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In-depth Springfield-area fishing prospects

March 10, 2008 at 03:09 PM

Dan Stephenson, District Fisheries Biologist

Lake Sangchris, Christian County (2321 acres)

The Lake Sangchris largemouth bass population remains very good although there are a couple of factors that concern me.  The number of bass collected per hour has been very high, quite probably the highest in the state for a lake of this size.  The past three year’s electrofishing surveys have produced 140, 188 and 141 bass per hour, respectively.  This indicates a very high bass density which of course is good for the anglers.  Unless those numbers become so high that growth rates and/or body conditions are adversely affected.  Both of those problems appear, to a small extent, in the lake.  At the same time we see the total numbers of bass increasing there has been a decrease in the numbers over 15” and 18”.  To correct this imbalance a new regulation will be implemented beginning, as do all new regs., on April 1.  The new limit will allow the angler to take home some of the smaller bass thereby reducing the total numbers while protecting the remaining bass to a larger size.  The regulation will be as follows:  The angler will be allowed 2 fish less than 15” per day and one fish equal to or greater than 15” per day.  I have used this regulation two other times on this lake for the same purpose with very good results, once from 1986-1988 and the other from 1992-1997.  It is important that the angler remove the smaller fish from the population, if not the regulation will not have the desired effect.  Of course the population will be monitored to evaluate the impact and when necessary it will be changed.  This type of a limit is applied to actually make a change/correction in the population whereas the standard 15” minimum length, six fish per day limit is more of a maintenance measure.

The crappie population remains much as it has for the past eight years or so.  There are high quality fish, those over 12”, but there are relatively few present.  As with most power plant lakes crappie spawning and/or recruitment is poor.  To supplement that lack of spawning I have used an on-site nursery pond to raise young crappie in.  A few adult male and female crappies are stocked into the pond in the Spring of a given year where they spawn.  The young grow, predator free, for two years, then the pond is drained, the young crappie taken out and stocked into the lake.  I have done this several times on Sangchris, the last in 2005-06.  50,000, 4.2” crappies were stocked in this manner in the Fall of 2006.  In the Fall 2007 survey we picked up many of those young crappie that now average approximately 9.0”.  So they are surviving and growing quite nicely.  They should pass the 10” minimum length in 2008.  The pond was not functional for a Spring 2007 adult stocking due to problems with the dam and drain.  Those problems have now been corrected so the pond will be operational in 2008.  The adult crappies used for this pond are the black crappie that have a bold black stripe running from just below their chin, up across their mouth, between their eyes and up the spine to the dorsal fin.  This is a unique genetic trait that is found in a few black crappies throughout their North American range.  The original black striped black crappie I have in Sangchris came from Arkansas in 1985 in a trade and that trait continues to show up to a small extent in the population today.  And now will do even more so.  It is a very good “mark” so I can tell the naturally spawned fish from the ones I put in from the nursery pond.  I will continue to use the nursery pond as needed.
      The striped bass, pure strain NOT hybrids, are not doing as well as they have in the past.  For whatever reason (possibly elevated water temperatures in the Summer) we are not seeing many of the larger stripers in the lake.  For the third year in a row I didn’t collect any striped bass over 20 pounds in my surveys.  There are good numbers of smaller fish.  One year class ranges from 5-7 pounds and the other older class from 10-13 pounds.  Two years ago I collected many in the 13-16 pound range so they ought to be nearing 20 pounds but I didn’t see any of those this past year and there have been no angler reports of any of the larger fish being caught.  Still there are pretty good numbers of fish in the 5-15 pound range.
    I have seen very few white bass over the past two decades.  Generally speaking, white bass need a current and a hard or gravel bottom to spawn in and the creeks that come into Sangchris are too small to afford such habitat.  Years ago however, they spawned in the hot-water ditch which does have the current and a hard clay bottom.  That was assuming the power plant was operational at the right time of the year.  For many years those conditions had not been met resulting, for all practical purposes, in the loss of the white bass fishery.  Quite probably due to the plant’s change in ownership and new operational regime the plant now runs pretty much year ‘round.  There is constant current in the ditch in the Spring and if temperatures and photoperiod are all correct, the white bass may recover.  Anglers, this Winter, are reporting a few good catches for the first time in years.  So maybe the white bass are on their way back.
    The channel catfish and flathead catfish populations are pretty good.  Most channels are less than 15” but there are still pretty good numbers over 15”.  Reports of large flatheads are becoming quite common.
    Bluegill are poor as in most large reservoirs.
    A major problem that persists is the lack of a stable forage base for the many predators in the lake.  Neither the gizzard shad nor the threadfin shad get off the spawns we typically see in large reservoirs.  We are always at the mercy of the forage base to maintain the excellent predator sport fishery in the lake.

