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Missing catfish

Fish and Boat Commission biologists found one 31-inch channel catfish in West Deer Lake.

That's the good news. The bad is they found no others, even though the commission “has stocked channel catfish fingerlings annually for over 10 years in each of the three (Deer) lakes,” biologist Mike Depew said.

The situation was the same at Filbert Pond. The commission has stocked channel catfish fingerlings there for years but found none in its survey. The size of the catfish stocked may be the problem, area fisheries manager Rick Lorson said.

Literature suggests that to get good survival of catfish fingerlings in waters with good bass populations, the catfish need to be about 8 inches long when released, he said. The commission's fingerlings typically get released when they're just 2 inches long. It's likely few are escaping predatory bass, Lorson said.

Starting next year, though, he hope to quantify that. The plan is to secure 8-inch catfish, clip their fins so they'll be recognizable and stock them in a handful of waters that also will be getting 2-inch fingerlings. Biologists then will study those waters over five years to see if the larger fish survive better, he said.

— Bob Frye

Tuesday, May 14, 2013, 11:06 p.m.

You wouldn't necessarily want to fish Filbert Pond, any of the three Deer Lakes or Marshall Lake if your goal is to catch lots of big fish.

But all three can provide varying levels of sport.

Biologists from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission Area 8 office in Somerset recently surveyed four-acre West, or Upper, Deer Lake; three-acre Lower Deer Lake; and eight-acre Marshall Lake, all in Allegheny County, and 18-acre Filbert Pond in Fayette County.

Filbert Pond, private water west of Uniontown on New Salem Road that is open to public fishing, showed the best of the bunch.

“The crappies and bass there were better than they were previously,” said Rick Lorson, the commission's area fisheries manager.

Black crappies were more abundant and larger than white, with fish up to 12 inches, Lorson said. The bass included one that was 21 inches, “so there were some nice fish,” he said.

Marshall Lake in North Park had never been examined before this year. Biologists found lots of carp, including one 26-pound fish, good numbers of decent-sized largemouth bass and lots of stunted bluegills, crappies and pumpkinseeds, Lorson said.

“It's another lake that's full of gizzard shad, so you could almost predict that the panfish would be abundant but small. They really kind of take it on the nose when it comes to competing against those shad,” Lorson said.

Of the two Deer Lakes that biologist examined — they didn't get to Middle Deer because of time — the Lower Lake was best, especially for larger bass. Biologists collected 69 bass from the lower lake compared to 84 from the upper. But 46 percent of the lower lake's bass were 12 inches or longer compared to 13 percent at the upper, biologist Mike Depew said.

Bluegills were the most abundant species in both, but most were small. A limited number of crappies were found in West Deer, but they were disappointing, “with few fish of quality size,” Depew said.

Too many panfish and shad again are to blame. But at West Deer, there's another factor.

“There are not very many weeds in there, and warmwater species like bass and bluegills need those to do well,” Lorson said.

Biologists likely will recommend the commission install man-made habitat structures in the lake to improve the fishing, he said.

Bob Frye is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @bobfryeoutdoors.

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