Statement issued Wednesday:
MILFORD – Department of Natural Resources biologists netted a 14.7-inch white bass in Waubee Lake in mid-June, adding it to the growing list of lakes where the fish has apparently been illegally stocked by anglers.
Biologist Jed Pearson with the Indiana DNR Division of Fish and Wildlife captured the white bass in a routine fishery survey of the 187-acre natural lake in northern Kosciusko County. He suspects an angler caught it elsewhere and released it into the lake without a permit.
According to state law (IC 14-22-9-8), anyone who stocks fish in public water must first get a permit from the DNR. Doing so without a permit is a Class C misdemeanor.
“We are finding more and more white bass in lakes where they should not be,” Pearson said.
White bass do not naturally occur in Waubee Lake, nor are they native to other Indiana lakes in the Great Lakes watershed. They are also not native to upper reaches of the Tippecanoe River watershed.
In 2003, white bass were found in Lake Wawasee, Indiana’s largest natural lake, located not far from Waubee. Since then, white bass have been found at Big Lake in Noble County and Lake-of-the-Woods in Marshall County. An angler also caught a white bass at Loon Lake in Whitley County last summer and reported it to fisheries officials. Numbers of white bass in Wawasee and Lake-of-the-Woods are increasing.
Pearson said he thinks these populations originated from fish taken from lakes that naturally contain white bass.
“White bass have always been present in several Kosciusko County lakes, including the Barbee Chain, Tippecanoe, and Winona,” Pearson said. “Today’s boats now have built-in livewells and aerators, making it easy to move fish from one lake to another and very hard for conservation officers to detect.”
White bass, which are actually silver in color, are considered sport fish and are popular with anglers. But they are also predatory fish and can feed on small bluegills and largemouth bass.
Where white bass occur naturally, they typically eat gizzard shad, a forage fish of little interest to anglers. Shad, meanwhile, cause other problems by competing with bluegills and largemouth bass. Waubee, like Wawasee, Big, and Loon, does not contain shad, so biologists don’t know what long-term impacts the species may have on the native fish community.
Pearson’s nightmare, however, is someday also finding gizzard shad in these lakes.
“We understand why anglers may want to stock white bass, but they need to realize white bass can harm fishing,” he said. “An even bigger problem would result if fishermen now think these lakes need shad to feed the white bass.”
“If you’re going to take a fish from a lake, take it home to eat,” he said.