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Flying fish put on a show at Rice Lake

October 06, 2011 at 02:07 PM

Canton Daily Ledger

BANNER — The fish are flying at Rice Lake and the fishermen are taking advantage of a once-a-year phenomenon.

Rice Lake Site Supervisor Bill Douglass invites residents to come to the area and witness for themselves the activity of the fish and activity for area fishermen.

Each year at this time, two 36-inch pumps (which pump 50,000 gallons of water a minute) are used to pump Illinois River water into the lake which Douglass explains pushes oxygen into the water and creates a lot of activity for the fish.

The silver Asian carp become very active and gather around the pump areas and can be seen in great numbers.

Douglass explains that creates a whole lot of jumping activity in the area around the pumps.

“It’s kind of neat to see, if you have never seen them. Generally, you don’t see this many in one spot and they are very active,” says Douglass.

The fish land on the banks and then often jump back into the water.

The oxygenated water vibrates and that stirs up the plankton. The plankton draws channel catfish, bullheads, and crappies - which also draws fishermen, says Douglass.

Douglass explains the Carp do not come in with the river water, but already reside in the lake.

Each year, Douglass conducts what he explains is a “fish kill.”

The water is drawn down to cause that.

This year the water was not lowered enough to kill the fish.

After the draw down, the river water is pumped in to create a lush feeding grounds for migrating waterfowl.

The purpose of running the pumps is to make more food available on the lake and the two 100-acre refuge lakes.

Those areas have some natural foods available to migrating birds, but raising the water level allows for more natural foods to flourish.

Some areas are planted especially for the waterfowl migration.

“We are here to provide mid-migration habitat.

We provide a food and rest component for migrating waterfowl, but we also allow hunting,” explains Douglass.

Douglass expects the pumps to run as long as the river level remains stable.

When the river level lowers, the pumps must be turned off.

He expects the pumps will be running at least for the next couple of days.

Visitors can easily view the phenomenon along Copperas Creek Road, Banner Dike Road, and near the pumping discharge.

Douglass asks that visitors do not travel beyond a check station and the pump stand.

“There is limited access to the waterfowl refuge and our two walk-in hunting areas from October through April. They are currently closed,” says Douglass.

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