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High Point Lake

Somerset County
April-May, 2007
Survey Gear: Trap Nets & Night Boat Electrofishing

Having an elevation of 2,480 feet above mean sea level (MSL), High Point Lake is one of the highest lakes in all of Pennsylvania. Located in southern Somerset County southwest of Mount Davis, the highest point in Pennsylvania (3,213 feet above MSL), this 338-acre impoundment is owned by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission. Since 2000, the lake’s yellow perch population has been managed under Panfish Enhancement Special Regulations, defined by a minimum size limit of 9 inches and daily creel limit 20 fish, respectively. Other gamefish and panfish species that reside within the lake, including walleye, northern pike, chain pickerel, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, black crappie, bluegill, and brown and yellow bullheads, are managed under Statewide Regulations for Commonwealth Inland Waters. High Point Lake’s boating regulations allow only electric trolling motors and un-powered craft. There are currently two launch ramps that anglers can use, one on the south shore of the lake, and one on the north shore.

High Point Lake is moderately clear and deep (maximum depth approximately 30 feet), and moderately fertile (alkalinity concentrations around 30 parts per million). The lake provides excellent habitat for warmwater and coolwater species, including numerous submerged stumps and large woody debris, as well as submerged and floating aquatic vegetation. An abundant population of the paper pondshell (Utterbackia imbecillis), a native freshwater mussel, has taken residence at High Point Lake with numerous empty shells found washed along the lake’s shoreline.

The main purpose of our 2007 surveys was to determine the size and quality of the lake’s resident gamefish and panfish populations. The majority of the fish we collected during our trap net surveys, about 72% of the total catch, were sub-legal-sized (less than 9 inches) yellow perch. However, several nice black crappie were collected, some in the 12- to 15-inch range, as well as legal-sized walleye, largemouth and smallmouth bass, northern pike, and chain pickerel. Numerous brown bullheads were collected in our trap nets; however, not as many as previous years’ survey events. Table 1 below summarizes the catch data from our 2007 trap net surveys.

Table 1.  2007 Survey Gear: 16 Trap Net Sets.
Fish Species Number Collected Size Range (Inches) Additional Comments
Walleye 6 20 – 28 All legal fish.
Yellow perch 1,755 3 – 14 99% sub-legal fish.
Black crappie 75 5 – 15 93% greater than 9 inches.
Rock bass 1 8 – 9  
Bluegill 140 2 – 9  
Pumpkinseed 6 4 – 7  
Green sunfish 1 4 – 5  
Largemouth bass 4 12 – 18 All legal fish.
Smallmouth bass 2 14 – 15 All legal fish.
Northern pike 41 18 – 28 41% legal fish.
Chain pickerel 1 20 – 21  
Brown bullhead 364 10 – 14  
Yellow bullhead 8 8 – 10  
Golden shiner 16 Not measured.  

Yellow perch
Area 8 Fisheries Biologist Aid Jon Trilli with a legal, 12-inch yellow perch collected from a trap net set at High Point Lake

A colorful, 9-inch bluegill collected from a trap net set at High Point Lake

Area 8 Fisheries Biologist Aid Jon Trilli with two nice-sized brown bullheads collected from a trap net set. There are plenty of these types of catfish for anglers to enjoy at High Point Lake.

During our night boat electrofishing surveys, we were pleased to see the number of quality (greater than 15 inches) largemouth and smallmouth bass present. The black bass population consisted of 70% largemouths and 30% smallmouths. Table 2 below summarizes the catch data from our 2007 night boat electrofishing surveys.

Table 2.  2007 Survey Gear: 5 Night Boat Electrofishing Runs.
Fish Species Number Collected Size Range (Inches) Additional Comments
Walleye 1 25 – 26 Legal fish.
Smallmouth bass 25 5 – 20 76% greater than 12 inches;
40% greater than 15 inches.
Largemouth bass 63 5 – 20 81% greater than 12 inches;
52% greater than 15 inches.
Yellow perch 6 8 – 13 67% legal fish.

Smallmouth bass
Area 8 Fisheries Biologist Aid Jon Trilli with two quality smallmouth bass collected during night boat electrofishing surveys at High Point Lake

Total walleye and legal (greater than 15 inches) walleye abundance data from trap net surveys showed a generally increasing trend from 1978 through 1996, followed by a slight decline in 1998, and a and a major shift to lower numbers from 2003 through 2007 (Figure 1). Likewise, total northern pike and legal (greater than 24 inches) pike abundance data from trap net surveys showed a generally increasing trend from 1978 through 1996, although no legal-sized pike were collected during survey years 1978 and 1989 (Figure 2). An overall decline in the northern pike population was revealed in 1998, but steady increases in legal-sized pike were observed in survey years 1998 through 2007. Higher numbers of legal-sized pike is also good news, since anglers have tended to complain about the high numbers of 18 to 22 inch pike there. The High Point Lake fishery appears to have shifted somewhat from higher numbers of pike/walleye/perch up to 1998 to higher numbers of bass/bluegill/crappies/catfish in recent years. The good news is the size and numbers of the latter are very good.

Figure 1

Figure 2

Similar to the walleye and pike data, total smallmouth bass and legal (greater than 12 inches) smallmouth bass abundance data from electrofishing surveys showed a generally increasing trend from 1978 through 1996 (Figure 3). Although abundance data for total smallmouth bass declined somewhat in 2007, the abundance of fish over 12 inches and 15 inches was the greatest this survey year. No largemouth bass were collected from High Point Lake during the 1978 survey year. A similar, relatively low number of total, legal-sized (greater than 12 inches), and quality-sized (greater than 15 inches) largemouth bass were collected during the following survey years in 1989 and 1996. With this in mind, Area 8 biologists were most impressed with High Point Lake’s 2007 largemouth bass abundance data, as the amounts of total, legal-, and quality-sized largemouth bass were the greatest this survey year.

Figure 3

Figure 4

Since construction of High Point Lake was completed in 1965, the lake has continued to provide anglers with fishing opportunities for gamefish species such as northern pike, walleye, and smallmouth bass, as well as panfish species including black crappie, bluegill, yellow perch, and brown bullhead. Beginning in 1984, an annual walleye stocking program was started, and, even though their numbers may not be as high as in other Area 8 impoundments, anglers can target quality-sized walleye at High Point Lake. Our most recent data is suggesting that High Point Lake now provides anglers with an excellent opportunity for quality-sized largemouth and smallmouth bass. Finally, there are somewhat fewer but bigger brown bullheads available to anglers in 2007 compared to 2003 and 2005.

-- Bob Ventorini, Area 8 Fisheries Biologist

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