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Cross Creek Lake

Washington County

April and May, 2007
Survey Gear: Trap Nets and Night Boat Electrofishing


Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission biologists develop aquatic resource management plans for (1) federally regulated impoundments, (2) waterbodies owned by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and (3) “open to the public” county and municipally owned lakes and reservoirs.  Cross Creek Lake, a 244-acre impoundment located off Route 50 near Rea in western Washington County, and the surrounding 3,500-acres that comprise Cross Creek Park are owned by the Washington County Department of Parks and Recreation.  Fisheries Management Area 8 biologists conducted a fish population survey of Cross Creek Lake to update the fisheries management plan and evaluate special fish harvest regulations that apply to this reservoir.

Since 2000, the lake’s sunfish and crappie populations have been managed under Panfish Enhancement Special Regulations, defined by minimum sizes of 9 inches for both white and black crappie and 7 inches for sunfish, including bluegill and redear sunfish.  When Panfish Enhancement Special Regulations apply to more than one species in the same waterbody, the combined daily creel limit is 20 for each individual species and the total creeled is not to exceed 50 panfish combined. 

Also since 2000, the lake’s largemouth bass population has been managed under Big Bass Program Special Regulations.  Other gamefish and panfish species that reside within Cross Creek Lake, including saugeye, yellow perch, channel catfish, and brown and yellow bullheads, are managed under Statewide Regulations for Commonwealth Inland Waters.

Before the Panfish Enhancement Program and Big Bass Program special regulations were approved by the Commission in 2000, Cross Creek Lake was managed with “Conservation Regulations.”  Conservation Regulations imposed the same minimum size (15 inches) as do current Big Bass regulations, although the creel limit was lower (2 fish per day compared to the current 4 fish per day).  On the other hand, Conservation Regulations did not require a minimum size for sunfish and crappie, as do the current Panfish Enhancement regulations.  Cross Creek Lake was the very first waterbody in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to be managed with Conservation Regulations.

Washington County Department of Parks and Recreation enforces a 10 horsepower limit boating regulation on the lake, and maintains a paved boat launch ramp, courtesy docks, and a handicapped-accessible fishing pier, all located in the same vicinity on the north shore of Cross Creek Lake.  Anglers should be aware that an Annual Use Permit, which can be obtained from the Department of Parks and Recreation office, is required for all boaters using the lake, launch ramp, and courtesy docks.  Anglers should also be aware of several shallow  “No Wake Zones” located about Cross Creek Lake.

Cross Creek Lake is fairly turbid and relatively deep (maximum depth approximately 60 feet near the dam).  The characteristic that most defines the lake, however, would be its fertility, which contributes to maintaining one of the densest largemouth bass populations in the Commonwealth.  Like other warm and fertile impoundments located within Area 8, Cross Creek Lake provides excellent habitat for warmwater species, including numerous submerged stumps and large woody debris, as well as submerged and floating aquatic vegetation.

The main purpose of our 2007 surveys was to determine the size and quality of the lake’s resident gamefish and panfish populations.  Of the 3,476 fish we collected from 20 trap net sets at Cross Creek Lake, 48% of the total catch was comprised of black crappie, and 45% of the total catch was comprised of bluegill.  Also, many legal saugeye (a sauger/walleye hybrid) were collected, most (88%) in the 20- to 25-inch range.  Table 1 below summarizes the catch data from our 2007 trap net surveys at Cross Creek Lake:

Table 1.  2007 Survey Gear: 20 Trap Net Sets.
Fish Species Number Collected Size Range (Inches) Additional Comments
Saugeye 59 18 – 25 All legal fish
88% greater than 20 inches
Yellow perch 31 3 – 6  
Black crappie 1,672 3 – 13 35% legal fish
White crappie 19 3 – 10  
Redear sunfish 17 4 – 11  
Bluegill 1,567 1 – 11 67% legal fish
Hybrid sunfish 3 7 – 10  
Largemouth bass 4 5 – 15  
White sucker 87 10 – 26  
Channel catfish 1 24 – 25  
Brown bullhead 5 11 – 13  
Yellow bullhead 4 10 – 12  
Common carp 5 Not measured  
Golden shiner 2 Not measured  

