Bass fishermen cast in the mist at Sangchris Lake last fall. Photos by Chris Young
State of the Lakes 2014
February 06, 2014 at 12:07 PM
Each year at this time we bring you a roundup of lake surveys conducted by regional fisheries biologists with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
The State Journal-Register
The surveys can help fishermen plan ahead for when the weather warms up and anglers can take their boats on the water.
This installment features Sangchris Lake and Lake Springfield.
The next installment will include the lakes and ponds of the Jim Edgar Panther Creek State Fish and Wildlife Area, Lake Taylorville and Clinton lake.
This report is edited from information provided by fisheries biologists Nerissa McClelland and Mike Garthaus.
Christian and Sangamon counties, 2,325 acres
* Largemouth bass: Sangchris Lake is known for its high-density bass population with electro-fishing surveys commonly producing more than 80 bass per hour. This fall, 70 bass per hour were collected.
The survey showed 36 percent of the largemouth bass population to be over the 15-inch minimum length limit, but only 6 percent were more than 18 inches.
Largemouth bass in Sangchris Lake tend to be in less than desirable body condition. However , the lake is still one of the better bass fisheries in the state.
The largest bass ever collected by electro-fishing measured 22 inches long and weighed over seven pounds.
* Black and white crappie: Crappie in Sangchris Lake do not maintain predictable yearly spawns, which is common in power plant cooling lakes.
Black and white crappie numbers are below the desired levels, but the number greater than 10 inches and 12 inches has regularly exceeded goals.
A stocking program helps supplement each year’s class as natural spawning and recruitment can be low.
* Striped bass: Pure striped bass have been stocked every other year since 1983, producing some great fishing opportunities. No fish above 20 pounds have been caught for several years, but there is a good density of striped bass up to 14 pounds.
Anglers can catch stripers near “Striper Point” in the northern portion of the lake in the warmer months and in the hot water middle arm of the lake when water is being discharged in the winter.
The current state record of 31 pounds, 7 ounces was caught in Sangchris Lake.
* Channel catfish: The channel catfish population is doing well both in quantity and quality. Fish up to eight pounds are surveyed every year.
* Flathead catfish: Flathead catfish are difficult to survey, but anecdotal evidence suggests angler catches are becoming more common.
Sangchris Lake is approaching 50 years old and is developing a reputation for producing flathead catfish weighing more than 40 pounds. The largest flathead ever collected in a survey weighed 69 pounds, and the largest caught by an angler weighed 76 pounds.
Springfield, 3,866 acres
* Largemouth bass: Lake Springfield is one of the better largemouth bass lakes in the state, showing consistent balance over the last two decades.
It has a high-density population with electro-fishing surveys routinely surpassing 120 bass per hour. Ninety-seven bass per hour were collected in 2013.
Thanks to a strong shad forage base, the bass typically are 25 percent heavier per length than the statewide average.
The only downside to the population is the apparent lack of fish over 3.5 pounds. In the 2013 survey, only 2.3 percent of bass collected were over 18 inches and only one bass out of 877 weighed and measured was over 20 inches. The lack of fish over 20 inches is normal for this lake.
* Crappie: Black crappie appeared in the survey at a rate of six per hour of electro-fishing with 64 percent of the population over 10 inches and 2 percent over 12 inches.
White crappie appeared at a rate of 25 fish per hour with 58 percent of the population over 10 inches and 4 percent over 12 inches.
In general, crappie numbers have been low, and a stocking program will continue until the population can sustain itself. The crappie nursery pond was stocked in 2013 and will be drained in fall 2014.
* White bass: Anecdotal evidence shows the white bass population remains very good. Electro-fishing does not sample the population effectively. Fish up to 15 inches are common.
* Channel catfish: Lake Springfield is one of the best channel catfish lakes in the state. The fall 2013 fish survey showed a catch of 12 channel catfish per hour and 24 pounds per hour of electro-fishing.
* Flathead catfish: Lake Springfield has earned a reputation for producing large numbers of nice flathead catfish every year. The largest reported was over 60 pounds.
* Blue catfish: The Division of Fisheries working with City, Water, Light and Power and the local catfish club began a blue cat stocking program in 2006. About 150 fish ranging from three to 57 pounds have been transplanted from the Mississippi River near Alton.
Fingerlings have also been stocked from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources hatchery and through purchases from a private fish hatchery in Kentucky since 2006.
About 22,800 blue catfish 3-5 inches in length were stocked into Lake Springfield in fall 2013.
Blue cats will grow quickly. The largest caught to date weighed 81 pounds.
* Bluegill: Lake Springfield has a surprisingly good bluegill population, which is uncommon in a larger lake. The survey showed 60 percent of the population is composed of fish 6 to 8 inches long.
* Sauger: Sauger can still be caught in Lake Springfield, but stocking efforts ended in 2008 due to continued poor reproduction. None were collected in the fall 2013 fish survey, but a few sauger remain and there is some indication of natural reproduction at Lake Springfield.