Fish and Boat Commission biologist Mike Depew with a couple of nice crappies from Keystone Lake.
Photo: PA Fish and Boat Commission
Pack two bags. Two tackle bags, that is.
By doing so anglers who hit Keystone Lake can take advantage of two fisheries that are doing pretty well right now.
The 78-acre water – the centerpiece of Keystone State Park near New Alexandria – holds strong populations of crappies and largemouth bass. Interestingly, both are benefiting from an invader.
Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission biologists collected 828 gizzard shad in trap nets during a survey of the lake in April. They ranged from 7 to 9 inches. No other species was so abundant.
A look at a gizzard shad.
The baitfish showed up in the lake in 2009. They’ve expanded in number since, said commission area 8 fisheries manager Rick Lorson.
“They are there. And we don’t want them there,” Lorson said “We’re concerned what the impact is going to be on the panfish.”
It’s not good so far.
Biologists collected 524 bluegills and other sunfish. That ranked them the second-most-seen species.
But they were mostly small.
“There just weren’t that many over 7 inches, which is what’s considered acceptable for quality size,” Lorson said.
He blamed the gizzard shad.
Those fish can and often do out-compete bluegills for food, he said. That appears to be the case at Keystone, he said.
They are supporting the crappies and bass, however.
Crews collected 296 white and 154 black crappies. Thirty-six percent of them exceeded 9 inches.
That’s the best things have ever been when it comes to larger fish, Lorson said.
“There are plenty of them to fish for, and sizes are good,” Lorson said. “I would send people there to fish for crappies.”
The shad are likely the reason things are so rosy.
“What’s happening there is the crappies are likely feasting on the shad. They can eat them from the time they’re fry on up to 2, 3, 4-inches long,” Lorson said.
Lorson said the lake’s bass are feeding heavily on shad – they can take the baitfish all the way up to maybe 8 inches – and are doing well as a result.
The commission standard for a good bass lake is 35 total bass per hour of electroshocking, with seven per hour exceeding 12 inches and two per hour exceeding 15.
At Keystone, biologists handled 155 bass per hour, with 43 per hour exceeding 12 inches and 10 per hour exceeding 15. The largest stretched 21.
“So that’s a good population,” Lorson said. “The quality of that bass population has improved. And they were distributed nicely all around the lake.”
What else is swimming in Keystone Lake?
There are plenty of nice brown bullhead catfish. Crews handled lots between six and 15 inches, with 85 percent longer than 12. Lorson called that good.
But he was less impressed with the lake’s yellow perch. They were few in number and ranged only up to 9 inches.
Things are less definitive in regards to tiger muskies.
The commission began stocking them in Keystone in 2010 to prey on those shad. They’ve been planted annually since.
Crews didn’t find any in their April trap net survey. That’s how they’re most often collected.
“We may just not have been there early enough,” Lorson said.
Ten tigers showed up via electroshocking, though. All went 11 to 13 inches, meaning they were among those stocked last year.
“So they are there. There should be several year classes in there,” Lorson said.
If you go
Anglers who fish Keystone Lake should remember that, since 2015, the lake is being managed under big bass regulations. Anglers are limited to keeping four fish per day. All must be at least 15 inches.
Details about the Keystone Park and its lake, meanwhile, can be found here.