Saugeye
Area 8 Fisheries Manager Rick Lorson with a hefty, 25-inch saugeye collected from a trap net set at Cross Creek Lake

Channel catfish
Area 8 Fisheries Biologist Aid Jon Trilli with a nice, 24-inch channel catfish collected from a trap net set at Cross Creek Lake

Redear sunfish
Area 8 Fisheries Manager Rick Lorson displaying the size-range of redear sunfish collected from a trap net set at Cross Creek Lake

Bluegill
Area 8 Fisheries Biologist Aid Jon Trilli displaying typical bluegills collected from a trap net set at Cross Creek Lake

During our night boat electrofishing surveys, we expected to see the high densities of largemouth bass based upon past assessments.  Table 2 below summarizes the catch data from our 2007 night boat electrofishing surveys at Cross Creek Lake:

Table 2.  2007 Survey Gear: 5 Night Boat Electrofishing Runs.
Fish Species Number Collected Size Range (Inches) Additional Comments
Largemouth bass 430 4 – 21 18% greater than 15 inches

The last year of walleye stocking at Cross Creek Lake was 1996.  Saugeye, which have exhibited better survival and growth than walleye, have been stocked in the lake annually since 1989.  The abundance of legal (greater than 15 inches) and quality (greater than 20 inches) saugeye collected from trap nets was variable throughout survey years 1994 to 2007 (Figure 1).  However, the abundance of saugeye greater than 20 inches was the greatest this past survey year.  This is good news, since many anglers that fish Cross Creek Lake on a regular basis have maintained a desire to catch large walleye there; and now have an opportunity to catch large saugeye instead.

Figure 1

The abundance of legal (greater than 15 inches) largemouth bass collected during electrofishing surveys declined sharply the first year after Cross Creek Lake was open for public fishing in June 1985 (Figure 2).  However, with Conservation Regs in place (15 inch minimum length; 2 per day creel limit), the numbers of legal-sized bass increased from 1986 through 1994.  Now, with Big Bass Regulations in place (15 inch minimum length; 4 per day creel limit), the abundance of legal-sized bass was the greatest this past survey year.

Figure 2

Similar to the largemouth bass data, the abundance of legal (greater than 9 inches) black crappie collected from trap nets also declined sharply the first year Cross Creek Lake was open for public fishing in 1986 (Figure 3).  Likewise, when Conservation Regulations (no minimum length; 10 per day creel limit) were established, the numbers of legal-sized crappie increased somewhat from 1986 through 1994, and declined slightly in 1997.  Now, with Panfish Enhancement Regulations (9 inch minimum length; 20 per day creel limit) in place, the abundance of legal-sized crappie was the greatest the past two survey years (2005 and 2007).

Figure 3

The best example of how modifications made to existing angling regulations can improve the abundance of larger fish for a given population is depicted by Cross Creek Lake’s bluegill data.  The abundance of legal (greater than 7 inches) bluegill collected from trap nets was variable when Conservation Regulations (no minimum length; 10 per day creel limit) were in place from 1986 through 1997 (Figure 4).  However, with the authorization of Panfish Enhancement Regulations (7 inch minimum length; 20 per day creel limit) in 2000, the abundance of legal-sized bluegill has shown a dramatic increase for each of the past three survey years (2003, 2005, and 2007).

Figure 4

Over the past 22 years, Cross Creek Lake has provided anglers with quality fishing opportunities for gamefish species such as largemouth bass, channel catfish, and saugeye; plus panfish species including black crappie, bluegill, redear sunfish, and brown bullhead.  Although the annual walleye stocking program was determined to be unsuccessful at Cross Creek Lake; beginning in 1989, a surrogate program was started for saugeye.  Now, anglers can target quality-sized saugeye at Cross Creek Lake.  Our electrofishing data continues to demonstrate that Cross Creek Lake maintains one of the densest largemouth bass populations in the Commonwealth, and anglers can also target quality-sized bass there as well.  Finally, our most recent evidence suggests that the implementation of Panfish Enhancement Special Regulations at Cross Creek Lake has resulted in an exceptional fishery for quality-sized black crappie and bluegill.

 
-- Bob Ventorini, Area 8 Fisheries Biologist

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