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Lake Arthur walleyes under scrutiny

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Lake Arthur muskies

Fish and Boat Commission biologist Tim Wilson believes Lake Arthur's musky population is pretty good, despite occasional claims to the contrary.

This spring's survey of the lake allowed biologists to handle 39 muskies, ranging in size from 28.4 to 49.4 inches. The number of fish caught per hour was comparable to recent years, Wilson said.

It is, he also admitted, about half the catch rate seen in the lake's musky heyday of the early to mid-2000s. But the fishery as it existed then was exceptional and not necessarily sustainable, he said.

Seventy to 80 percent of the fish seen at that time were the offspring of just a couple of year's classes, Wilson said. Those crops “just had real outstanding survival.”

“That was not normal. People want that to be the normal. But that doesn't happen anywhere in the state,” Wilson said.

This year's survey also revealed just how rare truly monster muskies are. Four of those caught were also caught in sampling nets last year, when they were tagged. Biologists weighed and measured them again to see how they compared now to then.

Three of the four, including the only female, grew just one-tenth of an inch in 12 months. The fourth grew 3.6 inches.

“Thus far, it appears that only the rare individual muskellunge with the genetics, habitat, food supply and ability to avoid capture can grow fast enough and live long enough to exceed a length of 50 inches,” Wilson wrote in his report.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014, 10:20 p.m.

In the mid-1990s, Lake Arthur was known as a walleye fisherman's hot spot.

It doesn't necessarily have that same reputation now.

There's an effort afoot to change that, though. The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission has, in each of the past three years, stocked 96,800 walleye fingerlings in the lake. That's double what it got in past years.

The plan is to continue stocking at the higher rate to bring the fishery up to levels called for in the commission's statewide walleye management plan, said Tim Wilson, a fisheries biologist in the agency's Linesville office.

“I've either got to get it up to the standard or get it out of the program,” Wilson said.

None of the fish stocked in the past three years likely has reached the 15-inch minimum size to be legal keepers, he said. But some might hit that by fall, and most should be there by next spring, he added.

In the meantime, the walleye fishery at the lake is already perhaps better than expected.

Wilson and a commission crew surveyed the lake earlier this spring. They were looking primarily to assess Arthur's musky population.

Yet they handled 66 walleyes ranging from 10 to 28 inches. He called that their “best catch” in quite a while.

“We saw mostly larger, older fish. So it appears we've been undersampling it for years,” Wilson said.

Word of those fish didn't surprise Eugene Carlson. Owner of Carlson's Bait and Tackle in Harmony, he and others have been “catching them up there for years.” Some anglers drift and drag crawler harnesses to catch walleyes; others jig for them. Many do well by trolling, he said.

“They'll do good on walleyes all summer long, as long as they stay in deep water. I try to stay in 18 to 20 feet of water when I go out, two to three feet off the bottom. That's where they hang out,” Carlson said.

Ron Van of Van's Sporting Goods in Butler also said fishermen pick up walleyes “occasionally” at Lake Arthur, and they can be large. He said he's reeled in a 28-incher, and a friend caught a 29-incher.

“They're in there, if you can find them,” Van said.

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

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