Biologist reports logo Dutch Fork Lake Fish Salvage

Washington County
November 3-4, 2004

Flooding from Hurricane Ivan in mid-September caused serious damage to the spillway at Dutch Fork Lake in Washington County near Claysville, PA. The Department of Environmental Protection and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) determined the lake required an immediate dewatering due to safety considerations.

The emergency dewatering and fish salvage operation concluded on November 3 and 4, 2004 and consisted of capturing fish by use of electrofishing equipment. A boat electrofisher was used in the lake and a backpack electrofisher was used at the outlet below the dam. There were a total of about 75 people at Dutch Fork Lake to witness the fish salvage operation. About 30 willing volunteers carried buckets of fish from the water to the hatchery truck. They had to walk through deep muck and carry heavy loads of fish a considerable distance to get to the truck. Fish species that were salvaged from the lake included: largemouth bass, crappie, bluegill, pumpkinseed, bullhead catfish, channel catfish, and saugeye.

Waterways Conservation Officer Bob Wheeler with a Dutch Fork Lake largemouth bass
Waterways Conservation Officer Bob Wheeler with a Dutch Fork Lake largemouth bass

Bass and crappies made up the bulk of the fish captured at the lake. The number and size of largemouth bass in Dutch Fork Lake was the most impressive aspect of the fish salvage operation. Almost all of the bass were over 12 inches with many bass greater than 18 inches. Dozens of bass weighed over 5 pounds with some weighing over 8 pounds. The gizzard shad forage base in the lake was deemed responsible for the impressive bass population. The majority of the crappies were less than 9 inches. Saugeyes were collected in low numbers but they were quality-sized fish. Several nice channel catfish were also moved.

One of the many volunteers with a 10 pound saugeye
One of the many volunteers with a 10 pound saugeye

Interestingly, no trout were captured during the salvage work. This points toward a true put-and-take nature of the trout fishery at Dutch Fork Lake. That is, trout stocked there in the spring probably do not survive through the summer in most years if not harvested by anglers.

WCO Bob Wheeler with a 8 pound largemouth bass
WCO Bob Wheeler with a 8 pound largemouth bass

Fish captured on the first day were transported to Canonsburg Lake, Washington County. On the second day, all the fish were taken to Raccoon Lake, Beaver County. Crews moved about 900 pounds of fish on the first day and about 575 on day two. Fish population information gained during the salvage will be used in fish management strategies when and if the lake is repaired and refilled.

Electrofishing boat
Acting Southwest Maintenance Manager Larry Rader and Fisheries Technicians Gary Smith and
Tim Wilson collecting fish with an electrofishing boat

The process of draining the lake and performing a fish salvage required a substantial effort from the PFBC and volunteers. PFBC Construction Unit personnel stabilized the stilling basin and spillway with rip/rap and constructed roadways to assist with the fish salvage operation. PFBC Southwest Area Maintenance crew spent many days conducting the lake dewatering and assisted with the fish salvage. PFBC Reynoldsdale Hatchery provided fish culturists and hatchery trucks to transport the fish from Dutch Fork Lake to Canonsburg Lake and Raccoon Lake. PFBC Southwest Law Enforcement assisted with the fish salvage and stocking fish in Canonsburg and Raccoon lakes. PFBC Fish Management crew coordinated and performed the fish salvage operation at Dutch Fork Lake. Volunteers took time out of their days to come out and assist with the salvage. Their crucial work was the most difficult due to the deep muck and distance required to carry heavy loads of fish to the hatchery truck. Not surprisingly, many comments were fielded during the operation from the angling public regarding a serious interest in restoring the fishery resource to Dutch Fork Lake as soon as possible. The PFBC would like to thank all the volunteers for their assistance. Without their help, the fish salvage operation at Dutch Fork Lake would have been much more difficult.

Volunteers and onlookers waiting for the electrofishing boat to bring in another load of fish
Volunteers and onlookers waiting for the electrofishing boat to bring in another load of fish

Fisheries Technician Tim Wilson with a nice largemouth bass
Fisheries Technician Tim Wilson with a nice largemouth bass

Acting Southwest Maintenance Manager Larry Rader with two impressive largemouth bass
Acting Southwest Maintenance Manager Larry Rader with two impressive largemouth bass

PFBC staff and volunteers capturing fish at the tailrace
PFBC staff and volunteers capturing fish at the tailrace

 
-- Gary Smith, Area 8 Fisheries Technician

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