HARRISBURG, Pa. (February 12) – The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) is pleased to announce that the refilling of two popular lakes, Donegal Lake in Westmoreland County and Minsi Lake in Northampton County, is underway following lengthy dam rehabilitation projects.
"As the refill process gets underway in both of these lakes, people will notice the water levels increasing gradually over the next several weeks," said Paul Urbanik, Director of the PFBC's Bureau of Engineering. "It's an exciting time because we're all anxious to see these lakes return so that we can enjoy them again, but it's also vital that we control the pace and monitor things closely along the way."
Donegal Lake, a 90-acre impoundment located in Donegal Township, Westmoreland County, is fed naturally by Four Mile Run. The lake was drained in 2016 when the previous dam was deemed unsafe. A $5.5 million rehabilitation project was completed in December 2019.
Minsi Lake, a 117-acre impoundment located within Northampton County's Minsi Lake Wilderness Area is fed naturally by East Fork Martin's Creek. The lake was drained in 2017 when the previous dam was deemed structurally deficient. A $4.9 million rehabilitation project was completed in December 2019.
Urbanik expects both lakes to refill at a pace of about 2-3 feet per week, with the lakes approaching full capacity in approximately 6 weeks. Refilling is intentionally performed slowly to allow the earthen portion of the dams to adequately saturate and to allow engineers to monitor new concrete dam structures which will be placed under a tremendous amount of pressure for the first time as water is introduced. Both facilities will be subject to weekly inspections to ensure safety and monitor performance.
"We're confident that the dams will perform exactly how they were designed, and we don't anticipate any issues," added Urbanik. "In moving slowly, we'll also be able to control the amount of sediment that gets stirred up in the lake and reduce the amount that moves into downstream waterways."
Water quality in both lakes will be monitored ahead of trout stocking events planned at each location in the coming weeks. Minsi Lake is scheduled to be stocked on March 24, ahead of the Regional Mentored Youth Trout Day on March 28. Donegal Lake is scheduled to be stocked on April 1, ahead of the Statewide Mentored Youth Trout Day on April 11. Both lakes will be stocked with Rainbow Trout and golden Rainbow Trout during the preseason period, with additional Rainbow Trout to be stocked throughout the spring and fall. Volunteers are welcome to attend the stocking events and participate in placing the trout into the lakes. A complete 2020 Adult Trout Stocking Schedule and information about the mentored youth programs can be found on the PFBC website (www.fishandboat.com).
Both Donegal Lake and Minsi Lake are regulated as Stocked Trout Waters and are closed to all fishing (including taking of minnows) from March 1 to 8 a.m. on their respective opening days of the trout season, except for Mentored Youth Trout Day. The lakes are also managed under a temporary special fishing regulation requiring catch and release/no harvest for all species except trout. Anglers fishing for trout should follow Commonwealth Inland Waters regulations.
Beginning in spring 2020, PFBC biologists and hatchery staff will begin to implement multi-year restocking plans at the lakes, which include the introduction of fingerling-sized warmwater gamefish including largemouth bass, as well as various panfish and minnows. Over time, these stockings will result in self-sustaining populations of fish that contribute to a diverse and successful fishery and regulations will be adjusted to allow for harvest.
During the refill process, anglers and boaters should avoid areas that may become muddy or slippery. Boaters should only use paved launch areas when water levels have adequately covered the launch to allow for safe entry into the water. Boaters are reminded to always wear a lifejacket, and that a mandatory cold water life jacket requirement is in place from November 1 through April 30 for anyone aboard a boat less than 16 feet in length including any canoe, kayak or paddleboard.
2020 Pennsylvania fishing licenses can be purchased online through The Outdoor Shop (www.pa.wildlifelicense.com) or by visiting more than 700 license issuing agents. To participate in the mentored youth program, adult anglers (16 years or older) must have a valid fishing license and trout permit and be accompanied by a youth. Youth anglers must obtain a free PFBC-issued permit, or a voluntary youth fishing license (only $2.90 including all fees).
Mike Parker, Communications Director