Somerset Lake fish salvage

Somerset Borough, Somerset County, Pa. - Starting Tuesday, crews will begin a fish salvage at Somerset Lake before it is drained for a dam repair project.

Mark Hutzell has gone fishing at Somerset Lake since he was 10-years-old. A tradition he passed on to his children.

"I brought them here in the high chairs, then watched them play in the water. Just watching them catch fish and growing up here. Throughout the years, they had a lot of fun," said Mark Hutzell, a fisherman.

Soon, Hutzell and other fisherman will have to pack up their flies, bait and fishing rods because the lake will be drained to make necessary repairs on the dam.

Before the lake is emptied, PA Fish & Boat Commission (PFBC) workers want to salvage the game fish for other anglers.

"There will be a lot of fish in here," said Rick Lorson, the Area 8 fisheries manager for PFBC.

In order to save the fish, employees and volunteers will stun the fish temporarily using a low electrical current in the water. That will cause them to rise to the surface of the lake. They will then be scooped up, placed into tubs with water, and put onto fish stocking trucks.

"We set our current on the electro-fishing units to the point where it immobilizes the fish slightly, but it's not going to hurt them," Lorson said.

The fish will then be transported safely to Shawnee Lake, Loyalhanna Lake, Glade Run Lake and Quemahoning Reservoir.

Construction on the $7 million dam repair will begin in the spring of 2018. It should be completed by 2020. During that time, the PFBC will also work on a habitat improvement project for the lake.

Once the construction is finished, the lake will be refilled with water and restocked with fish.

"It essentially ends up being a new lake and in about five years, the fishery will rebuild rapidly and it will be ready to go," said Lorson.

Stoystown resident Vernon Paul said having to wait a few more years to fish after the lake reopens is disappointing.

"It'll be nice when it's all done. But, it will be awhile," Paul said.

Hutzell said he is sad he won't get to fish at the lake every day, but it will be worthwhile in the end.

"I guess they gotta do what they gotta do. As long as they can take the fish to other places, I fish at other places too. If they take them to Shawnee, I'll go to Shawnee. When they fix it up, I'll come back," Hutzell said.

The fish salvage will take place on Tuesday, Oct. 24- Thursday, Oct. 26 from 10 a.m. - 3 p.m. Volunteers are welcome to help or simply watch.

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