Catfish in the Loyalhanna?
Inside the Outdoors, August 14, 2009

As an outdoor columnist for the Latrobe Bulletin over the years, I often receive and welcome questions concerning our great outdoors. But there seems to be a number of questions that I have received frequently lately, two in particular.

The first, “Are there any fish that live in the Loyalhanna Creek?” That one totally blows me away, so to speak. The place where most people inquire about the aquatic life is along the asphalt path above the creek.

There is a presumption, I assume, that because, when the water levels are down, the orange rocks appear, and walkers think the creek is so polluted that nothing could be living in that body of water.

When I tell the residents of the area how the rocks and underlying surface acquired its color, and that clear water was flowing above it, they were thankful for learning something they did not know.

For those whom may be in question, according to my understanding, there were a number of bore holes leading from the mines under Latrobe in Monastery Run as well as Loyalhanna Creek. When the water gushed up containing iron oxide, its orange color would stain the rock surfaces. Since then, much of the mine water has been redirected to ponds near St. Vincent College and along the creek where the iron settles to the bottom in rectangular ponds. The remaining clearer water is then redirected back to the creek.

As for fish life in the Loyalhanna? I, along with other anglers, call it one of the most underrated streams in southwestern Pennsylvania. It has all the game fish in it, including a lot of smallmouth, largemouth and rock bass, crappie, bluegill, perch, walleye, sauger, pike, muskie, trout, including tiger trout, dogfish, minnows, suckers, carp and catfish.

Next in line concerns the latter, catfish and carp. “Where can I catch catfish in the Loyalhanna Creek?” is the second most popular question. Richard Lorson, biologist for the southwest division of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission came to my aid by stating: “The deep holes from Kingston Dam and downstream from Loyahanna Dam would hold some cats, except for some areas that still have water quality problems. There is a chance to catch a brown bullhead above Kinston up to Rt. 711 bridge, but less of one. It is also possible for cats to escape into the creek from ponds above Kingston Dam,” he said. I talked to one fisherman along Creekside Path near Legion Keener Park who had fished a section of water called “The Hole,” and he said he caught a sizeable bullhead from that area. He suggested that the depth of that particular hole was approximately 12 feet deep. His statement aligns with Lorson’s that the catfish are found in the deep holes.

Waterways Conservation Officer Jim Vatter recollected that a 25-inch channel catfish was caught sometime ago in the proximity of the bridge extending over the Loyalhanna near the Oasis establishment in New Alexandria.

The PFBC biologist went on to relate that the most likely catfishes to catch are bullhead or channel catfish, and the best place to find them is in Loyalhanna Lake. In addition to the two fish already mentioned, he relayed the fact that the body of water also holds yellow bullheads and white catfish as well. “I cannot say how the white cats got there,” he pointed out, “as they do not belong in the Ohio Drainage.”

When I read a story in the July 2009 issue of Fishing Tackle Retailer, titled, “Access, Invasive Species Top Problems,” I learned very quickly the topic concerned carp. The story stated that there is a growing concern about these invasive species and that they were one of the biggest problems facing fishing. All one has to do is mention the Pymatuning Lake in Linesville, PA, and a chuckle will accompany a proclamation, “That’s the place where ducks walk on the carp at the spillway!

But as much as one may think it’s a laughing matter, the FTR’s write-up emphasizes there is a growing problem. I know for a fact that Loyalhanna Creek has tons of them living all the way up to Kingston Dam. But it may be of interest to note, Lorson concluded, “Our fish surveys have not turned up any carp above Kingston Dam.”

- Paul J. Volkmann
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