to catch them. They are considered to be an invasive Species in New Jersey, but they are still fine in PA.
May 2nd, 2013 - Some of the Green Sunfish from the Tacony Creek were lacking their upper jaws. I fished four of them on that day, all lacking the upper jaw. Interesting, huh?
Creek Chub: They used to be much more abundant in the Creek. Nowadays, their numbers are pretty low. Still, Creek Chubs are good bait for many different Species of large game-fish. Therefore, catch them while you can! They are usually congregated in slow pools after currents, and deep pools. The regular worm or bug will do its job. Flies will also work well for them.
April 21st, 2012 - My first Creek Chub at Tacony Creek, caught right under the Adams Ave. Bridge.

May 2nd, 2013 - A nice Creek Chub caught on a piece of nightcrawler, drifted after some rapids.
White Sucker: There is a huge population of White Suckers in the Tacony Creek. Catching them is pretty tricky, though. They are easily spooked, and they are pretty finicky when it comes to their eating schedule. The best time to catch them is during Sunset, which is not recommended for the Tacony Creek. Therefore, I would recommend sight-fishing for them. Basically, find a school, and try your best to cast your bait in the middle of it. I would recommend a cut piece of nightcrawler and a hook - no weight or swivel.
A school of White Suckers in a shallow portion of the Creek. I've never caught a White Sucker at the Tacony Creek yet. I'm willing to attempt it one day. We will see. =)
The first step is to really find a school. Then, being as nimble and ninja as possible, try to cast your bait in the middle of it without spooking them. Then, just leave it there until you see them inhale it! It's sight fishing at its best.

Koi: There are a few Koi in the Tacony Creek, probably neglected and released by their previous owners. The biggest one that I've seen in the Creek topped 8lbs - a beast! If you find one of these, the best approach is to "chum and wait." Basically, fish for them as you would fish for a Common Carp.

Here's a picture of one of them, approximately 5lbs. They are usually hidden below structure; therefore, they are not very easy to find.

If you ever decide to fish there, I wish you best of luck! People will certainly look at you like you are crazy or something... Hehe.

Long Days and Pleasant Nights,


Leo S.