Biologist reports logo Tamarack Lake

Crawford County
May 2005

Sampling Technique – Trap Netting

Tamarack Lake is a 562 acre reservoir located 3 miles southeast of Meadville in Crawford County. The lake is owned and maintained by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) for recreational purposes. Motorized boats are restricted to electric motors only and there are six boat launch areas (ranging from gravel ramps to improved concrete ramps with small docks) spread around the lake. The reservoir is unique because there are dams at both ends of the reservoir with a shallow area in the middle. Maximum depth in the lake is only about 13 feet.

In early spring 1999, the PFBC was ordered to completely drain Tamarack Lake and perform safety modifications to the outlet structures on both dams. The modifications were completed in summer of 1999 and the reservoir was fully refilled by the spring of 2000. The PFBC initiated its recovery plan for Tamarack Lake at this time. Since the summer of 1999, we have been stocking large numbers of fish in Tamarack Lake to speed the recovery of the fishery (See the Tamarack Lake report from May 2004 for a table of fish stocked in Tamarack Lake).

During the week of May 2, 2005 we set four trapnets for four nights each to sample the large predators and panfish in Tamarack Lake. Table 1 shows the larger species we captured and Table 2 shows the panfish and forage fish captured. On the evenings of May 24 and 25, 2005 we night electrofished for 3 hours and covered 5,140 meters of shoreline to sample the largemouth bass and those results are shown in Table 3.

Freeman Johns and a 17 inch, 3 lb. black crappie
Freeman Johns and a 17 inch, 3 lb. black crappie.
This fish was probably one of the adults stocked between 2000 and 2002.

Table 1. Large fish captured by trapnets in Tamarack Lake during the week of May 2, 2005.

Size Groups
Muskellunge Walleye Largemouth
19     1  
20       1
21   4   5
22   5   9
23   2   15
24   3   10
25   4   9
26   1   2
27   1   3
28 1     1
29 2      
30 2      
31 14      
32 30      
33 34      
34 16      
35 18      
36 9      
37 7      
38 4      
39 9      
40 4      
41 2      
Totals 152 20 1 55

Fisheries Biologist Aide Jay Gerber with a Tamarack Lake musky
Fisheries Biologist Aide Jay Gerber with a Tamarack Lake musky

Table 2. Panfish and forage fish captured by trapnets in Tamarack Lake during the week of May 2, 2005.

Size Groups
Bluegill Pumpkinseed Brown
1   1      
2   11 1    
3 1,576 36     2
4 21 23 6   5
5 417 28 1   2
6 454 17     1
7 488       4
8 2     1 2
9       1  
10       10  
11       235  
12       117  
13       1  
14       3  
17 1        
Totals 2,959 116 8 368 16

Table 3. Largemouth bass and walleye captured by night electrofishing in Tamarack Lake (16D),
Crawford County on May 24 & 25, 2005.

Size Groups
3 1  
4 6  
5 1  
7 1  
8 3  
9 2  
10 6  
11 6  
12 1  
13 1  
14 1  
15 2 2
16 5  
17 4  
18 4  
19 1 1
Totals 45 3

One species doing very well in Tamarack Lake is muskellunge. We captured an astounding 152 muskellunge ranging in size groups from 28 to 41 inches. Obviously, survival has been very high for the fingerlings we have been stocking. A few more years of growth in this food rich environment and trophy size muskellunge will be available. Muskellunge fingerling stocking will continue at the current rate to maintain this fishery.

Fisheries Technician Freeman Johns with a Tamarack Lake walleye
Fisheries Technician Freeman Johns with a Tamarack Lake walleye

We caught some nice large walleye but would have liked to have seen more small walleye, however water temperatures were higher than ideal for walleye sampling. Walleye fingerling stocking will continue at the current rate.

After the draining we thought carp had been eradicated but they somehow persisted and have produced a big population of large, heavy and healthy fish. Anglers that target carp should do very well at Tamarack Lake.

Another species doing well is black crappie. From the catch data, it appears that the crappies we stocked spawned successfully and there are now very large numbers of small crappie (3 – 8 in.) that should provide good fishing in the future, if growth rates and survival are good.

Brown bullheads in the 11 – 13 inch range are also doing quite well and again, if growth rates and survival are good, should provide quality angling in the near future.

During previous electrofishing surveys (2000 – 2004) the most abundant fish had always been bluegills. During our trapnet survey bluegills were not captured in the trapnets in near the numbers we had expected. This was probably due to water temperature because the bluegills were still present in large numbers when we electrofished for bass. However, their size structure has not improved and almost all bluegills were under 7 inches.

The densities and size structures of the bluegill and crappie are probably best explained by what we found electrofishing for largemouth bass. Our stockings of bass have not produced the results we had hoped for. The density of bass in Tamarack Lake is well below historical averages and too sparse to act as an effective control of panfish densities. Contrary to popular belief, muskellunge are not efficient in controlling panfish numbers. A fisheries manager’s best tool for controlling panfish density in a lake such as Tamarack is largemouth bass.

All the species that were present before the lake was drained are once again established and reproducing in the lake. Muskellunge and walleye stockings have been successful and will continue. It appears that we need more predatory pressure on the panfish to prevent stunting. We will employ available management techniques to enhance the largemouth bass population and promote the recovery of fish populations to levels present before the lake was drained.

-- Tim Wilson, Area 2 Fisheries Technician

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