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Donegal Lake
Westmoreland County
May 2009
Survey Gear: Night Electrofishing and Pennsylvania Style Trap Nets

Donegal Lake is a 90 acre impoundment located just off the Pennsylvania Turnpike in Donegal Township, Westmoreland County. The lake is owned by the Commonwelath of Pennsylvania and managed by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) for recreational fishing and boating. Two launch areas are available for boaters who may launch non-powered boats or boats powered by electric motors. Shore fishing access is abundant.

Donegal Lake is stocked with rainbow trout 5 times per year with one Preseason, two Inseason, one Fall, and one Late Winter stocking.

Biologists from the Somerset Area 8 Fish Management office surveyed Donegal Lake in May 2009 using trap nets and night electrofishing. The purpose of the survey was to assess the status of the naturally reproducing panfish and largemouth bass populations as well as to assess the survival of the stocked walleye and channel catfish fingerlings. The PFBC annually stocks walleye and channel catfish fingerlings into Donegal Lake to enhance the fishery.

Our trap net surveys yielded a total of 14 different species of fish, ranging in size from 2 inch bluegill to a 43 inch muskellunge. Muskellunge and tiger muskellunge were previously stocked in Donegal Lake by the PFBC but were discontinued in 2005. However, some trophy fish remain in the lake. Table 1 shows the total catch from our survey.

Area 8 Fisheries Manager Rick Lorson with a 43” musky from Donegal Lake

Table 1. Fish collected from night electrofishing and trap netting at Donegal Lake, Westmoreland County in May 2009.
Fish Species Number Collected Size Range (inches) Additional Comments
Largemouth bass 129 3-20 in. 47% over 12 inches
White crappie 357 2-16 in. 5% over 9 inches
Black crappie 27 2-13 in 59% over 9 inches
Bluegill 389 2-7 in. 12% over 7 inches
Yellow perch 19 4-8 in.  
Pumpkinseed 22 4-6 in.  
Yellow bullhead 9 8-12 in.  
Muskellunge 1 43 in.  
Saugeye 1 23 in.  
Rainbow trout 15 Not measured  
Brook trout 5 Not measured  
White sucker 1 Not measured  
Common carp 8 Not measured  
Golden shiner 30 Not measured  

Bluegills were the most abundant species captured in trap nets with 389 individuals captured. The size structure of the bluegill population has improved since previous surveys in 1978 and 1996, when almost all of the fish were less than 6 inches in length. Now a majority of the fish are between 6 and 7 inches in length (Fig.1).

Figure 1

Both white and black crappie are found in Donegal Lake, with white crappie being the dominant species. However, this was not always the case as black crappie was the only species found in 1978. The 2009 crappie total catch was higher than in both 1978 and 1996, however the abundance of 9 inch or larger crappie was greater when only black crappies were present in 1978 (Fig. 2). However, some quality size fish are present, as white crappie in the 16” range were captured in 2009.

Figure 2

White crappies
Fisheries Biologist Mike Depew with two nice white crappies

The PFBC has been stocking Donegal Lake with walleye and channel catfish for many years. One goal of our survey was to assess the survival of the walleye and channel catfish fingerlings and to update management of these species at Donegal Lake. During our survey, we encountered no walleye or channel catfish, and only one saugeye, which were last stocked in 2001. Survival of walleye appears to be poor at Donegal Lake and it is likely that fingerling stocking will be discontinued.

The lone saugeye captured in 2009 was a nice 23” fish

In contrast with the walleye and channel catfish fishery, the largemouth bass fishery at Donegal Lake appears to be thriving. Three night electrofishing runs for 1.25 hours netted a total of 123 largemouth bass ranging in size from 3 to 18 inches (Fig. 3). Catch of bass over 12 and 15 inches improved dramatically from previous years and were well over the Big Bass guidelines of 7 fish per hour over 12 inches (46 per hour at Donegal in 2009) and 2 fish per hour over 15 inches (11 per hour at Donegal in 2009) used to characterize a quality bass population in Pennsylvania.

Figure 3

In summary, Donegal Lake would be a good place for anglers to try their luck for largemouth bass, crappie, bluegill, and stocked trout.

-- Prepared by Area 8 Fisheries Biologist Mike Depew

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