The old cliché is true.

There is no such thing as a free lunch.

But Pennsylvania offers something that may challenge that notion. Each year, the Fish and Boat Commission offers two "fish-for-free" days. With any luck, you may just hook into a free lunch during one of these days.

The first of this year's free-fishing days is May 26, which just happens to be Memorial Day. It's just around the corner, so start your planning now. The second fish-for-free day is July 4.

These special days mean anglers that would normally need a license to fish the state's waterways have the opportunity to sample some of the region's great fishing opportunities without first shelling out a few bucks for a license.

Memorial Day is a great time to wet a line. It's the time of year when a wide array of fish are eager to bite, from bluegills to walleyes. But for novice anglers there is nothing better than hooking a few hefty catfish.

The area's catfish, whether they are small channel cats or super-aggressive flatheads, are almost always eager to take a bait. It doesn't matter whether you put a worm on the hook or use a chunk of chicken liver, there is a good chance something with whiskers will want to take a bite of it.

One of the most popular places in York County to target catfish is the Susquehanna River. The calm waters above Safe Harbor dam offer great habitat for eager channel cats, and more than enough oversized flatheads roam the waters to keep anglers excited.


If you're looking for a thrill, toss on a big bait and target those flatheads. While native to the state's western rivers, flathead catfish are invasive to the Susquehanna and our nearby waterways.

It is unknown how the voracious feeders made it to our region, but they first showed up at Blue Marsh Reservoir in Berks County in 1997. They made their first appearance in the Susquehanna in 2002. They've since become a favored nighttime target, with many anglers spending the night on the water in search of hooking into a fish that can weigh 30, 40 or even 50 pounds.

If something a bit smaller and easier to catch is what you're after, head to one of the county's lakes and toss a line from the shore in target of bluegills. They are eager feeders, meaning you can catch a slew of them fairly quickly and keep novice anglers from getting frustrated.

In the central part of the county, Lakes Redman and Williams are great places to target bluegills. Up north you can visit Gifford Pinchot State Park and its fish-filled lake. And on the western side of the county, Lake Marburg is a great place to search for a variety of fish, especially bluegills.

No matter what kind of fish you hook into on Memorial Day, it will be one worth remembering. If you take advantage of the rare freebie, the Commission's "fish-for-free" day, it won't cost you a penny. You'll hook a free lunch.

Andy Sndyer covers the outdoors for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at