Colyer Lake comes back to life

A view of Colyer Lake before it was completely drained in 2014. The lake is set to re-open on Sunday.
A view of Colyer Lake before it was completely drained in 2014. The lake is set to re-open on Sunday. For the Centre Daily Times

“Build it and they will come” — an often quoted (or slightly misquoted) line from the 1989 movie, A Field of Dreams, is applicable here.

However, in this case, the saying should be, “Rebuild it and they will come.”

Judge Tom Kistler, president of Save Colyer Lake, Inc., was out paddling on Potter Township’s lake early Friday morning, before tending to his duties on the Centre County bench.

“I’m very excited,” Kistler shared. “The lake is still about six inches down, but should be completely filled by Sunday — in time for the official ceremony. I’m just amazed at how big it is.”

It has been quite a while since Kistler and other area residents have seen the 50-year-old lake at its full 77-acre capacity. Colyer Lake’s level was dropped 10 feet in 2003, due to safety concerns, and then lowered another 7 feet in 2013, after more safety issues were discovered.

What was only a field of weeds just two years ago will truly become a “field of dreams.” Funding was secured due to the efforts of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, the Wildlife for Everyone Endowment Foundation, Save Colyer Lake, Inc., and local representatives. Beginning in the fall of 2014, the dam breast was completely rebuilt, the lake bottom was limed and many new fish habitat structures were completed in 2015.

The Wildlife For Everyone Endowment Foundation has been providing administrative backing and fundraising support to Save Colyer Lake, Inc. The foundation established a tax deductible outlet for supporters to contribute funding to help recreate the lake.

“Our dream is coming true,” Kistler added. “The entire community will now have this wonderful resource to use and appreciate for years into the future.”

Efforts to re-grow the lake’s warmwater fishery are also underway. The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission has stocked or will stock in the near future thousands of six game fish species. This includes fingerling black crappie, largemouth bass, chain pickerel and yellow perch, as well as brown bullhead and channel catfish. Golden shiners and flathead minnows — both forage fish — will also be stocked in Colyer Lake. Later Sunday, there will be a ceremonial stocking of flathead minnows.

Anglers will find many underwater habitat improvements at Colyer Lake. Save Colyer Lake purchased $5,600 worth of treated posts that have been installed at four locations in the shallow areas of the lake. They also paid a local logger $2,500 to place felled trees at four locations in the deeper parts of the lake. These are anchored and supplemented by 100 rock rubble humps. Rocks, stumps and concrete rubble humps have also been placed at many other places throughout the lake.

In the past, the productivity of Colyer Lake has been diminished by acidic water that enters the lake. Therefore, liming was a priority. According to Kistler, the liming project, which neutralizes the acid, best demonstrates the commitment of local business leaders to sustain the lake’s future as a valuable community resource.

Graymont of Pleasant Gap donated 300 tons of lime, while trucks from Glenn O. Hawbaker, Inc., were used to deliver the crushed limestone. The lime was spread by Scott’s Landscaping at a significantly discounted price, which was covered by the Centre Hall Farm Store.

“We’re thrilled to be able to reopen this lake for the outdoor enthusiasts in Centre County,” said PFBC Executive Director John Arway. “We recognize the value lakes bring to area communities in terms of tourism and quality of life. It takes a unified effort to complete a project like this, and we couldn’t have done it without the help of the Save Colyer Lake group and the assistance provided by local legislators.”

Kistler, Arway and possibly a few others will speak at the official reopening ceremony Sunday, beginning at 1 p.m. Following the short speeches, kayakers and canoeists will launch onto Colyer Lake.

What lies in the future for this Centre County gem?

According to the PFBC, it will take three to five years for the fishery to re-establish itself with varied age classes of fish. The lake will remain under catch-and-release regulations until the fishery rebounds.

Save Colyer Lake is investing additional funds for above-the-water improvements. According to Kistler, these should be completed later this year.

“We have contracted with a company to design and build a hiking trail completely around the lake,” Kistler commented. “This will include foot bridges and many access points for anglers and birders. We have also purchased two kayak docks that will make it easier for people of all abilities to get in and out of their kayaks. They are sort of like a dry dock for boats. After the kayaker gets in the kayak, it can be eased into the water.”

Thanks to the efforts of many individuals, organizations, local legislators and businesses, the future looks bright for Colyer Lake — one of only four public, flat-water areas in Centre County and the closest one to State College.

Wildlife Leadership Academy slots open

Two positions have just opened for teens ages 14-17 in this summer’s very popular wildlife leadership academies.

According to Pennsylvania Institute for Conservation Education executive director Michele Kittell, one slot is open in their new Pennsylvania Bass Field School, June 26-30, in Lancaster County. Another slot has just opened in the Pennsylvania Drummers Academy, held at the Powdermill Nature Reserve near Ligonier, July 19-23. Scholarships are available. The mission of the Wildlife Leadership Academy is to engage and empower high school age youth to become conservation ambassadors to ensure a sustained wildlife, fisheries and natural resource legacy for future generations.

Contact Kittell at 570-245-8518 for more information or visit the institute’s website.

Mark Nale, who lives in the Bald Eagle Valley, is a member of the Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association. He can be reached at