Lake Springfield, Sangamon County (4234 acres)

As with Lake Sangchris, records continue to fall for largemouth bass electrofishing collections.  The Fall 2007 survey produced an average143 bass per hour for the nine hours of sampling throughout the lake.  I know of no other lakes of this size in the state that can boast such a high density.  And the good news is they are very fat due to the strong shad, gizzard and threadfin, populations.  The only problem with the populations structure in the apparent lack of fish over 18”.  We collected a very good number over 15” (20%) but saw none over 18”.  Every year I write about this phenomenon and still have no ideas as to what happens to the larger fish.  They are relatively young and in very good body condition, so it can’t be natural mortality.  In addition, there is low fishing pressure on the lake so it is very doubtful that they are being harvested. In spite of that the fishery is still excellent. 
    The crappie population is on the rebound.  The lake had an excellent white crappie population throughout the 80’s but nearly disappeared in the 90’s.  In an attempt to recover the crappie I began using a six acre nursery pond just south of town to raise crappie in.  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 crappie to the lake.  I’ve done that twice now for Lake Springfield.  In the Fall of 2004 we stocked 42,000, 5.2” white crappie from the pond into the lake.  Those fish now range from 11”-12”.  In the Fall of 2006 we drained the pond and took nearly 77,000, 4.2” 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” black crappie in the Fall 2007 survey.  They now range from 8”-10” and were found in every electrofishing run from the dam to the feeder creeks.  Seeing how well they have done in the lake was the highlight of the year for me.  There are so many times we stock fish and see little return to the fishery.  To pick up so many and spread out all over the lake was a very pleasant surprise.  The pond will be drained in the Fall of 2008 and the crappie will be taken to the lake again.  This year there are white crappies in the pond. 
    Speaking of stocking with little return, we began a walleye stocking program in1988 and initially they did very well.  Good numbers and excellent sizes began showing up within a few years.  We continued that program but in the late 90’s we began to see a decline in the numbers of fish present.  It was obvious their survival rates were dropping.  I have no idea why but the walleye pretty much disappeared from the lake.  In an attempt to “fix” the problem we stocked three times as many as normal, 12 million fry went into the lake for several years.  We saw no results from that either so I decided to try sauger, a cousin to the walleye, which is native to the region.  I thought it might do better.  We have stocked 4 million-8 million sauger fry for the past 5 years with the same results.  For that reason I will probably discontinue the program after 2008.  There is no reason to tax our hatchery resources any more than is necessary.
    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 1-10 pounds.  Flatheads range from 1 pound 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. 
    In the late Winter of 2005-06, with the help of the Springfield Catfish Club, 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.  The Springfield Club held tournaments near Alton on the Mississippi and brought back in their livewells blue cats for stocking into the lake.  From January 2005- April 2005 they stocked 137 blue cats ranging in size from 3-57 pounds.  They appear to be doing well in the lake but to date there are no signs of reproduction.  I don’t know if they will spawn.  If so, great, if not,  those already stocked will do very well and provide a fishery for a very large catfish.  The current world record for blue cats is 124 pounds, so they do get big.
    The white bass remain very good.  The numbers may be down a little but high quality fish (>14”) are present.
    The bluegill population is still very good with large numbers of very fat fish found in the rip-rap along the highway and railroad bridges.
    One final note, a year long creel survey will begin in March of 2008.  A creel survey is when an interviewer counts the number of boats a couple of times each day and interviews the anglers to see what they have caught.  They will be on the lake several times each week.  The data they collect is invaluable for management purposes.  It lets the biologist know exactly how their programs/projects are doing.  They answer the question, “Is what we are doing putting more fish in the fisherman’s live well or on his stringer?”  For example, once the data is compiled, I can tell to how many anglers fished the lake that year, what species and how many were caught and harvested, how far the fishermen drove to fish the lake and how much money was spent that year by those fishermen.  Please cooperate with the creel clerk when he/she stops by your boat or greets you at the ramp.  Too, if you are busy or don’t’ want to be interviewed at that time, simply tell the clerk so.  They are not to be intrusive or insistent.  The data they collect is critical so help out if you can.  Thanks.   

