Fewer But Bigger Bass in Upper Long Lake
Biologists studying the long-term effects of stocking muskies in a small northern Indiana natural lake say fewer, but bigger, largemouth bass are now present.
The result should help quell angler concerns that muskie stockings harm bass fishing.
Since 1996, muskie fingerlings have been stocked periodically in Upper Long Lake, an 86-acre natural lake located southwest of Albion, in an effort to increase muskie fishing opportunities in the area.
The initial stockings were paid for by members of the local lake association, while recent stockings have been funded by the Lake Webster Musky Club of North Webster.
The muskies are purchased from commercial fish hatcheries and stocked with permission of the DNR Division of Fish and Wildlife (DFW).
"We've seen a 20 percent reduction in the overall number of bass but a doubling of the number of 14-inch and larger bass since muskies were first stocked in the lake," said Jed Pearson, DFW biologist. "This percentage is probably within the normal range of natural variation in bass populations even where muskies are not present."
Pearson's estimates are based on bass electrofishing he conducted in April and May 1995, and again this spring. Because sampling methods were identical, the results are comparable.
"We tried to match what we did in 1995 before muskies were stocked to what we did this year to evaluate how muskies may have impacted bass," he said.
In 1995 Pearson captured 535 bass, including 89 that were marked and later recaptured. Those numbers generated a population estimate of 1,067 bass in the lake (12.4/acre). This year he caught 505 bass, including 97 recaptured ones, for an estimate of 861 (10.0/acre).
The electrofishing catch rate also dropped from 101 per hour in 1995 to 83 per hour.
While fewer bass are now present, the number of 14-inch and larger bass (those legally large enough to catch and keep) increased from 135 before muskies were stocked to 296 currently. The number of 12- to 14-inch bass also increased from 186 to 267.
The decline in overall bass numbers occurred among 8- to 12-inch bass, dropping from 745 in 1995 to 297 this year. With fewer small bass present, those that survive or escape muskie predation may now be growing faster.
Because bass anglers are typically less interested in catching lots of small bass and more interested in catching big bass, Pearson said the change is positive at Upper Long Lake.
"I think most bass anglers who may have been concerned about the muskie stockings would be happy to know there are now actually more big bass in the lake," he said.
Pearson plans to continue sampling at the lake this summer to examine the effects of muskies on other fish and fishing quality.