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Notebook: Keystone Lake walleyes are proving tough catch

| Wednesday, June 20, 2001

Having trouble catching walleyes in Keystone Lake, Armstrong County•

Blame it on the rainbow smelt.

That's the opinion of Ron Lee, Fish and Boat Commission fisheries manager.

A survey revealed fine numbers of walleyes in the lake, but also high numbers of rainbow smelt.

The walleyes may be shunning anglers' offerings in favor of the forage fish, Lee said.

George Kavish, waterways conservation officer, said, 'There are huge schools of rainbow smelt. In the middle of summer, you can see them swimming around all over.'

Bill Miller of Keystone Bait & Tackle said, 'Guys tell me that when fishing from a boat at night with a lantern that they are all around. They're festered with them.'

'The smelt were introduced in the late 1980s and early 1900s and are self-sustaining,' Lee said.

On a recent patrol, Kavish said, 'In checking four or five boats, each had a couple of walleyes over 20 inches.'

'The walleyes are real impressive at Keystone Lake,' Lee said, 'wallhangers and a dense population.'

A majority of the walleyes checked in the survey ranged from 18 to 24 inches, with a fair number of fish 27 to 30 inches long.

'The walleyes were without doubt some of the heaviest encountered during walleye sampling efforts over the past two decades,' Lee said.

The stocking of fingerling trout also is paying dividends.

The survey 'produced high numbers of brook trout ranging from 8 to 10 inches,' Lee said.

Seven tiger-muskies were found, from 27.8 to 50.98 inches long.

'The large tiger-musky weighed about 35 pounds,' the biologist said. 'It wasn't particularly heavy.'

Don't forget the crappies.

'During the spring I checked a man with 35 crappies, with the largest being 17 inches,' Kavish said.

Lee plans to halt the fall stocking of fingerling trout in Mahoning Creek.

Only three trout turned up during a survey at the Mahoning Dam Tailrace, all from last year's release.

'The trout do not appear to be able to survive the warm summer months,' he said.

It's also possible that the small trout are being consumed by channel catfish, walleyes and smallmouth bass.

'Channel catfish ranged from 14 to 27 inches,' Lee said. A dozen smallmouths were checked, at 11 to 14 inches. 'The walleyes were running from 16 to 21 inches,' Lee said.

While trout-fishing opportunities in the tailrace are limited, 'good numbers of quality-sized channel catfish, walleyes and smallmouth bass can be found,' he said.

GOBBLER RECORD

Hunters in West Virginia took 17,717 birds this spring gobbler season, cracking the 1995 record of 16,700.

The kill last year was 12,794.

'The harvest was primarily due to record-breaking production of young birds in 1999,' said Scott Warner, Division of Natural Resources biologist.

'The 2-year-old gobblers were more susceptible to being called in by hunters,' he said. 'They'd knock themselves all over to get to the caller.'

Warner also stressed the weather.

'It was phenomenal the first three weeks,' he said. 'It was perfect.'

The season ran four weeks.

'I'd say the third factor was the change in the regulations that permitted two birds in the spring and one in the fall,' Warner said. 'The change put more hunters in the field.'

The top county was Harrison with 708 birds taken, followed by Preston, 641; Lewis, 611; Mason, 591 and Wood, 583.

Harrison County accounted for 513 birds last year, while Preston had 473.

Hunters in Monongalia County checked in with 570 birds this season, compared to 406 in 2000.

'The season was one to go down in the pages of history books,' Warner said.

On the debit side, there were five accidents, one a fatality.

An 18-year-old hunter from Philippi died May 5 from a rifle shot to the head while on private property in Barbour County.

Gary Straughan, investigating officer, said the victim was shot by a 14-year-old boy with a high-powered rifle and scope.

'The shooter apparently saw movement that he thought to be made by a turkey, and after hearing calls, shot his firearm,' Straughan said.

Three of the nonfatal mishaps were self-inflicted and the final incident was a mistake-for-game accident.

West Virginia's turkey population is estimated at 180,000.

HYBRID ARRESTS

If you don't think West Virginia has a fine hybrid bass fishery on the Ohio River, just check with Lt. Jon Cogar of the Department of Natural Resources' Fairmont office.

He'll tell you about two Massillon, Ohio, fishermen who were arrested for exceeding the daily limit while fishing at the New Cumberland Locks in Hancock County.

'The two men were cited for catching 48 hybrid bass,' Cogar said.

The daily limit is four.

'There were 27 other hybrid bass found in the weeds, but the fish couldn't be tied to the two men,' he said.

The fish, confiscated by conservation officers Thomas Spence and Steve Himmelrick, weighed approximately 200 pounds.

In addition to being cited, the two men's fishing tackle was confiscated.

'This just goes to show the problems we have all over the Ohio River,' Cogar said.

Smallmouth bass are now the concern.

'We're getting all kinds of complaints,' he said.

The men's case is awaiting disposition in Hancock County Magistrate Court.

TURTLE WATCH

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission is asking motorists to be on the lookout for turtles crossing the road.

Turtles are on the move this time of the year, seeking suitable nesting sites on land.

Nesting turtles may travel several hundred yards to upland areas where soils are drier and warmth from the sun promotes egg incubation.

'People who see turtles on the road often attempt to help by picking them up and moving them,' said Andrew Shiels, the commission's Nongame and Endangered Species Unit leader.

'Moving them in the same direction is very important,' Shiels said.

'Turtles have well-defined homing instincts and if they are returned to where they came from, they usually will try to cross the road again, thus increasing their chances of being hit by an auto.'

While turtle movement in this area is not of gigantic proportions, they are on the move in Erie County.

'They're everywhere,' said John Bowser, waterways conservation officer.

Bedford County is another location where turtle movement is reported.

RATTLESNAKE WARNING

Emil Svetahor, Fish and Boat Commission southwest region manager, reminds that a fishing license and $5 permit is required before a rattlesnake can be captured or possessed.

The rattlesnake season opened June 9. It ends July 31.

A Westmoreland County man was recently cited for possessing an albino rattlesnake prior to the season and for not having a permit.

The snake, which was in the man's aquarium, was confiscated by the commission. He was fined $130, plus costs.

The season limit on rattlesnakes is one.

SUE SCORES AGAIN

Sue Martin, wife of Warren County waterways conservation officer Bill Martin, has come up with another citation-size fish.

Fishing the Allegheny River with a Mr. Twister grub, she caught a 30-inch walleye.

'She took it in the same location where she recently caught a 30-inch northern pike,' Bill Martin said.

As is her custom, Sue Martin - who caught several citation-size fish last year - released the walleye.

As for Bill Martin, he said, 'I got to net it.'

GARDEN DEDICATION
Sunset Garden, which has been erected around the large anchor at Walnut Creek in Erie County, will be dedicated 5 p.m. June 28.

Gary Deiger, Fish and Boat Commission northwest region manager, said the flower garden was the result of cooperation between the commission and interested people.

'It was a real nice gesture,' Deiger said.

NO MEETING
Local Chapter No. 1, National Wild Turkey Federation, has canceled tonight's regular monthly meeting.

SUNDAY: Young anglers receive Angler Recognition Awards.

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