Eighty Four Lakes Closed

Fishermen can fish for free there indefinitely as long as they have a proper state license

Washington PA Observer Reporter
11 September 2014
By Mike Jones, Staff writer

Eighty Four Lakes will be closed indefinitely after its owner was accused of operating without a business license for the past seven years while also introducing the invasive Asian carp species to the lakes in Somerset Township.

The state Fish and Boat Commission Monday charged owner Dennis Wilcher, 62, of Eighty Four, with five summary counts of illegal transportation or sale of fish, three counts of violations by an owner and two counts of failure to keep bill of sale for fish.

Commission spokesman Eric Levis said the investigation launched in July found “multiple species of concern” in the lakes, including Asian bighead carp, diploid grass carp and bigmouth buffalo fish. State law prohibits the carp species from being introduced into the environment and the bighead buffalo fish is an endangered species, Levis said.

The lakes were closed in June after the commission became concerned when one angler claimed to catch an Asian carp there. However, the lakes reopened to fishermen with a state license sometime in August, although the owner is not permitted to charge for fishing because Wilcher’s business permit expired after the 2007 season, Levis said.

“He has applied for a permit, but it is being held pending the outcome of this case,” Levis said. “Mr. Wilcher may not charge individuals to fish, but he can allow them to fish at his property, provided the individuals have fishing licenses.”

Levis did not elaborate on how the carp was introduced to the lakes.

Wilcher could not be reached for comment and no one was monitoring the lakes last week as fishermen cast their lines into the water for free fishing. An Aug. 20 posting on the 84 Lakes Facebook page announced the situation and thanked its fishermen for their support.

“The only thing we can do in appreciation of the people is that for anyone that has a fishing license can fish here free til (sic) further notice,” the Facebook posting announced.

Jeff Thomas of Eighty Four spent a few days at the popular fishing hole last week with his girlfriend, Lori Wheatley. They said the lakes were packed “elbow-to-elbow” with fishermen during the Labor Day weekend and there has been a steady stream of people ever since. Thomas said he’s been fishing there for 30 years and he hoped the situation would not force 84 Lakes to close.

“It’s been around forever,” Thomas said. “As long as I can remember, it’s the place to go.”