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Piney Dam

Clarion County
April-May 2007

Piney Dam is a 690 acre reservoir on the Clarion River just outside the city of Clarion. The reservoir lies in the narrow valley carved by the river and is approximately 14 miles long but only about 250 yards wide at its widest point. There are two boat launches on the lake. One is the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission’s Mill Creek Access at the very upstream end of the lake and a private launch open to the public near the lake’s midpoint located off of Fifth Avenue (SR1005) near the mouth of Toby Creek.

There is no horsepower limit on the lake and pleasure boating and water skiing are the primary recreational uses. Piney Dam sees a great deal of this type of use during the summer months. The dam that creates the lake is a hydro-electric facility so water levels may fluctuate several feet during the course of the day and boaters should be aware of this.

The Clarion River and Piney Dam have been slowly recovering from the effects of coal mining in the watershed. Many of the smaller tributaries still contribute iron laden, low pH water but a prodigious effort has been made to clean up this river over the last 30 years and remediation projects continue. 

As water quality has improved, the opportunities to manage the lake for fishing have also improved. The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission began stocking walleye and tiger muskellunge following a survey of the lake in 1995. On average, Piney Dam has received 500,000 walleye fry, 6,500 walleye fingerlings and 1,350 tiger muskellunge fingerlings every year since 1995. Channel catfish fingerlings were stocked in 2000, 2003, 2005 and 2006.

Piney Dam can be difficult to fish for those unfamiliar with the lake. The banks are very steep and there is little shallow water structure to concentrate fish. A good depth finder to find structure and fish is a big help. Heavy pleasure boat traffic can make fishing difficult, especially on summer weekends. Shore angling is limited to just a few locations including the area adjacent the Route 322 bridge, near the SR 1005 bridge at the mouth of Toby Creek and the PFBC Mill Creek access area.

Fisheries Management biologists from Tionesta sampled Piney Dam’s fish populations with gillnets during the week of April 30th, 2007, and by night electrofishing on the evening of May 23, 2007. We set a total of 13 overnight gillnet sets totaling 272 hours of fishing effort. We made four night electrofishing runs totaling just over 2 miles of shoreline and 2 hours of effort.

Our gillnet catch and angler reports show that our tiger muskellunge stockings have been successful.  We caught 4 tiger muskies from 21 – 38 inches and anglers report catching tigers over 50 inches.

Tiger musky
Fisheries Biologist Aide Ben Dutko with 38 inch tiger musky from Piney Dam

The future is bright for walleye fishing in Piney Dam. We captured numerous walleye but all were below legal size.  Some of the sub-legal walleye we captured should reach legal size (15 inches) as early as this fall. Anglers report catching legal walleye in the upstream portions of the reservoir.

One of the many sub-legal walleyes we captured in Piney Dam

Piney Dam contains a mixture of largemouth and smallmouth bass. Both species are at a low density but the bass fishery is slowly improving and there are trophy size fish available.

Largemouth bass
Ben Dutko with a 20 inch largemouth bass from Piney Dam

For panfish, Piney Dam supports good populations of yellow perch, rock bass and pumpkinseeds with some crappies and bluegills mixed in. We captured yellow perch up to 12 inches, rock bass up to 9 inches, bluegills and pumpkinseed up to 9 inches and a few crappies up to 11 inches. We also captured several of our stocked channel catfish up to 21 inches.

A couple of nice bluegills from Piney Dam

Piney Dam also supports a dense population of brown and yellow bullheads, although most were under 12 inches. Piney Dam has a substantial forage base consisting of golden shiners, white suckers and a tremendous number of golden redhorse suckers. Common carp well over 20 pounds were observed while night electrofishing.

The gillnet survey occurred when water temperatures were still in the 50’s and we captured 7 stocked trout in the upper end of the lake including a 19 inch brook trout. These fish were probably migrants from stocked tributaries upstream but this fishery won’t last long as water temperatures rise.

Brook trout
19 inch hatchery brook trout

-- Tim Wilson, Area 2 Fisheries Biologist

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