Largemouth bass anglers who are concerned walleye stocked into northeastern Indiana lakes could be damaging bass fishing need not worry. Data obtained by Department of Natural Resources (DNR) biologists from bass tournaments at four lakes where walleye are routinely stocked indicate there is little evidence to suggest bass fishing has been harmed.
At Crooked Lake and Lake George in Steuben County, two of the area’s best walleye lakes, numbers of 14-inch and larger bass caught by tournament anglers increased over the past 10 years. Catch rates of bass anglers at Sylvan Lake in Noble County, where walleye are abundant, have been stable since 2006.
Bass catches declined at Winona Lake in Kosciusko County after walleye stockings were increased, but catch rates remain above average compared to other area lakes.
“We occasionally get questions from bass fishermen about our walleye stocking program,” said Neil Ledet, DNR fisheries biologist in northeastern Indiana. “Some fishermen think walleye compete with bass for habitat or food and prey on small bass.”
Studies in Wisconsin and Ontario have shown the opposite. Bass are more likely to eat walleye. Even though walleye and bass may occupy the same areas in a lake, plenty of food is usually available for both.
“We intentionally stock walleye in lakes that have a lot of small forage fish,” Ledet said.
“We think their chances of survival are greater and their growth rate is faster there.”
Stocked walleye feed mostly on small bluegills, yellow perch and gizzard shad where present. “We looked at the stomach contents of 90 adult walleye in Wall Lake in Steuben County and didn’t find a single bass,” he said.
The DNR plans to conduct additional bass tournament monitoring this year at Winona and will conduct full-scale studies of the walleye stocking program at Crooked, Sylvan and Winona in the coming years.
Lake Everett muskie reaching legal size
Muskie stocked in northwestern Allen County’s Lake Everett three years ago will soon be large enough to be kept by anglers.
During sampling in mid-April, DNR fisheries biologists captured three muskie in Lake Everett with an electro-fishing boat, within 15 minutes of operation.
The two largest were 33 inches long and came from a stocking of 245 fingerlings in 2010, the first time muskie were stocked in Lake Everett. They were 8-10 inches long at the time of stocking.
To be legally kept by anglers, muskie must be at least 36 inches long. Based on what biologists know about the species’ rapid growth, they expect Lake Everett muskie to reach 36 inches this summer. They could eventually exceed 48 inches.
Muskie were stocked in Lake Everett to feed on its abundant gizzard shad population and to provide an additional muskie fishing opportunity in the area.
The Webster Lake Musky Club purchased 30 muskie of the original group from a commercial hatchery. DNR hatcheries contributed the rest. Another 215 muskie from state hatcheries were stocked in Lake Everett in 2011 and 2012.
A 10-inch muskie stocked last fall by the DNR also was captured during sampling.
Maumee’s mystery muskie
DNR officials are getting reports from anglers that muskie are occasionally being caught in the Maumee River below the Hosey Dam in Fort Wayne. The largest to date was caught in early April, and measured 42.5 inches long and weighed 28 pounds.
Biologists are unsure from where the muskie are coming – none are stocked directly into the river. Muskie have been stocked in Allen County’s Lake Everett each year since 2010, but its outlet drains to the Eel River, not the Maumee. Likewise, a check with Ohio DNR biologists confirmed no muskie are stocked in the Maumee watershed within the Buckeye State.
Right now, the best guess is they came downstream via the St. Joe River from Ball Lake in Steuben County. Muskie were stocked there annually until 2009.
My feelings on the subject are: Never look a gift muskie in the mouth.
Volunteer workday at Paynetown SRA
A spring cleaning volunteer workday will take place at Paynetown State Recreation Area on May 18 beginning at 2 p.m. Email registration for the workday is required by May 16 to Jill Vance, Monroe Lake naturalist, at jvance@dnr.IN.gov
Projects will focus on getting the Activity Center ready for the start of the summer season and may include painting, landscaping, cleaning and trash pickup. Volunteers should be at least 16 years old and may want to bring their own gloves. Work will conclude around 4:30 p.m.
All volunteers who participate in the workday are invited to stay for a free cookout at 5 p.m. All food, including a vegetarian option, drinks and table service will be provided.
The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of Farm World. Readers with questions or comments for Jack Spaulding may contact him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by writing to him in care of this publication.