Sports and Outdoors

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Numerous fish await anglers in Lake Wawasee

Many opportunities to catch bluegills, largemouth bass, and yellow perch, as well as well as one of the largest northern pike populations in the state, await anglers in Lake Wawasee, Indiana’s largest natural lake.

The Department of Natural Resources Division of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) surveyed the lake last June and July. Sampling included 5½ hours of electro-fishing along the shore with a boat-mounted electrical generator that temporarily stuns fish. In addition, 18 gill nets and 15 trap nets were set at various locations throughout the lake.

Biologists caught 2,278 fish during the survey, 47 percent of which were bluegills. They also caught 269 largemouth bass and 186 perch.

Several bluegills were 8 inches long, some up to 9½ inches. Their growth rate is typical of northern Indiana natural lakes, with bluegills reaching 6 inches at age 4 and nearly 8 inches by age 6. Bluegills were captured during electrofishing at the rate of 140 per hour, a rate also typical of Indiana natural lakes.
Largemouth bass caught during the survey were 4 to 19½ inches long, including 35 that were legal size (14 inches or larger).
Most of the perch were 6 to 8 inches long, some up to 11 inches.

Eighty-six northern pike were caught during sampling in June. Another 22 pike were caught in July. The pike ranged from 14½ to 33½ inches long. Their combined weight made up 25 percent of the weight of all fish captured in the survey.

Based on comparisons to previous surveys dating back to 1975, biologists say the overall fish population in Lake Wawasee has been relatively stable, with the exception of the increase in white bass. Three white bass were captured in a 2004 survey; 18 were caught last summer.

“By most accounts, white bass were not native to Lake Wawasee,” said Jed Pearson, a DFW biologist who has worked on the lake since 1975. “An old document from 1875 says white bass were present, but no records after that ever verified it.”

Pearson said that white bass were probably stocked illegally sometime before 2004.

“If white bass continue to increase, they may eventually compete for food with other sport fish and could eventually affect the growth rate and size of other fish,” he said, "That's why permits are required to stock fish in a public lake."

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