A smiling child holds a fish on a fishing line. Next to the child are two smiling refuge staff.

Free Fishing Rod Rental & Events

Fishing rods are available to borrow, free of charge, at the Visitor Center front desk. The Refuge does not offer bait so come prepared with your own.  

Free Family Fishing Events

The refuge hosts a number of Family Fishing events throughout the year. These events are free and DO NOT require a fishing license!  All equipment and bait are provided and refuge staff and volunteers are available to help you get started.  Find all our free fishing events in the event calendar found in the kiosk by the Visitor Center or on Facebook @JohnHeinzNWR. 

Where to Fish

Impoundment/Emergent Wetland

Fishing is permitted along the west side of the Wetland Loop Trail from the Big Boardwalk to the connecting Tinicum Trail. Fishing in this area must be from the bank - structures such as the Big Boardwalk and Observation Tower are closed to fishing. This area is popular for carp and snakeheads.

Darby Creek

Catfish and pan fish are found in good numbers along the banks of the Wetland Loop Trail and Darby Creek Trail. There is an ADA accessible fishing deck just past the Big Boardwalk. Fishing is not permitted from the Boat Launch. Darby Creek is tidal, be sure to check the tide chart here.

Route 420 Entrance

Fishing is allowed from the bank of the lagoons on the west side of Route 420. There is a paved parking area at this point just north of the southbound entrance to I-95. A gravel parking lot is located on the east side of Route 420 has trails that access Darby Creek. 


The refuge follows PA state regulations regarding licenses (required for anyone 16 years of age or older), limits and seasons. For more information or to purchase a license visit the PA Fish and Boat Commission’s Fishing Regulations

Laws, rules, and regulations