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2012 fishing forecast: Lake Springfield

February 19, 2012 at 08:02 AM

Illinois Department of Natural Resources

This is the third in a series of lake reports, this one from Dan Stephenson of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

Lake Springfield, Sangamon County 4,234 acres

Largemouth bass
The largemouth bass population continues to be one of the better populations in the state. 

Excellent numbers and body conditions are found in the bass in the lake. 

The statistical metrics I look at have changed very slightly over the past five years so it is very stable. 

One positive note is that in the Fall 2011 I collected more quality sized fish than any previous year. 

I am starting to see more, larger fish. 

The lake produced 115 bass per hour with the better shocking runs west of the Interstate 55 bridge. 

A very good 26 percent of the bass collected were over the 15-inch minimum length limit, while 4 percent were over 18 inches. 

Only three fish out of the 1,035 picked up in the survey were over 20 inches. 

So I’m still not seeing the numbers of larger fish this lake should produce but it is improving. 

Due to the strong gizzard and threadfin shad populations, all bass were in excellent body condition. 

Crappie
The crappie population continues its rebound. 

I collected a total of 36 crappies per hour of both species, black and white crappie.

The majority were white crappies. 

do have some black-nose crappie in the population as well. 

24 percent were over 10 inches while only five percent were over 12 inches. 

Growth rates and body conditions are excellent again, thanks to an excellent shad forage base. 

The lake had an excellent white crappie population throughout the 80s but nearly disappeared in the 90s. 

In an attempt to recover, I began using a six-acre nursery pond just south of town.

Several adult male and female crappies are stocked in the spring. 

They spawn and the young grow, predator free for two years at which time I drain the pond and remove the young crappies to the lake. 

I’ve done that four times now for Lake Springfield. 

In the fall of 2004 we stocked 42,000, 5.2-inch white crappies from the pond into the lake. 

In the Fall of 2006 we drained the pond and took nearly 77,000, 4.2-inch black crappie with the distinctive black stripe running from just under their chin, across the mouth, between the eyes and up the spine, from the pond and stocked them in to the lake. 

We picked up an incredible 271 of those special “blacknosed” crappie in the fall 2007 survey. 

The blacknosed crappies are now reproducing naturally in the lake with many in the five to six-inch range collected in our surveys. 

The 2008 nursery pond produced only14,000 white crappies for stocking. 

As you can see, those numbers were not as good as previous years but the fish averaged 5.6 inches so they were not as vulnerable to bass predation as a smaller fish. 

The crappie appear to be coming back nicely, not to the levels I would like yet but we hope to keep this up. 

The nursery pond was drained in October of 2010 and produced 33,000 4.5-inch black-nosed black crappies. 

I will continue to utilize the pond for black crappie production indefinitely. 

There are currently fingerling black-nosed crappies in the pond now and a fall 2012 draining is planned for early November.
Walleyes were initially stocked in 1988 and did very well in their early years. 

By 1994 there was an excellent population. 

That population began dropping off in the late 90s and into the early past decade even though the stocking program remained exactly the same. 

I decided to try stocking their cousin, the native sauger, in 2003. 

They are more acclimated to our climate and waters in central Illinois. 

There hasn’t been much success with them. 

Their population would, to date, would be rated only fair. 

I hear of some being caught, especially this time of the year.  They concentrate to feed on the shad in the hot-water area of the lake. 

However, I haven’t collected even one in the past four years, so they can’t be doing very well. 

Anglers report several in the nine to 12-inch range being caught and that would be from natural reproduction since we haven’t stocked any for three years. 

Catfish
The channel catfish and flathead catfish populations remain near the top in the state and have so for decades. 

Numerous channel catfish are caught annually ranging from one to 10 pounds.

Flatheads range from one to 50 pounds. 

For the state fair display this year I managed to get a fish that weighed nearly 60 pounds, so big fish are quite common in the lake. 

And there is excellent spawning and recruitment. 

We see numerous small flatheads in our surveys, which bodes well for the future. 

In the late winter of 2005-06, with the help of the Lake Springfield catfish anglers, we began a blue catfish stocking program. 

Blue cats are a species of large catfish that are found in the Mississippi, Ohio and Illinois Rivers. 

Local anglers fishing near Alton on the Mississippi River brought back in their livewells blue cats for stocking into the lake. 

From January 2005- April 2005 they stocked 157 blue cats ranging in size from three to 57 pounds. 

They appear to be doing well in the lake, with an 80-plus pounder caught this past fall. 

To date there are no signs of reproduction and I don’t know if they will spawn or not.

But if not, those already stocked will do very well and provide a fishery for a very large catfish. 

Catfish anglers, with the help of CWLP and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources stocked $5,000 worth of 10-inch fingerlings in Nov. of 2011. 

These fish were purchased though a private dealer from Kentucky. 

White bass
The white bass population remains very good.  The numbers may be down a little but high quality fish greater than 14 inches are still present.

Bluegill
The bluegill population is still very good with large numbers of very fat fish found in the riprap along the highway and railroad bridges.

Related stories

2012 fishing forecast: Sangchris Lake

Dan Stephenson of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources shares the results of fall population surveys on Sangchris Lake.

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