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2011 Lake Shelbyville fishing prospects

December 18, 2010 at 12:47 AM


Largemouth Bass - excellent - Recent large floods and a few well-timed smaller flood pulses have resulted in excellent natural recruitment of largemouth bass. It appears that strong year classes have been or will be recruited to the lake from spawns in nine of the last ten years! Recruitment of the 2010 year class of bass appears to be potentially good, especially in the middle and lower parts of the lake. The strong year classes produced should sustain this fishery for many years.

This lake has become a very popular tournament destination due to the high quality of the fishery. Fishermen catch rates in the last five years were much improved over 2004 and 2005. Fishermen reported catching good numbers of bass both below and above the size limit through the 2010 season. Unlike 2008, the high water levels in 2009 and 2010 had little impact on catch rates for most gamefish species in the lake.

The three greatest single day tournament total weights were 570, 636, and 712 lbs, which is similar to 2009. Average weight of bass weighed into the larger tournaments ranged from 1.9 to 2.5 lbs. The largest bass weighed into the larger tournaments ranged from 5.3 to 6.6 lbs. The lake record bass was caught in a tournament by Chuck Ditto in April 2009, which weighed 8.55 lbs.

The number of bass, age 1+ and older, collected in the 2010 fall survey (49/hr.) was well below the 2009 average (80/hr.), but above the 2006, 2007, and 2008 survey results (24, 31, 22/hr). Collection rates were similar throughout the lake. The largest bass collected during the 2010 fall survey was 20 inches and weighed 4.2 lbs. The largemouth bass fishing prospects for 2011 remain good to excellent for numbers and good to excellent for size.

Smallmouth Bass - poor - There has been a recent attempt to establish a foundling population of smallmouth bass in Lake Shelbyville through stockings in falls 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2010. Approximately 200 fingerling smallmouth, averaging 6.5”, were stocked in 2006, 279 averaging 7.1” were stocked in 2007, 366 averaging 6.4” were stocked in 2008, and only 94 averaging 4 inches were stocked in 2010. No smallmouth bass were stocked in 2009 due to the inability to collect broodstock from the Kaskaskia River due to high flows. All smallmouth bass were stocked into the lower part of the lake. 1,435 smallmouth bass averaging 4.4” were stocked into the Kaskaskia River just above Lake Shelbyville in 2008 as well.

No smallmouth bass were collected in fall fish population surveys. A few reports from fishermen catches indicate that the initially stocked fish are doing well. There has been no evidence of spawning success as of yet. Tournament fishermen are asked to release all smallmouth bass where they are caught and are not allowed to weigh them in tournaments on Lake Shelbyville. Fish fishing prospects for smallmouth bass are poor due to low stocking densities and no evidence of natural recruitment.

Crappie - excellent - Crappie fishing was excellent in fall 2009 and has been improving ever since. Crappie fishing in 2010 has been very good with fishermen catching limits of fish, including fish up to 15”. Fall fish populations surveys indicate that good numbers of legal size crappie were present.

The largest white crappie collected during the 2010 fall survey was 14 inches and weighed 1.2 lbs. The largest black crappie collected during the 2010 fall survey was 11 inches and weighed 0.8 lbs. The largest crappie reported from tournaments was 2.0 lbs.

The crappie regulation changed in April, 2007 and so far has been popular with fishermen. Fishermen will be able to keep ten (10) crappie, 10” and larger, PLUS an additional five (5) crappie less than 10”. This regulation is designed to thin out the smaller crappie slightly to provide a small boost in growth rate. Fishing prospects for crappie should be excellent for both numbers and size in 2011 and for several years.

Walleye - excellent - Walleye fishermen and guides reported excellent fishing in late April through May in 2009 and 2010 for walleye. Catch rates of young-of-the-year walleye were very good in the 2007, 2008, and 2009 fall standard fish population and supplemental surveys, and fair in 2010. This increase is likely in part due in part to an increase in the number of fish stocked, however there is a possibility walleye may have spawned in the Kaskaskia River in springs 2008 and 2009.

