Canton Lake stocked with bass
Canton Daily Ledger
CANTON — They’re too small now to catch and fillet for supper, but patience may pay off eventually for local fishermen—25,000 largemouth bass were put in Canton Lake recently.
Rob Hilsabeck, Illinois Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist, said supplemental largemouth bass have been provided for the lake since 2000 from a hatchery system in Manito in years they were available. Last Friday they were available. Due to a surplus, 25,000 largemouth bass were provided.
They are only three inches long or larger, Hilsabeck said Tuesday during a meeting of the city council’s Mechanical Committees. He noted largemouth bass historically have had a low-density population in the lake. IDNR staff periodically shock the water and pick up, count and measure the stunned fish there. Then the fish are released unharmed.
Canton Lake is a nice resource, offering multiple uses for water and recreation, Hilsabeck said. He noted the lake was created in 1939, and fish stocking began in 1940. By 1964, a “stew” of different fish existed. Chemicals were applied that year to rehabilitate the fish population, reducing the number of less desirable fish like common carp.
It is tough to control the carp population completely, and by 1970 carp had been re-established in the lake. In 1984, IDNR started cooperative fishing agreements with cities and managed fish stocking. In 1994, Hilsabeck began working for IDNR. That was the year the Fish Illinois program started, with seniors paying half price to fish.
There were no gizzard chad in Canton Lake until they showed up in 1996. The biological effect of that was the growth of more algae, causing the water to turn a more green color. Sometimes the drinking water may have had a more chlorine taste than usual due to the amount of chlorine needed to treat water with higher levels of algae.
Without completely rehabilitating the lake, it grew tougher to treat with chemicals as in 1964, so other predator species were considered. In the late 1990s, the city paid to stock the lake with flathead catfish, which can grow to weigh over 40 pounds and prey on chad and carp, Hilsabeck said.
In the late winter of 1998, a bacterial fish kill occurred. It was a natural process, but it decimated crappie along with chad. However, the crappie that survived had more space and food, and the crappie population thrived.
Hilsabeck said tiger muskie were tried at one point, but they did not do well at the lake. Still, efforts to diversify the fish population continued. In 2000, blue catfish were provided. They survived but not as much growth is seen in those fish as in facilities that have warm water all year.
A lot has been done to improve the lake over the years. If the old boat ramp on the south side of the lake is improved as hoped, more anglers will come, he said. Hilsabeck added placement of signs with regulations would also help improve recreational opportunities at Canton Lake.
Alderman Rick Reed noted a Boat Access Area Development grant will be sought to improve the old boat dock. He said state Rep. Mike Smith (D-Canton) and state Sen. Dave Koehler support the grant effort for Canton.
According to engineer Keith Plavec of Maurer-Stutz Inc., the grant deadline is Sept. 1 and grant dollars will be provided next spring. If successful, the city would receive enough funding for only the boat ramp in the overall project. Other improvements sought for the area include a fishing pier, restroom facilities, parking area and picnic tables.
Hilsabeck noted IDNR funds are restricted. The state may borrow against those funds, but they will be available sooner or later, he said.
Asked by city officials about plant life on the water in some areas of the lake, Hilsabeck said carp do help control aquatic plants like lotus which, along with cattails, help slow sediment.
Justin Bull, another person who spoke at the meeting, said he would like to lease the old beach house and open a bait shop there. He said he planned to start small and grow the business year by year. “This is my hobby, so this is what I want to do,” he said.
Alderman Reed said before action is taken, city staff will take a look at the building and other facilities in the old beach area and then report on conditions.
Officials also discussed lake lot leases and the need to plat city-owned properties in the lake area. The city attorney is continuing to review a large volume of research documents.