Little Juniata River – A Central Pennsylvania Fishing Destination

The history of the Little Juniata River is almost as interesting as its excellent trout fishing. Until the late 1960s, the Little Juniata was little more than an industrial sewer. The many inviting pools and riffles where anglers now eagerly cast flies and lures to wild brown trout ran an ugly brown back then, heavy with pollution. A number of circumstances, including strong environmental protection laws, helped the Little Juniata River make a swift and amazing recovery. By the late 1970s, this remarkable stream was gaining a national reputation for its outstanding brown trout fishery. In the decades that followed, however, the Little Juniata would continue to suffer from pollution incidents such as spills or inefficient sewage treatment. One of the worst of those occurred during the winter of 1997 when an unknown event devastated the insect life and other macroinvertebrates in the river. But once again, the Little Juniata River showed its resilience and remains an outstanding trout fishery.

The prime trout water on the Little Juniata River begins just south of Tyrone around the village of Birmingham along PA 453 and continues downstream nearly 14 miles to its confluence with the Frankstown Branch of the Juniata River. This section of the Little Juniata is managed under “Catch and Release All Tackle” regulations. Fishing is open year-round, but no trout can be killed or had in possession at any time. Fishing may be done with artificial lures, flies, or live bait using spinning or fly-fishing tackle.

Upstream of Tyrone, the Little Juniata River is mostly a marginal trout stream. A half-mile section of the river downstream of the US 220 bridge just north of Bellwood is managed under “Delayed Harvest Artificial Lures Only” regulations. This area is stocked twice each spring with rainbow trout and is open to fishing year-round, but no trout can be killed or had in possession except for the period from June 15 through Labor Day when the daily creel limit is three trout with a minimum size limit of 9 inches. Fishing may be done with artificial lures or flies using spinning or fly-fishing tackle. The use or possession of bait is prohibited in this area of the Little Juniata.

The Little Juniata River produces a wide array of fly hatches to challenge fly anglers throughout the season. In the springtime, the Grannum caddis is one of the premier hatches, along with Early Brown Stoneflies, and Tan Caddis, Blue-winged Olives, and Blue Quills. Later in the season, Sulphurs, Light Cahills, Cream Cahills, and Slate Drakes will become important hatches. And Green Drakes have become significant again from Spruce Creek downstream in recent years.