By Jonathan Weaver
Representatives from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission and more than a dozen volunteers contributed to preserving the fish habitat in an Armstrong County lake Monday morning.
The crews built 15 porcupine crib fish habitat structures as part of the Crooked Creek Watershed Association’s 12th annual Adopt-a-Lake project at the NuMine boat launch along Keystone Lake near Sagamore.
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission set up a three-year plan to figure out where the best place to put the structures was to preserve the local habitat for anglers during the season, according to Crooked Creek Watershed Association/Evergreen Conservancy OSM/VISTA – Community Development Coordinator Brooke Esarey.
“The reason they build these structures is because, in manmade lakes – like Keystone Lake – there isn’t a lot of natural habitat in the bottom. These structures are designed to mimic natural stumps and logs and vegetation that juvenile fish could be protected in,” Esarey said. “This is something that goes along with the mission statement of the watershed association so it’s a natural fit.”
During the past 12 years, volunteers have built 200 fish habitat structures in Keystone Lake. The structures are designed to provide long-term support.
According to the Armstrong County Tourist Bureau, Keystone Lake is a warm water fishery with large and small mouth Bass, Walleye, Musky, Perch, Crappies, Bluegills, Sunfish, Pumpkin Heads, and Trout (stocked).
A six-member AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) crew that is staying in Armstrong County this week and assisting in other local projects also volunteered Monday. The team is dedicated toward service projects with the Armstrong Conservation District that require a lot of manpower, such as trail maintenance, low-income home repair of natural disaster assistance, according to Esarey.
Pennsylvania Fish and Boat officials provide technical assistance and oversight in planning, permitting, construction, and placement of the structures with the watershed association providing volunteers for construction, mobilization of materials, and other match costs.
Partnering companies and agencies that have assisted during the past dozen years were also thanked for their support.
“We are very pleased with how the project turned out this year and thank all of our volunteers and sponsors over the life of this project” said Esarey.
According to the Fish and Boat Commission’s latest map, there are at least 12 completed project sites along Keystone Lake and more proposed sites listed. A total of eight porcupine cribs have also previously been placed within Mahoning Lake.
Structure drawings and material needs are listed on the commission’s website. The average cost of a typical, volunteer built, artificial habitat structure is $50 each before time, fuel and transportation costs are also added.
Esarey explained this might be the last habitat project done in Keystone Lake due to a commission restructuring to establish other projects statewide. Crews and volunteers were on-scene Monday from about 9AM-noon.
A second fish habitat project later this summer is weather-dependent and water-dependent.
The Division of Habitat Management moved to Keystone Lake in Westmoreland County Tuesday to work with the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
According to the Tourist Bureau, Keystone Lake is the largest lake in Armstrong County stretching five-and-a-half miles and can get up to 90 feet deep.
The first Lake Fish Habitat Improvement project took place in 1979 and expanded further in the spring of 1990. The first porcupine crib was installed in Yellow Creek Lake in Indiana County that year.