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Sugar Lake

Crawford County
April 16 & May 22, 2007


Sugar Lake is a 90 acre natural lake located in Wayne Township in south central Crawford County. The lake is accessible from Routes PA 27 and PA 173. There is a Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission owned boat launch with limited parking for about 12 vehicles with trailers located on the western shore. Shore fishing access is severely restricted by wetlands and private residences. The lake is currently restricted to motors of 6 horsepower or less or electric motors.

Sugar Lake is managed in the Big Bass Program. The lake also has special regulations for muskellunge consisting of a 36 inch minimum size limit and a one per day creel limit. All other fish are managed under the statewide regulations for Commonwealth Inland Waters. Sugar Lake is stocked annually with muskellunge fingerlings and is a Brood Stock Lake, so the harvest of muskellunge, northern pike and pickerel is prohibited (catch and release fishing only) from April 1 to May 31.

At the upcoming July 2007 Commission meeting, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission will be considering increasing the horsepower limit to 10 HP and replacing the special regulation for muskellunge with the new statewide regulations that went into effect January 1st, 2007. Watch this website to see if these two measures are adopted.

Biologists from the Area 2 Fisheries Management office surveyed the fish populations of Sugar Lake with trapnets during the week of April 16, 2007, and by night electrofishing on the evening of May 22, 2007. We set 4 trapnets for 3 nights each for a total of 12 sets. We night electrofished the entire shoreline of Sugar Lake for largemouth bass and chain pickerel.

Sugar Lake supports good populations of bluegills from 7 to 9 inches, yellow perch from 8 to 11 inches and black crappie from 8 to 12 inches. Density for most panfish species is lower than previous surveys but the number of quality size fish has increased. Panfish fishing should remain strong in Sugar Lake for the near future.

Crappie
Tim Wilson and Ben Dutko with ‘average’ Sugar Lake crappies

The largemouth bass population continues to do well in Sugar Lake. Our catch in 2007 was similar to previous samples and 63 bass per hour is excellent compared to other natural lakes in northwest Pennsylvania (See Table 1).

Largemouth bass
A couple of 22 inch bass from Sugar Lake

Largemouth bass
More nice bass from Sugar Lake

Table 1. Length/Frequency Distribution and Catch Per Hour (CPH) statistics for Largemouth Bass from Night Electrofishing in Sugar Lake.

Table 1

As reported by PFBC hatchery personnel, the muskellunge population appears to be down right now. To rebuild the population to previous levels, we have increased stocking, including larger yearling musky. Our survey captured one musky at 38 inches and 4 northern pike between 27 and 37 inches.

Northern pike
A 37 inch northern pike from Sugar Lake

Sugar Lake supports a dense population of yellow and brown bullheads. Although the fish are on the small side (7 to 14 inches), their high abundance and willingness to bite make them an excellent opportunity for some catch and release fishing.

We captured one bowfin in trapnets and several more electrofishing and all were fairly large (over 21 inches). Bowfin are native to Pennsylvania and have always been present (but not abundant) in the waters in our Area. However, several years ago spawning conditions in the Conneaut Outlet marsh must have been just right and a tremendous year class of bowfin was produced. Since then, they have spread to most parts of the French Creek drainage. Anglers and PFBC hatchery personnel report catching many more bowfin in Sugar Lake than we sampled.

Bowfin are willing biters on natural and artificial baits, grow to large size (up to 30 inches) and put up a spirited fight when hooked. Please enjoy them for the sport they provide and release them unharmed.

Anglers and hatchery personnel also reported the illegal introduction of chain pickerel into Sugar Lake and our trapnets confirmed these reports. All 4 of the chain pickerel captured in trapnets and 6 out of 15 captured night electrofishing were longer than the new 18 inch minimum size limit. Anglers are encouraged to harvest chain pickerel within the applicable seasons, sizes and creel limits (Brood Stock Lakes). Chain pickerel are native to the Susquehanna River drainage and their introduction into Sugar Lake is unfortunate and illegal. Like most invasive species, once established, eradication is virtually impossible and the consequences of their introduction unknown. As a natural lake, Sugar Lake is an open system. Fish can freely swim out of the lake, travel into Sugar Creek, French Creek, and the Allegheny River below Kinzua Dam. We encourage all anglers not to transfer fish from one location to another to avoid penalties and worse, create potential to cause ecological harm. Visit our Aquatic Invasive Species page to learn more about prevention of transfer of unwanted aquatic organisms to waters from outside or from within Pennsylvania.

 
-- Tim Wilson, Area 2 Fisheries Biologist

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