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Notebook: Fish thriving in Piney Dam in Clarion Co.

The Fish & Boat Commission

• The Fish and Boat Commission has been aggressively stocking Piney Dam in Clarion County -- to the tune of 500,000 walleye fry, 6,500 walleye fingerlings, and 1,350 tiger muskellunge fingerlings -- every year since 1995. Channel catfish fingerlings were stocked in 2000, 2003, 2005 and 2006.

This spring, biologists sampled the 690-acre lake to see if those fish are surviving. The answer is yes.

According to commission biologist Tim Wilson, crews caught four tiger muskies ranging from 21 to 38 inches. Anglers have reported catching tigers longer than 50 inches, though, he said.

Numerous walleyes were also captured. All were of sub-legal size, but some of those should be at least 15 inches long by this fall, Wilson said, and the outlook for walleyes long-term is pretty good.

Largemouth and smallmouth bass are more scarce, but those fisheries are slowly improving. Already, fish as large as 20 inches showed up in surveys, Wilson noted.

The surveys showed that Piney Dam also supports good populations of yellow perch up to 12 inches, rock bass and pumpkinseeds up to nine inches, with some crappies and bluegills mixed in. Stocked channel catfish up to 21 inches also turned up.

Anglers should be aware, though, that the lake can be tough to fish, Wilson said. Its banks are very steep and there is little shallow water structure to concentrate fish, so a depth finder is a necessity. Piney Dam also gets a lot of pressure on weekends from pleasure boaters.

• Doug Austen, executive director of the Fish and Boat Commission, will be making several stops in western Pennsylvania this week.

In observance of National Fishing and Boating Week -- which runs June 2 to 10 -- Austen has committed to visiting various parts of the state to see the waters and fisheries his agency manages.

Austen will get to this region beginning Aug. 7, when he'll attend the Western Pennsylvania Environmental Awards dinner in Pittsburgh. The following day he'll meet with representatives of the Three Rivers Chapter of Muskies Inc. in the morning to try a little fishing. Later in the afternoon he'll tour a section of the Youghiogheny River with representatives of Venture Outdoors.

Austen will wrap up his tour of the state June 9 when he speaks at a ceremony honoring the 50th anniversary of catch and release, fly fishing only trout fishing on a section of Yellow Creek in Bedford County.

The Game Commission

• Pennsylvania's white-tailed deer herd remains free of chronic wasting disease, so far as anyone can tell.

The Game Commission sampled 4,260 hunter-killed deer for CWD after the close of the 2006 firearms deer season. All of those deer tested negative for the disease, said commission veterinarian Walt Cottrell.

The commission earlier announced that none of the elk taken by hunters in Pennsylvania last fall had the disease either.

The cost of all that testing -- in terms of materials and supplies and some personnel costs -- was covered primarily by a $75,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

This marked the sixth year for testing hunter-killed elk and the fifth year for testing hunter-killed deer. In that time, 224 elk and nearly 14,300 deer have been tested.

• The Game Commission is setting 16,500 pheasants aside for this year's youth pheasant hunt, which is scheduled for Oct. 6 to 12.

The majority of those birds -- 15,000 -- will be stocked at sites like state game lands across the state. The remaining 1,500 birds will be given to sportsmen's clubs hosting mentored youth hunts.

Clubs that want to hold such a hunt have until Aug. 15 to apply for birds. In the meantime, they can get a 26-page manual on how to host a hunt at www.pgc.state.pa.us ; click on "Forms & Programs" and then "Youth Pheasant Hunt Planning Guide."

Ultimately, the commission will post a list of all those hunts, with information on how kids can get registered, on its Web site.

-- Bob Frye

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