Drawdown of Argyle Lake planned this fall
McDonough County Voice
Colchester, Ill. — The Illinois Department of Natural Resources is preparing for a 7-foot drawdown at Argyle Lake this fall.
Fisheries biologist Ken Russell and Argyle Lake Site Superintendent Robin Hinchee explained the plan at a public information meeting held in Argyle Lake’s Pioneer Shelter Wednesday night.
“In fisheries management, it’s basically a numbers game – the higher the density, the slower the growth rate, the fewer large fish,” Russell said. “You have to have a balance between food, numbers of fish, and space in the environment.”
The drawdown, Russell explained, would tip this balance against the foraging gizzard shad in favor of crappie, catfish and bluegill.
“Gizzard shad complicate the situation a little bit at Argyle,” he said. “They compete heavily for food and space, so a real quality bluegill population and a high-density gizzard shad population usually don’t coincide.”
Reducing the water level would force the gizzard shad out of the shoreline vegetation into the deeper, unprotected waters, where large predatory fish can cull their numbers.
By reducing the gizzard shad population, Russell hopes to better accommodate most local fishermen.
“To me, the panfishing – the crappie, the bluegill, the catfish – that’s bread and butter,” he said. “We’ve got other types of fishermen, but to me, if you satisfy your panfishermen and your catfishermen, you’ve done a great service to provide fishing opportunities to the majority.”
The park’s administration is aiming for an early September drawdown to better synchronize with the lake’s ecological cycles.
“If we go in October, the water temperature gets low enough that the metabolism of the predators really declines, and you don’t get the job done,” Russell said. “I like to see a drawdown when the water is at least 70 degrees or more.”
Hinchee added that floating docks would be located near the lake’s boat ramps, so boaters will still have easy access to the water.
“The boat ramp will still be accessible, so this drawdown should not pose any problems whatsoever,” he said.
The drawdown is scheduled to begin on Sept. 7, but its completion date depends on moisture levels and rainfall patterns.