Lake Taylorville, Christian County (1286 acres)

Lake Taylorville continues to look very good-to-excellent for several species.  The largemouth bass population recorded their highest densities ever in the Fall 2007 survey.  We collected 123 bass per hour of electrofishing and 20% were young from this year indicating a very good spawn.  20% were over 15” and 4% were over 18”.  So the total number was excellent and the number of large fish, those the angler wants, was high too.  The bass were in excellent body condition too (they were fat, which contrary to humans, is good) thanks to a very good gizzard shad population. 
There is nothing to say about the white crappie population except “Excellent”.  This population has been very good for years and should be for years to come, 2008 and 2009 look to be two of the best crappie years in a decade in both quantity and quality.  There are five year classes present, with two strong classes over the 9” limit.  And again, because of the strong shad forage base, they are in excellent body condition.
As always the channel catfish population is excellent.  They range from 10”-28” with excellent numbers and body conditions.
A surprise species is the bluegill.  I don’t remember them being very good (but there are lots of things I don’t remember anymore, given my age) but the 2006 and ‘07 surveys revealed a very good population.  While only a handful were 8” there were numerous fish over 7” and in very good body condition.
We have stocked sauger, a cousin to the walleye, since 2000.  Initially they did pretty well but lately we’ve seen little recruitment into the fishery.  We collected none in the special Spring sauger survey and only two in the Fall sample.  Again this year they were stocked into the lake in late May.  This year 13,000 were put in.  In addition, all three on-site nursery ponds were used to raise sauger.  When we drained the ponds in the Fall one had no fish, one had only 80 fish and the third had only 540, 7”  sauger for stocking into the lake.  If the sauger don’t begin to contribute to the fishery the program will have to be discontinued.  I don’t have any idea why the ponds were a bust this year.  The ponds will be monitored more closely in 2008 to see if we can figure out the problem.
Beginning in the Winter of 2005-06 commercial fishermen began a bigmouth buffalo harvest program.  These buffalo are captured live and shipped live to the markets in New York.  The first year harvest yield was 60,000 pounds of live buffalo.  That number dropped significantly in 2007 but as long as the fish are free from contamination and the commercial fishermen want them, the program will continue.

Lake Jacksonville, Morgan county (475 acres)

I had always included Lake Jacksonville in my report since I had the lake for 20+ years but five years ago the Division of Fisheries realigned the districts and I no longer have Morgan county.  The biologist that now manages Lakes Jacksonville, Waverly and Mauvaise Terre is Mike Jones in our Pittsfield office.  For more information on the lakes in Morgan county please contact him at 217.285.2221.  I will say, in a nutshell, Lake Jacksonville has a tremendous bass population.  One of the best in the state.  Excellent total numbers and excellent numbers of fish over 4 pounds. Also contact: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Gillespie New City Reservoir, Macoupin county (~200 acres)

This lake is not in my district but I worked with Jeff Pontnack on it this past Fall.  It may well be THE best largemouth bass lake in the state and has been that way for years.  For more info contact Jeff at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) 

Coffeen Lake, Montgomery county (1100 acres)

This is one of the best largemouth bass lakes in the state.  Excellent crappie and striped bass too.  .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Jim Edgar/Panther Creek State Fish and Wildlife Area (JEPCSFWA for short).

