Blue Marsh Lake
2013 Tiger Muskellunge and Walleye Surveys
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) evaluated the Tiger Muskellunge and Walleye populations in Blue Marsh Lake between April 2 and May 3, 2013. The PFBC intensively manages Tiger Muskellunge/Muskellunge and Walleye populations in numerous lakes and rivers across the Commonwealth. In southeastern Pennsylvania lakes, these populations depend on hatchery stockings to maintain successful recreational fisheries. The 2013 work was conducted as part of statewide management plans for each species and included a trap net survey for both species and a nighttime boat electrofishing survey for Walleye.
Trap Net Survey
Fisheries biologists from the PFBC’s southeastern fisheries management office conducted a trap net survey at Blue Marsh Lake between April 25 and May 3, 2013. The objectives of the survey were to: 1) evaluate the abundance and size structure of the Tiger Muskellunge population; and 2) evaluate the abundance and size structure of the walleye population in conjunction with electrofishing data collected on April 2, 2013.
A total of 20 Pennsylvania style trap nets were set between April 25 and May 3. Three to five trap nets were set daily in water depths ranging from 7 to 17 feet and allowed to fish overnight (approximately 22 hours). The following day each net was tended, fish were processed and released, and each net was then re-located to ensure that a random sample of suitable habitats were evaluated, including areas in the main lake, Spring Creek Cove, Tulpehocken Creek Cove, and Licking Creek Cove (Mt. Pleasant). Captured Tiger Muskellunge were measured for total length and weighed. A fin clip and Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT) were applied for identification of fish during future surveys. PIT tags are microchips that provide each fish with a unique number code. Scales were also collected and may be used in combination with fin rays for age and growth analysis. Other fish species captured, such as Channel Catfish, Walleye, and Black and White Crappie, were counted, measured for total length, and released.
A total of 11 Tiger Muskellunge were captured during the trap net survey, mostly in the no wake portion of the lake. The fish ranged from 27 to 44 inches long and 4 to 24 lbs, but the majority of fish were between 30 and 35 inches long (see Figure 1). The Tiger Muskellunge catch rate was 0.02 fish/hr or 2.2 fish for every four trap nets set. This catch rate (0.02 fish/hr) exceeded the statewide minimum catch rate objective established for Pennsylvania’s reservoirs of 0.01 fish/hr, indicating that the abundance of Tiger Muskellunge in Blue Marsh Lake was good.
Length frequency distribution of Tiger Muskellunge captured in Blue Marsh Lake between April 25 and May 3, 2013.
A total of 51 Walleye were captured during the trap net survey. The Walleye ranged in length from 12 to 29 inches, but most fish were between 19 and 27 inches long. The Walleye catch rate of 0.12 legal fish/hr was above the post-spawning statewide minimum catch rate objective of 0.075 legal fish/hr established for Pennsylvania’s large reservoirs, but just below the southeastern Pennsylvania regional average of 0.13 legal fish/hr for all size lakes.
In addition to Tiger Muskellunge and Walleye, a total of 21 other fish species were captured during the trap net survey (see Table 1). Although Tiger Muskellunge was the primary species of concern during the survey and the timing of the survey and/or gear type were not appropriate for the evaluation of some species, such as Yellow Perch, Largemouth Bass, and Striped Bass hybrids, several observations were made with respect to other species. Excellent numbers and sizes of Channel Catfish were captured, with the majority of fish (50%) exceeding 20 inches in length. The largest Channel Catfish captured was 32 inches long. Several Flathead Catfish, ranging from 28 to 39 inches long, were also captured. The total catch rate of crappie was very good, and the catch rate of crappie over 9 inches long, which comprised 34% of the catch, was excellent. The largest crappie captured was 17 inches long. While crappie have always been abundant in the lake, legal size crappie have almost exclusively been comprised of White Crappie since the lake was first constructed. Black Crappie are now contributing substantially to the abundance of legal size crappie, making the overall population of legal size fish in 2013 one of the best that has been seen at Blue Marsh Lake. Bluegill were abundant with most being less than 6 inches long, although some naturally occurring sunfish hybrids up to 10 inches long were captured. Only one Largemouth Bass was captured. It is well established that trap nets are not an effective gear type for capturing bass.
Summary of fish species captured in Blue Marsh Lake between April 25 and May 3, 2013.
Fish SpeciesNumber Collected Size Range (inches)
Black Crappie 783 3-17
Bluegill 459 2-8
Brown Bullhead 5 10-14
Channel Catfish 250 4-32
Common Carp 27-
Flathead Catfish 3 28-39
Green Sunfish 8 3-7
Largemouth Bass 1 17
Pumpkinseed 68 2-7
Quillback 1 25
Rainbow Trout (Hatchery) 1 12
Rock Bass 1 7
Striped Bass Hybrid 4 6-26
Sunfish Hybrid 37 3-10
Tiger Muskellunge11 27-44
Walleye 51 12-29
White Catfish 5 10-18
White Crappie 209 3-16
White Sucker 11-
Yellow Bullhead 2 8-10
Yellow Perch 6 8-13
Notes: Trap nets are not an effective gear type for capturing bass
Fisheries biologists from the PFBC’s southeastern fisheries management office conducted a nighttime boat electrofishing survey at Blue Marsh Lake on April 2, 2013. The objective of the survey was to evaluate the abundance and size structure of the Walleye population during the spring spawning period in addition to evaluating the post-spawning population during the Tiger Muskellunge and Walleye trap netting between April 25 and May 3, 2013.
Nighttime boat electrofishing was conducted along the southeastern shore of the main lake and dam breast. Captured Walleye were measured for total length and sexed. Scale samples were also taken for age and growth analysis prior to release.
A total of 25 Walleye, ranging from 16 to 26 inches long, were captured during the electrofishing survey, including 23 males and 2 females. The Walleye catch rate was 28.4 legal fish/hr, which exceeded the statewide minimum catch rate objective of 18.0 legal fish/hr established for early spring night electrofishing in Pennsylvania’s large reservoirs and was also just above the southeastern Pennsylvania regional average (27.2 fish/hr) for lakes of mixed sizes. These results were consistent with the trap net survey results, indicating that Blue Marsh Lake supports a very good Walleye population.
Although Walleye were the primary species of concern during the electrofishing survey and the timing of the survey and/or gear type were not appropriate for the evaluation of some species, a few observations were made with respect to other species. Good numbers of Largemouth Bass over 15 inches long and crappie over 9 inches long were observed along shoreline habitats. Other fish species observed while electrofishing included Common Carp and Bluegill.
If you plan on fishing Blue Marsh Lake, please be advised that bass are managed under the Big Bass Program Special Regulations and crappie are managed under the Panfish
Enhancement Special Regulations. In addition, the upper portion of the lake is a no wake zone, while the lower portion of the lake has no outboard motor horsepower restrictions. The lake has three boat launches, including the Dry Brooks and State Hill Boat Launches operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Sheidy Boat Launch (open 24 hours) operated by the PFBC. Please note that there are several fee areas at Blue Marsh Lake, including the Dry Brooks Day Use Area, Dry Brooks Boat Launch, and State Hill Boat Launch (daily fee $3.00 per vehicle charged May 1 to September 30; annual pass available for $30). The Stilling Basin, which is where the water is released from the dam, is also a popular fishing location with a universally accessible fishing platform. Blue Marsh Lake is managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, so please see their
website for the full range of recreational activities offered at the lake.
Area 6 Fisheries Biologist