By SHERIDAN ROY
After several years of planning, coordinating and persistence, the Southington Recreation Department successfully received approval from the Department of Energy & Environmental Protection inland fisheries division (DEEP IFD) to add Crescent Lake to its community fishing waters (CFW) program. DEEP IFD workers came out to the lake on May 20 to stock 1,600 channel catfish into Crescent Lake as part of the CFW program.
Crescent Lake is now one of 15 bodies of water throughout the state in the CFW program, and will be stocked annually.
“I’d been working with the DEEP IFD pretty much since I became recreation director about eight years ago to see if we could be a part of their CFW program,” said recreation director Dave Lapreay. “It was never really able to come to fruition until about three months ago when we were finally approved.”
The DEEP IFD must obtain permission from the U.S. fish and wildlife service to stock non-native species into waters in Connecticut, which drew out the process of approving Crescent Lake for the CFW program.
“A CFW is a place that’s located usually in a town or municipally-owned park that’s in close proximity to a large number of people so that they can either walk to public transportation, ride a bike or drive a short distance to,” said superintendent of the CFW program Mike Beauchene. “The town of Southington had put in tremendous effort to add a nice boat ramp, a fishing pier, and they maintain a trail that goes all the way around Crescent Lake. They had made significant investments for residents to go out and enjoy this great property. Dave thought it was a perfect fit, and I agreed with him.”
The DEEP IFD visited Crescent Lake on several occasions through the years to conduct electrofishing surveys in order to determine what species of fish were present. Studies were done in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2013 and 2015.
It was determined the lake was “stockpiled,” or had highly abundant but slow growing populations of panfish. One strategy to combat stockpiling is to increase the densities of larger piscivorous (fish-eating) predators. Due to its small size, Crescent Lake cannot support significant populations of some of the traditional predatory gamefish, however, channel catfish have been successfully stocked in similar waterbodies.
Channel catfish grow large and are highly piscivorous. They generally do not reproduce in small impoundments like Crescent Lake, but populations can be maintained through regular stockings.
“For catfish, we generally look to make sure there would be adequate food sources for them—which was found in Crescent Lake,” said Beauchene. “It’s also a water body that can get fairly warm in the summer, and they’re tolerant of warm water unlike trout, which need very cold water throughout the summer.”
Catfish are typically a good fish for the average or beginner fisherman to catch, and Beauchene said this is fitting for a place like Crescent Lake where often times families with young children come to fish. They can be caught easily from the shore, do not require sophisticated tackle to be caught, and are one of the most palatable of freshwater fishes.
“As a part of the CFW program, there was no cost to the town to stock the lake,” said Lapreay. “We hope in the future we can continue to restock the lake, possibly with another type of fish.”
The channel catfish are brought up in a trailer truck from a commercial farm in Arkansas. They stage in Bridgeport at Beardsley Park before being picked up by the DEEP fisheries division. Hatchery trucks with tanks then load up with their allocated number of fish for each water body and deliver them to lakes in the CFW program. The travel time from Arkansas to Bridgeport and to the individual lakes takes about two days.
“This DEEP program establishes channel catfish in lakes where we know there is sufficient food and habitat to support a population of large gamefish,” said director of DEEP’s fisheries division Peter Aarrestad in a press release. “Anglers have reported taking five-to-ten pound fish from several of the lakes. We believes that the combination of a popular gamefish stocked into waters that are selected based on scientific data is a winning combination. We’ve had great success in using this approach to develop exciting fisheries for Northern Pike and Walleye and now we’re seeing similar results with catfish.”
Crescent Lake was historically owned by the Town of Plainville. In the early 1970s, the town transferred ownership to the Southington Water Company, who permitted angling for a nominal fee. The Southington Recreation Department assumed ownership in the 1980s, then closed, drained and repaired the lake’s dam and outlet structure.
Once it was refilled, only residents were permitted to fish and it was requested that anglers release all fish caught. In 2002, the recreation department sought guidance from DEEP on how to best manage the lake’s fisheries in order to open the lake to non-residents.
Today, the lake is open to the public for recreational fishing, and is stocked for the 2019 fishing season.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Sheridan Roy, email her at SRoy@SouthingtonObserver.com.