Prairie Lake- Jim Edgar Panther Creek State Fish and Wildlife Area, Cass County (210 acres)

    Prairie Lake, one of the new lakes built on the old Commonwealth Edison ground known as Site M,  has turned out to be a very good largemouth bass lake.  It was excellent a few years after the initial stocking but it is hard to maintain that very high level.  That first bass year class moved through the fishery providing excellent fishing in 2003-2006 but those old fish are pretty much gone now.  Those that haven’t died of old age are now 22+”.  There are several other year classes coming on.  One class averages around 18”, another around 15” and then several other classes of smaller fish.  Reproduction has been very good.  Growth rates are not as good as some other lakes due to the lack of shad.  Bass in Jim Edgar rely on bluegill and redear sunfish for food.  The largemouth bass are doing so well that I’ve decided to try raising smallmouth bass in the on-site nursery pond.  One inch (1”)  smallies will be stocked into the pond in May.  They will be fed minnows throughout the Summer and the pond will be drained in the Fall releasing the smallmouth into the lake.  We will continue this program for at least three years evaluating the contribution to the lake.  I really hope they make it.  Smallmouth bass are a beautiful fish and anglers love them.
The muskies are doing well.  We collected 14 in the Spring electrofishing survey.  None in the nets.  The water is very clear in Prairie Lake and muskies have good net avoidance systems.  Fourteen isn’t a very high number but we only shocked for several hours over a three day period. We raised another 11 that we didn’t get into the boat.  They explode out of the water when shocked and are very difficult to get into a dip net.  Anyway the largest was 44” and weighed 20 pounds.  So they appear to be doing well.  A muskie tourney held there later in May, however, didn’t produce a fish.
The entire lake has no motor size limit but does have a No Wake Zone restriction, except for those boats with 10hp motors or less.  They can operate full throttle if desired.  There is a concrete ramp, parking lot, restroom, handicapped fishing pier, playground, pavilion, camping area including rental cabins, docks near the campgrounds and a 17 mile hiking trail around its perimeter.

Gridley Lake, JEPCSFWA, Cass County (25 acres)

I’m not very happy with this lake.  It started out pretty much textbook in 1997 when it was first stocked.  After a couple of years the bluegill and redear sunfish were very good-to-excellent.  The bass and channel catfish were very good as well.  Over the past several years however things have been falling off.  The largemouth bass are stunted(stopped growing due to high density), which is not good for the bass angler who wants large fish, but having such high densities creates heavy predation on the sunfish(bluegill and redear) keeping them thinned out.  By thinning out the sunfish population those not eaten by the bass have more food and space so their growth rates improve.  In a nutshell, lots of skinny little bass mean big bluegill and redear sunfish which is the management goal of this lake.  Anyway, the bass are stunted as desired but we are not seeing the large bluegill and redear we should.  In the Spring 2007 survey we collected some redear up to 9.5” and a handful of bluegill 7” long.  So things aren’t as good as we would like.  I will continue to monitor the population but I want to do something to improve things, sooner rather than later.  I have an idea of what I would like to try but not sure I can get it done.  More on that next year.
The channel catfish population is very good. 
Gridley Lake has a handicapped fishing pier, concrete ramp, rest rooms and parking lot and a walking path around the entire lake for bank access.  No gas motors, only electric trolling motors are allowed

Drake Lake, JEPCSFWA, Cass County (35 acres)

Drake Lake, the last lake built on the site, is progressing about as expected, maybe not quite as well as I would like but not bad.  It, like Gridley Lake, is being managed for large sunfish (redear and bluegill).  The largest redear collected in the Spring 2007 survey were 9” and the largest bluegill were about 8.5”,  so they look pretty good.  The bass started out great but growth rates are starting to slow indicating an overpopulation.  As mentioned in the Gridley Lake narrative, stunted bass lead to high quality pan fish so with a little luck we should get there.  Drake Lake is, in my mind, the prettiest of the lakes on the site It is completely surrounded by mature hardwoods.  It has developed a severe underwater vegetation infestation.  I will treat that with herbicide but it will still be hard to control.  Fish this lake earlier in the Spring.  It too has a concrete ramp, rest rooms and parking lot.  No gas motors, only electric trolling motors are allowed

