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A year to wait at Crooked Creek Lake

Every fisherman who's ever gone to a "hot" lake and been "skunked" has heard it: You should have been here last week.

You won't hear that about Crooked Creek Lake. But you might be told to come back next year.

Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission biologists recently surveyed the 350-acre U.S. Army Corps of Engineers impoundment near Ford City and came away impressed with the crappie population. Most were white crappies, with a few blacks mixed in.

"There are some real nice crappies in there," said Al Woomer, the commission's Area 2 fisheries manager, based in Tionesta. "We got a good number over 10 inches and quite a few in the 11- to 12-inch range. We even got a few up to 14 or 15 inches, though they were much more rare, of course."

Actually catching those fish can be tough. The lake's water levels can rise and fall often and in a hurry, making it difficult for boaters to just get on the water.

Anglers do catch crappies, but it's been mostly smaller ones — especially lately — said Bruce Gundlach, the commission's waterways conservation officer in Armstrong County.

But better days could be coming, he said.

"Next year, I expect we'll see fishermen catching a lot of crappies that are 12 inches and bigger," he said. "Two years ago, guys were catching lots of fish, but they were mostly in the 4- to 6-inch class. Last year, they were 6 to 8 inches, and the guys I've talked to this year said they've been getting loads of fish, but most are 9 inches or so.

"Next year, with another season of growth, those fish should be a real nice size for keeping."

There are a couple of other species that make the lake worth fishing, Woomer said. Biologists have not specifically electrofished Crooked Creek for bass yet — that may happen this week, weather permitting — but they recently have netted the fish. Most were largemouths and some were big, up to 7 pounds.

"There were some really nice fish, boy," Woomer said.

Crooked Creek long has had a reputation as a good bass lake, though it's gotten less pressure — at least in the form of tournaments — lately, Gundlach said.

Channel cats also are doing well. The commission has been stocking fingerling channel cats in the lake for years, and that seems to be working. They found fish ranging from 5 to 22 inches, a good sign of survival, Woomer said.

"It was a bit if a surprise, I thought, for things to be that nice," he said.

But it was the crappies that really impressed him, a guy who sees plenty of fish in many places.

"I thought it was really good," Woomer said. "If I didn't live so far away, I wouldn't mind going down there myself."

Walleyes not taking hold at Crooked Creek Lake

The Fish and Boat Commission has been trying for years to establish a walleye fishery at Crooked Creek Lake.

Their efforts are failing. Biologists have been stocking walleyes in the lake annually since 2006 — save for one year, when it got saugeyes, instead. But last week's survey gave a dismal snapshot of the water's walleye population.

That's not necessarily unusual, said Al Woomer, the commission's Area 2 fisheries manager. Army Corps lakes, in particular, are tough to grow walleyes in, he said.

And, since the stocking schedule already is set, the lake will get stocked with walleyes again this year.

But the lack of fish may mean the end of the program after that.

"I can't say for sure yet, but we're really going to have to look at it to see if we want to continue it," Woomer said.

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