Fate of bass lakes still in question

Posted on: June 26, 2017 | Bob Frye | Comments

Largemouth bass are abundant in some area lakes. But what size fish are they producing?
Bob Frye/Everybody Adventures

Maybe the largemouth bass in these lakes need help. Maybe they don’t.

The picture isn’t equally clear in each case.

So the fates of Upper and Lower Twin and Northmoreland lakes in Westmoreland County and Dunlap Creek Lake in Fayette won’t be decided until this winter at the earliest.

Changing results are the reason.

Last spring, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission biologists electroshocked each lake to assess their bass populations. All had plenty of fish, said Rick Lorson, the agency’s area fisheries manager based in Somerset.

That wasn’t the problem.

Size was.

Last year

A quality bass lake, per commission standards, will give up 35 bass per hour of survey work, with seven of those exceeding 12 inches in length and two exceeding 15.

These four lakes failed to measure up.

Dunlap Lake last year, for example, produced a whopping 289 bass per hour. But the vast majority were shorter than 12 inches.

Survey results were similar at Upper and Lower Twin and Northmoreland.

That started a discussion.

Biologists floated the idea of going to a slot limit for bass on each lake. Under the rules – which haven’t even been proposed yet, let alone approved – anglers would still be allowed to harvest six bass per day.

But only one could be 18 inches or longer. The rest would all have to be shorter than 12.

Before going down that road, though, the commission wanted to re-survey each lake again this year and talk to anglers about the slot limit idea.

This year

The angler surveys are done, though no results have been tabulated. That will occur later this year.

The re-surveys of the lakes are done, too. In one case – at Northmoreland – the results are similar to last year’s.

Crews handled 299 bass. Of those, 294 were shorter than 12 inches.

“That’s a classic stunted bass population, basically,” Lorson said. “This one gave us a similar picture to what it did previously and will remain a candidate for a bass slot limit.”

The others?

Maybe not.

Dunlap gave up a boatload – literally – of bass again. Biologists collected 297.

“That’s a lot of fish,” Lorson said.

Unlike last year, though, 33 per hour exceeded 12 inches. Lorson called that “a pretty good number.” Four per hour exceeded 15 inches, something Lorson said is “not bad either.”

Similar turnarounds were noted at Upper and Lower Twin.

Biologists caught 356 bass at Lower Twin. Of those, 131 per hour exceeded 12 inches and 11 per hour exceeded 15.
Upper Twin gave up 302 bass, 133 per hour longer than 12 inches. Just three per hour were longer than 15, however.

Lorson said the increase in larger fish at all three lakes might simply be a case of all those small fish from last year growing. Some additional survey work might be done, however.

In the meantime, the potential exists for all three to be bumped from any slot limit program, he said.

Biologists will review their data this fall and winter before making any recommendations to the commission board, which will make the final call.

Bob Frye is the everybodyadventures.com editor. Reach him at 412-838-5148 or bfrye@535mediallc.com. See other stories, blogs, videos and more at everybodyadventures.com.

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Bob Frye is a storyteller with a passion for all things outdoors. He hunts, he fishes, he hikes, he camps, he paddles, backpacks and snowshoes depending on the season. If he’s not an expert at anything, it’s because he’s passionate to try a little bit of everything.