The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission recently completed their annual fall fish population survey of Chambers Lake, a 90 acre impoundment in Hybernia County Park, Chester County. Chambers Lake is a relatively new lake constructed in 1994 and first opened to fishing in 1999. Although the lake was built as a secondary water supply reservoir structures and habitat important to waterfowl and fish populations were incorporated into the lake’s design from the beginning. A dike was constructed to maintain an 18.2 acre artificial wetland and shallow area even during drawdowns. When the lake isn't drawn down the dike creates a fish attracting shoal. Most timber was cut off 3 feet from the base and allowed to sprout before the lake was impounded, creating an underwater maze of stumps and branches and, finally, boulder piles were placed along sections of the lake's shoreline to provide habitat for smallmouth bass. The drought that has plagued Pennsylvania in recent years was clearly evident to anyone that frequented Chambers Lake. The water level during the survey was approximately 7 feet below the full recreational pool level, which exposed much of the stump habitat especially in the upper end of the lake (see photo).
Exposed Shoreline and Stumps in the Upper Reaches of Chambers Lake
Based upon this years Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission survey (completed October 2002) the warmwater fish populations that have been developing since the lake was first filled and stocked in 1995 are now providing excellent angling opportunities. In particular, the bass fishery (largemouth and smallmouth) continued to be one of the best in southeast Pennsylvania. During this years survey 19 largemouth bass > 15 inches were collected with three being 18 inches long. The largest smallmouth bass captured was 15 inches long.
Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission biologists typically compare bass populations between impoundments based upon the total catch of bass, the catch of bass > 12 inches, and the catch of bass > 15 inches per hour of electrofishing. In southeast Pennsylvania the average total catch of bass is 50/hr, the catch of bass > 12 inches is 12/hr, and the catch of bass > 15 inches is 3.5/hr. The electrofishing results at Chambers Lake following the 2002 sampling were as follows: total catch of bass = 152/hr, catch of bass > 12 inches = 36 bass/hr, and the catch of bass > 15 inches = 10/hr. The changes in the black bass population from 1997 through 2002 can be followed in Table 1.
Table 1. Catch per hour of black bass (largemouth and smallmouth) captured during night electrofishing at Chambers Lake.
|1997||1998||1999||2000||2001||2002||SE PA Average|
Natural variation in the black bass population, increased vulnerability to angling as a result of the reduced lake level, and the inability to effectively sample some of the most productive black bass habitat as a result of the low lake level most likely combined to reduce this years catch of larger bass.
Chambers Lake also supports fair populations of chain pickerel and catfish. Chain pickerel up to 25 inches and channel catfish up to 27 inches were collected during the 2002 survey. Additionally, a substantial population of brown bullheads up to 15 inches and a healthy white sucker population exist in the lake.
Panfish including black crappie, bluegill, and yellow perch are also available at Chambers Lake. Although the overall abundance of these panfish remains similar to recent surveys the results of the 2002 survey indicate that the abundance of larger individuals is slowly increasing. During the 2002 survey the majority of the black crappie collected were between 7 and 8 inches long with the longest being 11 inches. Bluegill were typically in the 5 to 6 inch range with a fair number of 7 inch fish also available. The largest bluegill collected was 11 inches long. The majority of the yellow perch collected during the 2002 survey were 5 to 6 inches long with the longest being 12 inches.
Tiger musky, which were first stocked in 2000, should begin to provide angling opportunities in 2003 for this top predator; however, none was collected during this years survey.
Trout anglers can also pursue their favorite game fish at Chambers Lake. In October 2002 Chambers Lake was stocked with 500 adult rainbow trout to provide additional fall angling opportunities. This number was down from the 1,100 rainbow trout stocked in 2001 as a result of the reduced lake level and below average angler use.
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