Donegal Reconstruction on First
Inside the Outdoors, September 16,
2016

I had a nice talk with Captain Dan Christ of the Somerset office of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission concerning the drawdown of both Somerset and Donegal Lakes.

Contrary to some rumors both still have water in each and are there is time to wet a line, if one so desires to take on the challenge.

I’ve done very little at either since my good friend, Michael Stein, passed away several years ago. That’s not to say that no one else has stepped up to the plate to take his place. One Latrobean has been so kind as to take me to various water basins and I’ve always come home with three bluegill, my main fish source for dinners those past evenings.

In any case, he had heard that Somerset Lake, in particular, that been drawn down all together. Since I find pleasure in talking to “the good Captain,” I decided to give him a call and ask him to brief me on the particulars. And need I state I received all the information I asked for.

October of this year is the time period the PFBC is planning to drain Donegal.

In addition, it announced recently that a public meeting will be held September 22 at the Donegal Community Center located off State Route 31, 113 Community Center Lane, just behind the Dollar General Store. “The purpose of the meeting,” he said, “ is to provide an update to interested parties on just how the dam will be reconstructed.”

The program will commence at 6:30 p.m. The meeting is free. It is open to the general public.

The repair project came as a result of Governor Tom Wolf’s announcement that he released $25.7 million to repair five high-hazard, unsafe damns, including Donegal Lake. These damns have deficiencies of such a nature that if not corrected, the structures would fail causing substantial property damage and even a threat to human life.

Included for discussion will be the timeline and just how the lake will be drained, fish salvage and rebuilding procedures.

TAKE NOTE! In a recent news release emailed to me, I learned that “In advance of the fish salvage, the PFBC has temporarily lifted all seasons, sizes and creel limits at thee lake. The lake is primarily a stocked trout lake but it also holds largemouth bass, white and black crappie and bluegill.”

It went on to state, “We have temporarily lifted the regulations in order to reduce the number of fish in the lake in advance of a complete drawdown of the lake and fish salvage,” said Jason Detar, chief of the PFBC Division of Fisheries Management. “We want anglers to fish the water and make good use of as many fish as they can.”

How can anyone pass up an invitation such as that?

The $5 million construction project is expected to start in late spring or early summer of 2017 and last through 2018. The lake is expected to be refilled and open to the public for fishing in 2019.

Stocked trout angling should also start in that year.

As for Somerset, Captain Christ suggests the drawdown will commence in spring of next year. I have only to conclude that as we near closer to that date, I will begin to receive emails on those subjects. Thus, I will then begin to share what others relate to me.

By the way, I happened to ask a question to Captain Christ, really, to sense his reaction. I asked, “Are there still pike in that lake?”

Now, one might ask, why would pike be in that compound, particularly since I didn’t name (it) them above? The answer is this. At one time a Waterways Conservation Officer lived there in a wooden white structure practically overhanging a cove in the lake. His favorite fish to catch were pike, so he had the PFBC stock that species in the lake. After he retired, he vacated the house. Many of the fish during high water, were washed down stream eventually ending up in the Loyalhanna Creek.

However, according to Christ, there are still some pike remaining in Donegal Lake.

I’ve always considered them to be the second best eating fish. However, they can’t be cleaned like most other game fish. One can’t filet a pike. They must be cut into steaks, slicing parallel to the U-shaped bones If one tries to fillet the fish, he only will find not only a heap of frustrations, but bunches of bones to contend with.

After the steaks are cut, take each one separately and put it in a zip-lock plastic baggie and fill it with water. Make sure there is no water leakage. Freeze. Then when one wants to eat each delicious steak, take the desired bags out of the freezer, thaw, and cook to one’s own delight. Savor the flavor!!


- Paul J. Volkmann
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