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Fresh fish

Brown and Rainbow Trout return to Chapman Lake

Times Observer photo by Josh Cotton Bob Orth tosses the first bucket of brown and rainbow trout into the lake at Chapman State Park on Thursday. The fish stocked were the first placed in the lake since March 2016.

Efforts to bring the lake at Chapman State Park back to life has taken a big step forward.

For the first time since March 2016, brown and rainbow trout were released into the lake on Thursday.

Tim Schaeffer, Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission executive director, said the event is aimed to “let folks know the lake is back in action.”

“Chapman is one of the gems of” the northwest corner of the state, Schaeffer said, wanting to “let everyone in Pennsylvania” know what a fabulous place it is to fish.”

“The road to this day has been long,” Chapman State Park Manager Tyson Martin said.

Times Observer photo by Josh Cotton Tim Schaeffer, Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission executive director, speaks prior to Thursday’s trout stocking event at Chapman State Park.

He detailed that the project that necessitated the drawdown of the lake two months ago was needed to bring the dam up to safety standards. With the water gone, Martin noted that 90,000 cubic yards of sediment was removed, shoreline access improved and roads paved.

While the lake reopened over the summer, “we were missing something,” Martin said.

The trout are back and the bass are on the way.

PFBC Fisheries Biologist Brian Ensign said trout stocking is “only one piece of the puzzle” of turning the lake into a vibrant fishery.

While the trout are put and take – they’re meant to be caught – the warm water species – bass, bluegill, perch, suckers, minnows – are being introduced to essentially create a food chain and sustaining populations, Ensign explained.

Times Observer photo by Josh Cotton State Senator Scott Hutchinson releases trout into the lake at Chapman State Park on Thursday.

The stocking taking place in the for those species is on a three-year plan.

“Each year, the population becomes more diverse,” he said.

To protect that development, the PFBC implemented restrictive fishing regulations earlier this year namely that the only fish that can be kept from the lake are trout.

Ensign said that 1,500 bass were stocked with 3,500 shiners in August with another 7,000 fathead minnows stocked in September to provide a “forage base for the bass to feed upon.”

He said additional bass and minnows will be stocked while bluegill and perch will be introduced and said there is a “benefit from starting from scratch,” calling it a “new lake effect.”

Times Observer photo by Josh Cotton Chapman State Park Manager Tyson Martin releases trout into the lake at Chapman.

An example? Ensign explained that the weed mass that as grown while the lakebed is dry release nutrients back into the water once submerged. For the bass specifically, starting from scratch means there are no predators to challenge their growth. “Insects and plant life benefit, as well.”

How long will it take to rebuild these populations?

“Not as long as you would expect,” Ensign said, noting that it is “quite possible” for the bass to grow to eight to 10 inches with panfish up to seven inches within two years.

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