Gurney Road Pond, JEPCSFWA, Cass County (1.5 acres)
The Gurney Road Pond has a catchable trout program in the Spring at this site.  The first Saturday of April at 5:00 am the pond will be open to trout fishing.  An Inland Trout Stamp is required of all licensed anglers.  There are also some bluegill, largemouth bass and channel catfish in the pond and can be caught anytime.
  The IDNR Heavy Equipment Crew renovated several of the ponds on the site during the Winters of 1999-2001.  Because the fish populations in most of those were out-of-balance or had undesirable fish species, i.e. carp bullheads they were eradicated and restocked.  Those ponds completed and fishable are: Geiss Road Pond, Gridley Road Pond, North Bike Trail Pond, Philadelphia Road Pond, Otter Pond, Bullfrog Pond, South Highway 11 Pond, Edward Lane Pond, Painter Pond and Herrmann Road Pond.  For more information on pond location contact the site office.

Chautauqua U.S. Fish and Wildlife Refuge, Mason County (1200 acres)

Management of this site may be taking a new direction. We’re not sure yet.  If you have any questions about Lake Chautauqua contact me for up-to-date information.

The following lakes are minor public lakes in my district that might be of local interest.

Virginia City Reservoir, Cass County(18 acres)

This small lake in Cass County was drained, killed out and then re-stocked with bluegill, redear sunfish and channel catfish fingerlings in the Fall of 2007.  The largemouth bass will be released into the lake in late June of 2008.  Fishing should be good again in a couple of years.  Fish grow quickly in new lake situations. 

Ashland New and Old City Reservoirs, Cass County (10 and 5 acres respectively)

Largemouth bass- High density, no size
Bluegill- Good-to-excellent
Redear sunfish- Very good-to-excellent
Channel catfish- Good
A new sunfish regulation allowing for only 10 per day will go into effect April 1, 2008 on the New Reservoir only.

IDOT Lake, Sangamon County (17 acres)

Largemouth bass-Excellent.  Surprisingly, one of the best you’ll find anywhere.
Channel catfish- Good
Bluegill- Above average
Rainbow trout- Begins the first Saturday in April and the third Saturday in October at 5:00 am. 

Washington Park Pond, Sangamon County (1 acre)

Rainbow trout- Begins the first Saturday in April and the third Saturday in October at 5:00 am.
Hybrid sunfish, channel catfish and bullheads- In association with the Springfield Park District the IDNR has been conducting an Urban Fishing Program for kids at this small pond since 1996.  From mid-June through mid-August the pond will be stocked weekly with bullheads, hybrid sunfish and channel cats.  The Kid’s Fishing Clinics are held in the morning but the general public is allowed to catch these fish at any time.  For more information contact my office or the Springfield Park District 217/ 544-1751.

Loami City Reservoir, Sangamon County (10 acres)

Largemouth bass- Average
Channel catfish- Average
Bluegill- Average

Mt. Pulaski Township Park District Lake, Logan County (21 acres)

The fish population (bass, bluegill and redear sunfish) is not in very good condition, with numerous bass and sunfish that are stunted.  The maximum depth of the lake is only 6 feet and there have been a couple of Summer kills on it, so there is really very little we can do.  We will continue to treat the nuisance aquatic vegetation and stock it with non-vulnerable size channel catfish to provide some angling opportunities.  It makes a nice little fishery for the locals and kids.

The Kincaid City Reservoir, Christian County (31 acres)

There is an above average bluegill population and a pretty good bass fishery.  The IDNR stocks non-vulnerable (8”-10”) channel catfish to create a fishery for that species.  A few nice crappie are caught each year too.  Overall a pretty good fishing lake.

Lake Williamsville, Sangamon County (17 acres)

Largemouth bass- High density, no size
Bluegill- Good- very good
Channel catfish- very good  

Taylorville Park District pond, Manner’s Park, Christian County (2 acres)

This pond provides a little fishing for the local area, especially for kids.  There are bass, bluegill and channel catfish.  In addition there are Spring and Fall rainbow trout seasons.  Trout fishing begins at 5a on the first Saturday in April and the third Saturday of October. Harvesting trout two weeks prior to those dates is illegal.  Licensed anglers must have an Inland Trout Fishing Stamp.  There is a five trout per day limit.


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excellent report, where would i find onr for champagne county

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 03/14 at 10:56 PM

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