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Somerset lake reaches High Point

| Friday, April 28, 2006

High Point Lake is not the kind of place you fish by accident.

Located in southern Somerset County, near Mt. Davis, the highest point in the state, the lake definitely is off the beaten path. It is, though, by all accounts, a place worth visiting with the season on northern pike and walleyes just around the corner.

The season on those species -- and on pickerel and muskies -- opens May 6.

Anglers who venture to High Point will find lots of fish, if not necessarily lots of big ones, said Rick Lorson, the state Fish and Boat Commission's biologist for southwestern Pennsylvania. Toothy pike, in particular, thrive in the 338-acre lake.

The northern pike population up there is healthy, Lorson said. Fish are abundant in lengths between 18- and 24 inches. There are not so many fish of more than 24 inches, however.

A survey of the lake done last April, while not specifically targeting northerns -- found that only about 17 percent of the pike collected met that minimum size. At least a few were well over that mark, though. Crews netted one northern that stretched 40 inches.

The lake boasts a lot of weed cover -- perhaps too much even -- for those pike to hide and breed in. Anglers do well catching them, though, around the weeds and submerged stumps, using everything from live baits to crankbaits and, early in the morning, black Jitterbugs.

Fishermen certainly enjoy chasing those fish, said John Spittal of Nicklows Bait and Tackle in Addison, which, at about 12 miles away, is the closest bait shop.

"It's a pretty popular place," he said. "A lot of guys make the trip up there for pike."

The lake's walleyes also help to draw some anglers. The Fish and Boat Commission has been stocking the lake with walleye fingerlings at a higher-than-normal rate for the past decade. How well that's worked is another question, Lorson said.

Surveys of the lake have revealed some nice walleyes. Last year, every fish that commission crew collected were legal, ranging from 16 to 25 inches.

The number of walleyes they found overall, though, was a bit lacking. Whether that's because anglers are harvesting them as soon as they hit legal size, because they're being outcompeted by the lake's numerous yellow perch, or because survey crews just didn't find the fish, no one knows for sure, Lorson said.

Still, he recommends High Point Lake as a place to go if you want to catch walleyes.

"I think, overall, the fishing is pretty good," Lorson said. "But they're not as easy to catch as the pike are."

Lorson and his crew will survey High Point Lake again next year, and plan to spend some time figuring out how to boost the lake's walleyes. In the meantime, though, High Point offers some pretty good angling.

"It's definitely a destination water. People will drive a long way to get there," Lorson said. "And, aesthetically, it's tough to beat."

Additional Information:

Good shore access

High Point Lake is owned and managed by the state Fish and Boat Commission. It has two launch ramps, one each on the north and south shores. Only non-powered boats and those with electric motors are permitted.

The lake has good shore access, too. Getting to the dam on the north shore of the lake does require a bit of walking, though.

To reach High Point Lake from Addison, take Route 40 east to Route 523 north, then turn right onto State Route 2004. That will get you to the south shore boat launch and parking lot. You can follow the signs from there to the north shore lot.

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