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Stream surveys by Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission yield mixed results

Fish and Boat Commission biologist Brian Ensign holds a walleye pulled from French Creek during survey work earlier this fall.

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Maybe next year

Fish and Boat Commission biologists had been looking forward to surveying the lower portions of Laurel Hill Creek this summer. It gets stocked with trout, but is also known to have smallmouth bass and other warmwater species in it.

The plan had been to quantify all of that.

Unfortunately, that didn't happen. High water resulting from frequent rains in July and August prevented that work from being done.

Area fisheries manager Rick Lorson said the plan is to survey Laurel Hill next summer.

— Bob Frye

Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013, 10:42 p.m.

Sometimes the answer is no.

In much the same way that they've been looking at previously unassessed coldwater streams for trout, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission biologists over the past few years have been examining warmwater streams for smallmouth bass, rock bass and other species. The idea has been to locate fishable populations and get that information to anglers.

Painters Run and McLaughlin Run are not those kinds of streams.

Biologists with the commission's area 8 office in Somerset surveyed the two tributaries to Chartiers Creek in Allegheny County this season. They found white suckers, creek chubs, black nose dace and Johnny darters in both, but no game fish.

“They're both impacted by mine drainage,” said area 8 fisheries manager Rick Lorson. “They're heavy on iron, with high hardness and high conductivity. That makes it hard to grow bugs and hard to grow fish.”

One area stream looked a little better.

The Pennsylvania Fork of Fish Creek is located in southwestern Greene County, near the town of Deep Valley, a sort of “last chance for water in Pennsylvania,” Lorson said. It averages 30 feet wide as it flows toward the Ohio River.

Biologists sampled two sites on the creek, one two-tenths of a mile from the stream mouth, another 3.5 miles from the mouth. They found smallmouth bass in the 8- to 12-inch range, along with rock bass and some small green sunfish. None were present in such big numbers to make the stream worth traveling to from a distance, “but if it was in my backyard I'd fish it,” Lorson said.

The best stream for good numbers of gamefish when surveyed this year, though, was French Creek.

Biologists in the commission's area 2 office in Tionesta examined the stream between Union City in Erie County and Cochranton in Crawford County. They found smallmouth bass up to 18 inches long, walleyes up to 24, northern pike up to 30 and largemouth bass up to 15.

“The smallmouth bass population looks very good in there right now,” said biologist Brian Ensign. “Most of what we caught were of legal size.”

The walleye situation “wasn't as good as we were hoping it would be,” he said. Most of the fish discovered —- in the riffles and deeper pools — were of legal size, but the overall number was down. The commission will have to look at that this winter and decide whether to resume stocking walleyes in portions of the stream, he said.

The survey also turned up bluegills, rock bass, yellow perch, pumpkinseeds and one 25-inch channel catfish.

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

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