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The good news and bad news about Sangchris Lake bass

November 02, 2011 at 08:39 AM

Prairie State Outdoors

Editor’s note: This is one of a series of occasional reports from Illinois Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist Dan Stephenson. Stephenson and other fisheries biologists routinely sample Illinois lake during the fall to assess abundance and age structure of fish. Here’s his report on Sangchris Lake in Sangamon and Christian counties. An earlier report on Carlyle Lake, Lake Jacksonville and Lake Springfield is linked below.

The good news is that there are more bass than ever in Lake Sangchris. 

The bad news is there are more bass than ever in Lake Sangchris. 

For the past several years I have had a limit on the lake that would allow for the removal of some of the small bass while protecting the older bass to a larger size. 

That limit has been unsuccessful in re-structuring the population. 

What it boils down to is, I can’t get the anglers to take the smaller bass out of the lake, leaving more food for the bass that are left so they can attain a larger size. 

Bass anglers, in general catch the vast majority of the bass - and then they put them back. 

That is why so-called slot limits - which are driven by angler harvest - haven’t been particularly successful and abandoned in our state as well as others. 

I collected a near record number of bass over the past several days of electrofish sampling but only 12 percent were over 15 inches and a paltry three percent were over 18 inches. 

Those numbers should be approximately 25 percnet and 10-15 percent in a properly structured bass fishery. 

In addition, many of the bass were in below-average body condition. 

Biologists like to see “fat” fish and in Sangchris, some of the bass are - but many are not. 

This is due, I believe, to the high water temperatures throughout the summer months that cause these cold-blooded animals to burn more calories than they consume. 

On the bright side, I saw the best gizzard shad spawn I’ve seen since 1983. 

There are shad of all sizes throughout the lake. 

Gizzard shad is the native species of forage fish that provides food for all the predators in the lake including largemouth bass, crappie, white bass and striped bass. 

The power plant shutdown last year, killing the non-native southern species of shad called threadfin shad. 

Gizzard shad have compensated and provide a much-needed food base. 

Water temperatures will cool over the winter and the bass will begin feeding and keeping the weight on.

By spring, the bass will be in good body condition again. 

I did not get as many black or white crappie as I would have liked to see. 

I hope it is just due to them being off-shore and less susceptible to electrofishing. 

The late winter and spring of 2011 proved to be the best crappie fishing in memory on Sangchris. 

Crappie were caught in excellent numbers as well as size. 

I hope that trend continues, and that the harvest wasn’t so great that it damaged the crappie fishery. 

To that end, Little Grassy hatchery in Southern Illinois stocked nearly 33,000, 5-inch black crappie a couple of weeks ago. 

The channel catfish look good and the lake has a very good flathead catfish population. 

I didn’t get to conduct a spring netting survey for the large striped bass, since the entire field staff of the fisheries division was in southern Illinois battling flooding. 

We all spent over a week there, so I have no recent information on the stripers.

Future reports:
Coffeen and Taylorville lakes. 

Asian carp update:
Many of us are off to Chicago for a week trying to save Lake Michigan from Asian Carp. 

The electric barriers and our barrier defense efforts are working and - I believe - will continue to work with respect to keeping a reproducing population of Asian carp from developing in the lake.

Related stories

Carlyle Lake gets top marks in fall fish surveys

DNR fisheries biologist Dan Stephenson: "Carlyle is the place to go for great fishing for all species." Preliminary reports for Lake Jacksonville and Lake Springfield included.

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