Restocking Chapman lake fish will take some time

Times Observer photo by Lorri Drumm State officials talk fish stocking Thursday morning at Chapman State Park Chapman State at the new stone frame deflectors, which will also be used as fishing platforms, on the lake’s western shore. Picture from left are Park Manager Tyson Martin, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission Lake Habitat Section Chief Ben Page, and PFBC Fisheries Biologist Brian Ensign.

The lake at Chapman State Park is at full pool right now, but it’s short on fish.

The renovation of the dam has required that the lake be drawn down more than once over the past year or so and it may happen again.

That has been hard on the fish population.

Until that kind of work is done, restocking the lake will have to wait.

According to Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission Fisheries Biologist Brian Ensign, it is likely that trout stocking will take place in the winter of 2019.

Previously, the lake was stocked pre-season, in-season, and in winter. “It will be back to that format when the water is ready to go,” Ensign said.

The lake is considered a “stock trout fishery,” he said. “We heavily stock that. We want to allow that to happen for our anglers.”

But, the lake also had a variety of other species.

“It’s always been a really good bass lake,” Ensign said. In a 2004 survey, bass as long as 17 inches were found in the lake.

Some fish will find their way to the lake from West Branch Tionesta Creek.

Others will be brought in.

“We have a plan to stock warm water species in there,” he said. “We put some forage species in first — golden shiners and fathead minnows. That’s immediate food source so when we start stocking the game species they’ll have something to eat.”

Minnows spawn quickly and the stocked ones will join any that swim in from the creek.

After the minnows have a chance to get going, PFBC will introduce largemouth bass.

“Then more minnows, more bass, then bluegill,” Ensign said.

Bluegill have struggled in the lake, showing low fertility and slow growth rates, in the past due to some acidity issues, he said, but “it had a great bass fishery.”

Yellow perch are also on the stocking list and will serve as both a game fish and a food fish.

Other than the trout, which are introduced as adults and are not expected to spawn in the lake, the stocked game fish will be small. Hatcheries typically do not have large fish — other than trout — to put into lakes.

“We can control the numbers when we stock them in there,” Ensign said. “We have luck with the fingerlings. The bass are one to two inches. The bluegill are about the same.”

The department will give the fish a chance to grow and populate the lake.

“Those are our brooder fish,” he said. “We restrict harvest with those.”

With the exception of trout — which are put in specifically to be caught — the lake will be strictly catch-and-release fishing for a few years. “The lake will have catch-and-release regulations on it, pending commissioner approval,” he said. “The catch and release regulations aren’t going to be on there forever.”

The fingerlings will mature quickly. Ensign expects bass to grow to 10 to 12 inches in two to four years.

“Once they get to two to three years old, they’ll begin to reproduce in the lake,” Ensign said. And, the department will continue stocking fish and monitoring numbers.

When the surveys show the fish are there in sufficient number and sizes, the department will lift the catch-and-release rules.

The stocking of everything but trout is not expected to go on for more than a few years.

Some species that had been found in the lake during previous surveys will not be intentionally introduced.

“We also had white suckers, pumpkinseed, bullheads,” Ensign said. Those might swim in from the creek. They will not be stocked.