Managing a thriving fishery takes work. Some of that work can be luck, but more times than not planning, preparation and process create the environment. Some environments make it more difficult, but working with the conditions can turn so-so into exemplary.
When Clinton Lake first opened it had a fantastic crappie fishery. Both white and black crappie had conditions that were perfect for the crappie boon and anglers flocked to the lake to take advantage. When the power plant started up and water began to warm, this fishery degraded a bit. The bottom line is white crappie do not handle warm water well.
It is important to note that Exelon, the company that owns the power plant, is very proactive and is a huge proponent of outdoor activities at Clinton Lake. Company officials began asking what could be done.
The first step was to determine the current population on the lake. Electroshocking surveys showed the crappie population, in particular white crappie, was on a decline. The next step was finding a species that was warm water tolerant, and research indicated a special crappie called the Blacknose would work well.
Beginning in 2007, IDNR and Fisheries Biologist Mike Garthaus went to work looking for a solution and began by stocking 20,000 blacknose crappie into Clinton Lake the first year.
“I was looking for a way to place a breed of fish that didn’t mind warmer water temps, did well with them, but were distinguishable from the others in the lake” noted Garthaus. “We have fin clipped fish on occasion to determine that with other stockings, but doing so is very labor intensive. The Blacknose were perfect because of the unique markings.
“With Exelon’s help we also established five rearing ponds used to grow fingerlings to a more suitable size prior to lake introduction. Most fish in those rearing ponds are either our mating pairs or fish from 2¼ to 4 inches in length.”
The blacknose crappie is a special breed introduced in the Arkansas Basin, but is mainly found in the mid-tier of states. It has done very well at Reelfoot Lake in Tennessee and several other northern Alabama, Kentucky and Arkansas locations. They grow at the same rate of other crappie and have no other distinguishable character traits other than they can get thicker than black or white crappie.
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They also tolerate higher water temperatures much better. It is important to note they do not grow faster or get bigger than other crappie when reaching adulthood.
To date, nearly 400,000 Blacknose crappie have been stocked and the experiment is working. The crappie population is on its way back and current surveys have found a large number of 10-inch fish and several up to 12 inches. Anglers who fish Clinton regularly have caught several larger than that.
“We plan on continuing the stocking of these fish in Clinton for years to come and this year we placed 134,622 more in the lake” said Garthaus.
“We want catch rates to flourish and ask anglers to do their part by putting the larger ones back, 14 inches or larger, if they catch them for the time being. They are the ones that breed best and produce more of the genetically high quality fish so it’s in their best interest to do so.”
FOE annual meeting
Tonight the Friends of EverBloom will have its annual meeting and wiener roast at Davis Lodge on Lake Bloomington beginning at 6:30. The election of officers and board for 2014 and awarding of the 2013 Jim Rutherford Volunteer of the Year will take place.
Draw-down at Dawson
Dawson Lake will be drawn down by the IDNR beginning Nov. 14 to help manage vegetation on the lakes northern end. A gate valve at the dam will be opened to lower the water to a pre-defined level at that time. The lake will be allowed to refill to normal levels in the spring.