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Channel Catfish Fingerling Stocking Evaluation
Lehigh County
June 25-27

Sampling Technique: Pennsylvania Trap Nets

In an attempt to provide enhanced recreational fishing opportunities at Leaser Lake, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) has stocked a total of 15,850 channel catfish fingerlings since 1995 with 4,350 being stocked since the partial draw down in 1999. Eight Pennsylvania style trap nets were fished from June 25 to June 27, 2003 by the PFBC’s southeast Area 6 region office for the purpose of evaluating these stockings.

Processing fish at Leaser Lake
Processing fish at Leaser Lake

During the survey a total of six channel catfish ranging from 11 to 30 inches long were captured yielding a catch per unit of effort (CPUE) of 0.04 fish/hr. This means that 0.04 channel catfish were collected for every hour that the trap nets were fished. The average CPUE of channel catfish collected at other impoundments surveyed in southeastern Pennsylvania was 0.23 fish/hr. The CPUE of channel catfish collected from Leaser Lake was significantly less than the southeastern Pennsylvania average.

29 inch channel catfish
29 inch channel catfish

During the 2003 survey brown bullheads were captured at a rate of 0.23 fish/hr. This was similar to the southeastern Pennsylvania average of 0.30 fish/hr. Brown bullheads ranged in length from 12 inches to 16 inches long with the majority being 13 inches to 15 inches long. Black crappie were also collected during the survey at a rate of 0.91 fish/hr. This was considerably lower than the southeastern Pennsylvania average crappie CPUE of 3.35 fish/hr. Black crappie ranged from 4 inches to 9 inches long with the majority being 7 inches long. (Results from a largemouth bass survey conducted in 2001 are available in the Area 6 archived reports).

12 inch yellow perch
12 inch yellow perch

Since the partial draw down of 1999, the stocking of 4,350 fingerling channel catfish into Leaser Lake has failed to produce a desirable channel catfish population. Based upon 87 samples from 24 waters surveyed between 1982 and 2003, a desirable channel catfish population in SE Pennsylvania has been defined as a population capable of producing a trap net CPUE of > 0.15 fish/hr. As a result, future plantings of fingerling channel catfish into Leaser Lake will most likely be discontinued. The existing quality brown bullhead population is sufficient to provide recreational angling opportunities for catfish and is well known by the anglers who frequently fish the lake.

The failure of the channel catfish fingerling stockings to produce a desirable channel catfish population was most likely the result of limited cover for channel catfish fingerlings and predation by piscivorine fish species including, but not limited to, largemouth bass, brown bullhead, and black crappie. This situation has been exacerbated by the concentration of fish resulting from the draw down. Stocking of channel catfish into this lake should be reconsidered if a reliable source of larger channel catfish capable of avoiding predation becomes available. Additionally, if funding becomes available to repair the Leaser Lake dam consideration should be given to placing habitat improvement devices onto the dry lakebed.

Leaser Lake, located in northern Lehigh County, is owned by the PFBC and maintained in cooperation with the Lehigh County Parks Department. Normally a 117 acre impoundment, dam safety concerns required that the lake be drawn down to 40 acres in 1999. Boating is permitted on Leaser Lake during the draw down period with motors restricted to electric only.

-- Area 6

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