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Nerissa McClelland (left) and Lynnette Mick net fish during a fall survey of Lake Springfield. Photos by Chris Young.

McClelland newest DNR fisheries biologist

October 17, 2013 at 04:47 PM

The State Journal-Registerr

Nerissa McClelland may be the state’s newest fisheries biologist, but she brings years of experience to the job.

McClelland replaces Dan Stephenson, who served as the Illinois Department of Natural Resources district fisheries biologist in central Illinois for more than 30 years. Stephenson is now DNR’s assistant chief of fisheries.

Nerissa McClelland

McClelland, who started at DNR on Sept. 1, previously worked at the Illinois Natural History Survey Illinois River Biological Station in Havana for nine years.

“I worked on different long-term monitoring programs that focused on monitoring fish populations and fish communities — not only on the Illinois River, but on the Mississippi, Ohio and Wabash rivers,” she said. “They were community-wide assessments, not just species-specific, and included anything from small minnows up to the biggest, oldest flathead catfish.”

McClelland received her bachelors’ degree in zoology and master’s degree in biology with an emphasis on fisheries management from Western Illinois University in Macomb.

“I’ve always wanted to be in management,” McClelland said. “I love research, and came to love research even more at the Illinois Natural History Survey, but it was my ultimate goal to work on the management side.

“With management you have more of an effect immediately on fisheries and fishermen and women,” she said.

She didn’t have to wait long to dive in.

When McClelland came onboard Sept. 1, it was the beginning of the annual fall lake surveys.

“I’ve basically been in the boat since then,” she said. “September and October are really busy months, so I got thrown right into it.”

Usually, fisheries biologists work alone in large multi-county districts.

McClelland will cover Cass, Christian, Logan, Mason and Sangamon counties. Stephenson still covers Menard County.

But during lake surveys, biologists drop district boundaries and team up.

Recently, McClelland surveyed Lake Springfield with Lynnette Mick, whose responsibility includes west-central Illinois, and Stephenson.

“Luckily, Dan has been willing to set aside some time to help share his 31 years of knowledge with me,” McClelland said.

She said she is looking forward to meeting anglers, fishing club members and others who use the region’s lakes and ponds.

“I am anxious to meet everyone, but it is a big district with a lot of bodies of water,” she said. “I have so much to do and so much to figure out in a relatively short amount of time.”

Chris Young can be reached at 341-8487 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow him at

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