Lake Somerset fish salvage proves revealing

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

A fish salvage is underway at Lake Somerset.

Fish and Boat Commission crews are salvaging as many fish as possible from Lake Somerset.
Bob Frye/Everybody Adventures

If you’ve fished Lake Somerset, especially for walleyes, and gone home empty handed, well, this was probably humbling.

The lake is going away, temporarily.

Problems with its earthen dam necessitate that it be rebuilt. That work will begin next spring and, if all goes well, be completed in time for fishing to resume in fall of 2020.

So, to make that possible, the 252-acre Lake Somerset has to be drained.

The lake’s been partially drawn down since 2012. It will be completely emptied after winter.

To prepare for that, the Fish and Boat Commission – which owns Lake Somerset – is doing a fish salvage.

It started removing fish from the lake on Tuesday. That will continue through Thursday.

Walleyes from Lake Somerset.

A bucket of walleyes and other fish from Lake Somerset.
Bob Frye/Everybody Adventures

All kinds of fish are being collected. They’re being transported to several other lakes: Shawnee Lake in Shawnee State Park, Bedford County; Glade Run Lake in Butler County; Quemahoning Reservoir in Somerset County; and Loyalhanna Lake in Westmoreland County.

But the walleye catch has been especially impressive.

“We’ve got a lot of 25 inches. Maybe 10 pounders,” said Mike Depew, a biologist in the commission’s area 1 office in Somerset. “We got quite a few. Actually more than quite a few.”

While that’s a lot, it didn’t surprise Rick Lorson.

The commission’s area fisheries manager, he said walleyes are and long have been “the big picture” at the lake.

“There are a lot of them,” Lorson said.

The catch of some other species has been good, too.

The largemouth bass haven’t looked as good as the walleyes, Depew said, but “we have gotten some sizeable ones.”

More than 50 bass went to Glade Run – which itself just re-opened to fishing this past April after a dam rebuild — on Tuesday, said Rocco Ali, Fish and Boat Commission board president. Several were in the 4- to 6-pound range, he said.

“With the way that lake has come back, those bass will do well. And someone’s going to have a lot of fun catching them,” Ali said.

Lake Somerset held some nice bass.

Fisheries biologist Tim Wilson with a couple of Lake Somerset bass.
Bob Frye/Everybody Adventures

Crews also collected several muskies from Lake Somerset, a couple of them in the 40-inch class. A few more would likely turn up, Lorson said.

The commission has been letting water out of the lake a bit at a time. The lower the level gets, he said, the less room fish have to move around and escape crews.

The commission is also moving channel catfish, crappies and other panfish and any pike that show up.

Not every variety of fish is going to each lake. Glade Run is getting just bass, for example, while Quemahoning is getting bass, walleyes and panfish. Shawnee is getting a bit of everything “because it’s already got a little of everything in there,” Lorson said.

What’s next?

Meanwhile, once the salvage is completed, Lake Somerset will be refilled up to a depth of approximately 10 feet to create a large pool for silt retention. That’s to keep sediment from washing downstream before construction begins, said Michelle Jacoby, chief of the commission’s engineering bureau. Once a contractor is selected, it will be completely drained.

The rebuild is costing $6 to $8 million.

Bob Frye is the editor. Reach him at 412-838-5148 or See other stories, blogs, videos and more at

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