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Canonsburg Lake offers plenty for fishermen

| Friday, Sept. 8, 2006

The nigthcrawler on the end of Dick Glinski's line had barely had time to get wet when his bright orange bobber began skittering around the surface like a nervous waterbug.

First, it went right. Then, it looped back to the left. It went part-way under the water, then popped up again.

Finally, the bobber disappeared below the surface. Glinski gave a yank on his rod but missed the fish.

"Boy, I should have had that one," the 72-year-old angler from Carrick said. "Did you see how that went down?"

Glinski didn't get that particular fish, but he and others will tell you that there are plenty to be caught in Canonsburg Lake, a 76-acre impoundment owned by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.

The lake doesn't have many impressive panfish -- they're being outcompeted by gizzard shad -- but it's one of the best lakes around for channel catfish, said Rick Lorson, the commission's area 8 fisheries biologist.

The commission stocks the lake with channel catfish fingerlings at a rate of about 40 per acre per year, "which is a heavy stocking," Lorson said. That seems to be paying off.

When the commission last surveyed the Washington County lake in 2000, it ranked No. 1 among all lakes in Southwestern Pennsylvania in terms of total channel catfish caught. It also was the best for catfish over 12 inches, over 14 inches and over 16 inches. In fact, 57 percent of the catfish collected during the survey were longer than 16 inches.

"The largest catfish we saw was 23 inches, so we didn't get many huge ones, but the numbers are certainly there," Lorson said.

Lorson attributed that to the lake's general productivity, its good habitat and the presence of shad. The commission would prefer that they weren't so plentiful -- panfish could provide as much forage and better fishing, Lorson said -- but the catfish are growing fat on them.

"They certainly provide lots to eat," Lorson said. "That's why we stock predators like the catfish, to at least harvest some of that protein."

While interest in targeting catfish has in general increased over the past 20 years, Canonsburg Lake is not often swamped with people said Richard Zoog of Orchard View Angling, a fly and tackle shop just a mile from the lake.

"I know there are a lot of them in there, but I don't know that too many people fish for them," he said.

Glinski fishes Canonsburg Lake several times a week and has caught catfish there. If some of those small panfish steal his bait while he's after bigger fish, that's OK, too.

"Look at that," he said, as he reeled in a wormless hook after yet another bite from a tiny fish. "He cleaned me out. But that's all right. I've got plenty of worms. And this keeps me off the street."

More than just catfish

Channel cats don't provide the only sport at Canonsburg Lake. The waterway also is home to a good population of largemouth bass, said Rick Lorson, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission area 8 fisheries biologist.

When surveyed in 2000, the lake produced 124 bass in an hour's sampling time. Across the rest of Southwestern Pennsylvania, the average lake produces just 62 bass per hour.

The catch rate of bass longer than 12 inches is more than three times the region's average, while the catch rate for bass 15 inches and longer is nearly six times the regional average.

Some of the lake's best bass fishing is found just above and below the spillway, said Richard Zoog of Orchard View Angling. Anglers fishing with artificial baits, like rubber worms, do well at night, he said. Additional Information:

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