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Green Lick Reservoir getting a nice boost

Green Lick Reservoir has been a confounding place for years.

When biologists from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission have surveyed it in the past, they’ve found a lot of nice fish.

As recently as 2008, for example, they sampled many legal-sized walleyes, loads of channel catfish and three times as many bass — and almost five times as many bass longer than 15 inches — as at any time since 1979.

Yet, the lake — on the border of Westmoreland and Fayette counties, near Mt. Pleasant — has had a reputation as “the dead sea” among anglers because it’s been difficult to get to and catch those fish.

That may be changing.

This past week, Fish and Boat Commission habitat crews built 12 stone deflectors that extend 10-15 feet into the lake along its southeastern shore. They created 15-18 rubble humps in 3-5 feet of water about 20 feet or so off of those triangle-shaped points.

The goals of the effort are twofold: to stabilize bank erosion that’s been ongoing and to improve the fishing.

It was with that first goal in mind that the Jacobs Creek Watershed Association applied for $54,000 in state Growing Greener grant money to pay for the work.

Since the lake’s construction in 1972, the southeastern shore — located in the area of the surrounding park’s pavilion — has lost as much as 12 feet of shoreline.

“That’s a lot of shoreline to lose in just about 30 years,” said Andrew Dzurko, a board member with the watershed group who’s been overseeing the project.

“But if you stand on that bank and look, you can see all the way to Wal-Mart (in Mt. Pleasant). There’s no windbreak. The waves just come rolling across the lake and beat on the banks.”

The resulting silt has filled in much of a wetland and caused all sorts of problems, he said.

The hope is that the deflectors and rubble humps will diffuse the energy of those waves and protect 400 feet of shoreline.

The side benefit is that they will benefit fish and fishermen, who can walk out onto the deflectors to cast a line, said Carl Lutz, a section chief in the commission’s division of habitat management.

“They create more edge effect and create more habitat for smaller baitfish, which in turn draws in more gamefish,” Lutz said.

“We’ve been finding that crappies and perch and walleyes in particular really like them,” said Phil Thomas, the commission habitat manager who was on site overseeing the work this week. “If this one works like the others we’ve done across the state, fish utilization seems very good and anglers just love them.”

The commission will attempt to determine just how well the structures support fish. The shoreline in question was electrofished last summer — as were some control sites — to determine fish numbers. That work will be repeated this year, said Gary Smith, the commission’s southwest regional habitat biologist.

“We’ll be comparing the before and after numbers, to see if fish use of the area has increased,” Smith said.

In the meantime, the Watershed Association may look to do some more work at the lake. Some of the grant money already in hand will be used to do some landscaping and create two small wetland areas where Jacobs Creek feeds into the lake. Fayette County has agreed to rebuild two docks on the lake’s eastern shore that were destroyed by the erosion, too.

Beyond that, if more money becomes available — a possibility since the watershed has been listed as a “priority watershed by the Environmental Protection Agency — Jacobs Creek would like to do similar work on the north shoreline between the boat launch and the dam, Dzurko said.

“It’s going to be a pretty diverse area out there once it’s all said and done,” Dzurko said. “That’s the goal anyway.”

The next move …

Adding fish habitat to a lake makes a difference, as future visitors to North Park Lake will find out in the not-too-distant future.

The silt-choked lake has been drained, of course, so that it can be dredged. Some invasive plants — specifically Eurasian water milfoil — will be removed, and fish habitat will be constructed.

All of that will create a “new lake mode,” said Rick Lorson, area 8 fisheries biologist for the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission. And that means some very productive fishing is in the offing.

“The best fishing, the nicest fish, tend to occur in the first 10 years after a lake is reconstructed,” he said.

In North Park Lake’s case, the commission plans to restock it with adult- and fingerling-sized largemouth bass, bluegills, crappies and channel cats when the lake is refilled. The target date for that is May 2011.

Article by Bob Frye,
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