Donegal's Depths Decreased
Inside the Outdoors, October
12, 2012

Three lakes, two in Westmoreland County and another in Somerset County have begun to be drawn down, according to officials at the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.

Donegal in Donegal Township and Keystone State Park Lakes in New Alelandria in Westmoreland County and High Point Lake in Elk Lick Township drew these bodies of water down and will continue until March, 2013.

“Drawdowns are used to manage aquatic plant growth and fish population,” said Area Fisheries Manager Rick Lorson. “Aquatic plants provide very good habitat for both young and adult fish. However, too much vegetation, defined coarsely by the PFBC as surface area coverage exceeding 30 percent of a lake, impacts fishing and has the potential to disrupt the balance of fish populations in a lake.”

It is estimated that High Point will be drawn down approximately ten feet and Donegal, eight feet. Keystone appears to be drawn down even more, but from this writer’s point of view, just how much is hard to tell. The lakes will be studied subsequently to ascertain whether or not the drawdowns are successful.

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With the coming of fall not only brings cooler temperatures, but something many people are still unfamiliar. It’s called lake turnover.

About four years ago, I was fishing with some friends out in a boat when all of a sudden the fish stopped hitting and it was evident something strange was going on. Looking at one at the fellows say in a loud voice, “The lake is turning over, the lake is turning over,” caught me off guard, for I had never experienced such an occurrence before.

Logging onto one of many websites discussing this experience, I decided to pull up www.onthelake.net which went into an elaborate description of why and how this occurs.

Since the beginning of fall, change is taking place, I thought it would be a good time to talk a little bit about it. Then if one wishes to read more on the subject, he can do so by Googling the subject.

Over the course of a summer, the lake’s surface absorbs a lot of heat from the sun. Waters can become very buoyant. “Winds and storms can cause some mixing and do add some oxygen; atmospheric oxygen is added by the air/water interaction to the oxygen produced within the water by aquatic plants. Toward the end of the summer, the deep water becomes quite depleted of oxygen because no mixing has taken place.”

It goes on to state, “As the days become shorter and cooler, and energy is transported away from/out of the lake, mixing becomes easier.” This happens around 50 degrees. The cooler water on the surface begins to sink forcing the warmer water underneath the surface to rise. “Storms and high winds can begin to perform the task of mixing all the water in the lake – referred to as fall turnover. The deep water contains an abundance of decaying matter and sulfurous gases; when it reaches the surface, it produces a telltale odor that indicates the process has begun. Eventually, the turnover mixes fresh oxygen into the entire lake mass, replenishing the deep waters with the life-giving stuff and cleansing the sulfurous fumes from the water, allowing fish to return to the depths where they will spend the winter months.”

In conclusion, the writer states, “As winter approaches, the water that has now reached 39 degrees sinks to the bottom, allowing colder and less dense, buoyant water to remain at the surface to freeze. The ice thickens because it is not a good insulator; water in contact with the underside of the ice cools further and freezes, adding to the surface layer.”

Spring brings with it also a turnover. It may take aquatic life a matter of three days to return to normal feeding habits.

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The state’s early firearms antlerless deer seasons – early muzzleloader season, Oct. 13-20, and special firearms season for junior, senior, duty military and certain disabled hunters, Oct. 18-20 – will be here quicker than you know it, so there will be plenty of hunting opportunities. Take a veteran hunting.

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The stinkbugs have returned. Keep in mind, they will spray a stinky fluid. Don’t let them lose their cool.

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Now that the area lakes have been stocked, may I make a suggestion? Make time and take your son or daughter fishing. It will be that sense of togetherness they’ll never forget.


- Paul J. Volkmann
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