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Chapman State Park restoration about to turn corner

Times Observer photo by Josh Cotton The lake at Chapman State Park is coming back to life. Fingerling bass and thousands of minnows were stocked in August and September while trout are to be stocked in the lake next Thursday for the first time since 2017.

Restoration of the lake at Chapman State Park after a drawdown for needed dam repairs is about to hit a significant milestone.

The first trout stocking since 2016 is set for next Thursday, Dec. 12.

The lake was drawn down in 2017 and work on the dam project was completed and the park re-opened fully in the late summer of this year.

Anyone fishing the lake is going to notice some significant changes as a result of the work completed over the last two years.

For one, the lake depth will be different in some places.

Chapman State Park Manager Tyson Martin said that the depth “is most noticeably deeper in the first third — upstream — end of the lake, up to four and a half feet over a large portion of that area.”

“If paddlers have ever touched the bottom trying to navigate upstream, the change will be immediately noticeable,” he explained. “Over 90,000 cubic yards of sediment material was removed from our modest 68-acre lake.”

And while the trout stocked next week will be immediately “fishable,” other species are being restored into the lake.

Mike Parker, communications director with Pa. Fish and Boat Commission, said that 1,500 fingerling largemouth bass were stocked in the lake back in August.

Additionally, 3,500 fingerling golden shiners were stocked in August as well as 7,000 fathead minnows in September.

Parker said that the PFBC Board of Commissioners took action in April to manage the lake — except for trout — under “Catch and Release/No Harvest fishing regulations.

“The regulations are temporary in nature and intended to protect fish populations that will be rebuilt over several years under the restocking plan. I do not have any dates for future non-trout stockings.”

Just because those regulations are in place, though, doesn’t mean that there won’t be fishing opportunities in the coming years.

“In general, it takes about three years for largemouth bass to be ‘fishable,’ meaning they are at a size that is not trophy-sized by any means, but 10-12 inches or so,” Parker explained. “Fish larger than that are not typically seen until years four or five when several year classes of fish have been established in the self-sustaining population.”

Parker said that species such as perch and sunfish can reach a “fishable” size after a year or two but reiterated that the temporary regulations “do not allow for the keeping of any fish, no matter the size, except for trout which are stocked from our hatcheries as full-grown two-year-old adults or larger brood fish which maybe three or four years old.”

But, in the near term, the fishing focus will be on the trout that are stocked next week. And it’s impossible to think about winter trout fishing without keeping an eye out for ice.

Just how long and under what weather conditions will be needed to freeze the lake at Chapman? “That is a very tricky question to answer,” Martin said. “There are many factors that affect safe ice thickness and conditions.

“I can say that in my experience, the lake will get a skim of ice very quickly — it’s occurred three separate times already this year, but stable ice for fishing can take several weeks to develop,” he explained. “To help alleviate frustration and disappointment, we regularly check ice depth in common fishing areas and post those conditions on our winter report: bit.ly/PAWinterReport, which by no means is a guarantee of safe ice conditions, but saves anglers a trip if they are waiting for seven inches to develop and they can check the website and learn the lake is only at five inches. Each ice fisherman is still responsible for their own safety.”

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