COLUMBIA CITY – Anglers who fish the Upper Tippecanoe River Lake Area (UTRLA) might be able to improve their catch by looking at a computer before hitting the water.
A report on fish population surveys conducted last year at six natural lakes north of Columbia City is on the DNR Division of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) website at http://www.in.gov/dnr/fishwild/files/fw-UTRLA_Report_2009.pdf.
The report summarizes data collected by DFW fisheries biologists at Big, Crane, Crooked, Goose, Loon, and Old lakes in northern Whitley and southern Noble counties.
These UTRLA lakes lie within the upper reaches of the Tippecanoe River watershed.
The report includes comparisons of largemouth bass and bluegill populations in each lake, data on the overall make-up of fish communities in each lake, estimates and fishing effort and angler catches based on interviews, information on aquatic plants, and recommendations for future fish management.
“The report summarizes one of the most comprehensive series of fish surveys ever done on a watershed basis,” said Jed Pearson, DFW biologist who conducted much of the field work and report writing.
The purpose of the surveys was to document which lakes provide good fishing and determine which lakes currently meet fishing standards set by local anglers, lake residents, and the DFW. The standards were established after a six-month public planning process spearheaded by the Tippecanoe Watershed Foundation.
“They wanted to know how the lakes stacked up against each other and what steps could be taken to improve fishing,” Pearson said.
Overall, largemouth bass were twice as abundant in the UTRLA lakes as in other lakes in northern Indiana. Crooked Lake contained an average number but bass were three times more abundant in Big Lake.
Bass sizes, however, were generally small. Those that were of legal size (14 inches and larger) made up an average of 11 percent of the populations, but those that were 18 inches and larger made up less than 2 percent. Big Lake had the lowest percentage of legal-size bass.
“We’re looking into options to reduce the number of small bass in Big Lake,” Pearson said.
Bluegill numbers and sizes fell within normal ranges, except at Goose and Loon. Goose Lake had an unusually high number of bluegills, including many large ones. In contrast, small bluegills dominated Loon Lake
“We need to encourage more bluegill fishing at the UTRLA lakes and find a way to increase bluegill size at Loon,” said Pearson.