Stocking brings new life to Chapman Lake | News, Sports, Jobs


Times Observer file photo by Josh Cotton Chapman Lake has come back to life in recent years after a withdrawal. Bass and Bluegill have been stocked in the lake for the past three years and the first survey of this effort is scheduled for later this year. These species are only caught and released at this stage to allow time to grow.

When the dam at Chapman State Park needed work several years ago, the lake was lowered to give crews room to do the work.

As a result of this work, the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission embarked on a multi-year stocking plan to bring the lake back to life.

Trout have been stocked in the reservoir for the past three years, but the Commission is playing a long game with a few other species – bass and bluegill.

Bringing the fishery back to life takes planning but, more importantly, time.

“We typically run a three-year replenishment plan,” Brian Ensign, Fish & Boat fisheries biologist, said.

For Chapman, that meant three years of fingerlings (about one to two inches) of bass and two years of bluegill as well as forage species – fathead minnows and blackheads – as a food source for the bass.

Bass was stocked in 2019, 2020 and 2021 while Bluegill was stocked in 2020 and 2021. That’s probably all the outdoor storage that will be needed.

Ensign said something unique about Chapman is that it is fed by the West Branch of Tionesta Creek.

“It’s additional fodder that would also be in the lake”, he said.

Over the three years, approximately 45,000 bass fingerlings were stocked along with 14,000 bluegills.

The lake has always been good for bass. A 2004 study found bass as long as 17 inches in the lake. Bluegill sunfish previously showed low fertility and slow growth rates, which would have been caused by some acidity issues.

Stocked fish are now at an age where natural reproduction should occur.

“We haven’t been there to investigate yet,” said the sign. But this first survey is currently scheduled for May. “This will be our first initial survey since we have bottoms in this.”

The timing of the first survey corresponds to the spawning stage of bass when they are closer to shore.

Ensign explained what they hope to learn from this first survey.

One is quite simple – “total abundance. How many fish are there in the lake? But this figure will pave the way for calculations on the survival rate based on what has been stored. The size of the fish will allow for growth rate calculations comparable to other lakes in the region. The size distribution will also be considered in the survey.

Ensign said there were too many competing factors to try to guess survival rates, such as water temperature, winter experiences, predation.

“Overall, I would say the survival rate for these is pretty high,” he said, because there are not many “other predators in the lake.” Starting from scratch in a situation like Chapman means “they have a very high chance.”

The fact that all fish were stocked at the same size also leads to higher survival rates, although he warned that cool lake temperatures brought by Tionesta Creek could lead to “significantly slower” growth rate than a reservoir which heats up more in summer.

Ensign said other species beyond bluegill, bass and stocked trout were in the lake before the drawdown, including bullhead, pumpkinseed, sucker and yellow perch.

The perch was a “stunted population” with “nothing big. It’s often seen in lakes where the water is really cold,” he said, explaining that the lake is best managed as the water for trout, bass and sunfish. “It is a lake populated by trout. There is a lot of pressure with our trout fishermen. It is mainly its use.

Upcoming investigation will also reveal if any of these remaining species survived the drawdown and are still present in the reservoir.

“(We will) have a good idea of ​​what will happen once we have completed the investigation,” Ensign said, but speculated that these other species are “probably going to be in the lake” because the withdrawal was not complete or long enough to exclude the possibility. “It’s a very good possibility given the conditions they had,” he said.

Anglers should not expect the results of the survey, however promising, to quickly result in a change in lake regulations.

“The last thing we want to do is open a settlement that is not ready for harvest,” said the sign. “We have two options when we have a filled lake and start storing it.” One is divers – who kept the door open to keep trout stocked – or catch and release only.

“Because there is trout in this one and we stock it, we wanted our anglers to be able to harvest the trout,” he said, while bass and sunfish remained protected. “We just want to make sure all the facts are correct.”

The first survey will be a key step in this effort.

“The next thing we would do is allow these fish to grow and mature a bit more (and) do an official trap net investigation” followed by a bass lift.

It is likely that the restrictions will remain in place for at least a year.

“It could be further, somewhere in there”, said the sign. “(We will) have a better projection once the investigation is complete.”

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