The catch rate of walleye in the fall stocking success survey of 2009 was 64/hr, while only 18/hr in fall 2010. The largest walleye collected during the 2010 fall surveys was 25+ inches and weighed 4.6 lbs. Fishing prospects for 2011 should be excellent for both numbers and size.

Sauger – fair - Sauger were stocked “experimentally” into Lake Shelbyville for the first time in 2006 to attempt to establish a self-sustaining population. Additional sauger fingerlings (2”) were stocked in 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010. The number stocked in 2010 was significantly increased to 102,000+ from a previous average of 16,500.

Sauger were collected at the rate of 24.8 per hour during the 2010 fall stocking success survey. The largest sauger collected in 2010 was 14 inches and weighed 0.9 lbs. Some legal-size sauger were reported caught by fishermen in 2009 and 2010. Although the stocked fish appear to be doing very well, fishing prospects for sauger in 2011 are fair due to low stocking densities prior to 2010. Fishing prospects should improve in 2012 as the 2010 year class recruits to harvestable size.

Muskellunge - fair to good - Pure muskellunge were first stocked in Lake Shelbyville in 1978. It wasn’t until 1988, however, that somewhat consistent year-to-year stockings of 5,500 fingerlings per year were initiated. Compared to the known potential longevity of this species, this fishery is still relatively young compared to the many well known fisheries in northern United States and Canada.

In recent years this lake has produced an outstanding muskie fishery, however catch rates in 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010 have been depressed for unknown reasons. Floods may have been partially to blame in >08 and >09, allowing muskies to use heavy brush for cover which makes fishing for them more difficult, however water levels were close to normal in fall 2010. Fishing for muskie was very poor during the spring and summer, both on the lake and below the spillway in 2007 and 2008, but improved slightly in 2009 and 2010. Fishing improved the most below the spillway.

Two major muskie tournaments held on Lake Shelbyville in fall 2010. The catch as reported was distributed as 3 fish (LSMC, 14 boats, biggest 36”) and 10 fish (IMTT Fall Classic, 25 boats, biggest 44”). One team caught all three fish in the first tournament reported. Although catch rates in general have been depressed, in most of the recent tournaments, one team, or one fisherman, has figured out a pattern to catch several fish and easily win the tournament.

Without extensive sampling it is difficult to assess muskie numbers on Lake Shelbyville. No muskies were collected in the 2010 fall fish population survey by the IDNR crew. Illinois Natural History Survey employees collected several muskie in subsequent surveys while collecting fish for a diet study of muskie. Although collection rates were poor, muskie numbers likely remain fair to good on the lake and improved in the area below the dam. Fishing prospects for 2011 are expected to be fair to good for numbers and fair for size on the lake and fair to good for both numbers and size below the lake in the spillway area.

White bass - excellent - 2009 and 2010 were banner years for white bass fishing! Catch rates of 200+ fish per day of good sized fish resulted in a high quality fishery. Clearer water on the main lake helped fisherman success. Fishermen reported catching white bass up to 14 inches, with most keepers from 11 to 12 inches. The largest white bass collected during the 2010 fall survey was 15 inches and weighed 1.3 lbs. The lake record white bass caught was 4 lb 2 oz. in spring 2002. Fishing prospects for 2011 should be excellent for numbers and size.

Catfish - fair - good - Very low numbers of channel catfish were collected during recent surveys, with the largest in 2010 being 27 inches and 8 lbs. As usual, few flathead catfish were collected as well, with the largest measuring 37 inches and 33 lbs. The lake record flathead, weighing 62 lbs. was caught in 2002. Channel catfish recruitment appears to have improved though, as good catches of harvestable “fiddler-size” channel catfish were reported by fishermen in fall 2010. Flathead catfish recruitment appears to be variable, but apparently low. Fishermen report variable, but fair success. Fishing prospects for 2011 are improved to good for numbers and fair for size.

Bluegill - fair - Most “keeper” size bluegill will range from 6.5 through 7.9 inches. A few bluegill in excess of eight inches are caught annually, although they are NOT common. Bluegill averaging 7.0 - 7.5 inches and 0.25 to 0.3 lbs are often caught by fishermen using nightcrawlers seeking other species. Fishing prospects for 2011 remains good for numbers and poor to fair for size.

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