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Daniel My Brother

What happened to our lake?

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I spend a lot of time fishing a private 40-50 acre strip pit in southern Illinois. Only 2 families (and their guests-including me) have legal access to this lake. In the past it's been a good lake for crappie and bass. You could almost always catch a 3 pounder on an average day, and fish pushing 6 pounds were not that uncommon. We always catch and release fish over 15 inches, and eat a healthy number of smaller bass. The problem is, the big bass have all but disappeared. From Feb through November my friends and I have probably fished this lake 40 days, and I can only remember 2 fish over 3 pounds. Better fishermen than me have tried just about everything, and still no big ones.

Here's one theory: The second family that owns part of the lake actually owns several hundred acres surrounding the lake, including many smaller lakes that they alone have access to. My fear is that these guys are transplanting big bass into the smaller lakes. I know that they are avid fishermen and they seem like very nice guys. They practice catch and release on bigger bass, I just don't know where they're releasing them. Maybe they're tired of sharing.    

I hope I'm wrong. Maybe the big ones have just gotten smarter. What do you think? Is it possible that one family fishing a lake of this size could totally change the dynamic of the lake? Or is there a more likely scenario that I'm just missing?

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Is it possible that one family fishing a lake of this size could totally change the dynamic of the lake? Or is there a more likely scenario that I'm just missing?

I truly believe that one family could indeed change the dynamic of a body of water that size. Of course, there are many reasons why a body of water can go bad and I couldn't even begin to speculate on your strip pit.

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Maybe by taking all the smaller fish to eat, you took that year class out that would produce those 3lbs today.

Obviously, that would take a few years to happen.

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I am not disagreeing with Marty, it's certainly possible that the pond has been fished out, but I fish MUCH smaller PUBLIC ponds where every fish is keep by a multitude of people. Of course, these guys don't catch my big fish, but the ponds have remained VERY healthy for the five years I have been fishing them.

I think it's more likely that there is another problem or, perhaps, this was just a bad year and you will catch bigger fish in 2007.

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Thanks for the replies guys, I hope RW is correct and it was just a bad (a waaay bad) year. I'll get back on the lake in February and probably have a chance to talk to one of the guys from the other family, he built a home on the lake and lives there year round. I'll mention that we haven't had any luck in a year and ask his opinion.  They seem like straight shooters.

We've fished this lake for more than 15+ years, and I don't think we've kept enough bass to do any harm. In fact, I think we're helping it some, especially since this lake gets very little pressure.

Here's to better days in '07!

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 I fish some small ponds the get hit by every one and there three brothers. They keep every thing they catch (down to poly wogs)  and whial the pond is hard to fish the big ones are still there just harder to catch. 8-)  

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If the vegetation on that pond has become over-abundant, you might be dealing with "eutrophication".

In lay terms, that describes a state of Hyper-Fertility = Excess Vegetation = Oxygen Deprivation = Fish Kill

If the vegetation appears to be in healthy balance, than it may indeed be due to overharvest.

I don't believe it's possible to 'fish-out' a pond, but it is possible to 'fish-down' a pond, especially a tiny pond (long story).

Roger

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No way to tell what happened but I can offer this...  I lived for 5 years on a 70 acre private lake in an east TX community which was fished harder than most east Tx water...  there were 15- 20 of us that were hard core (although some kept a few to eat) and another 50 or so that kept and ate EVERYTHING they caught, legal or not.  The fishery continued to thrive each year.  

So although we are talking about a bigger lake, we are also talking about many more fisherman.  So unless the "others" were fishing all the time and were catching the heck out of them, I find it hard to believe that they fished it out this year.  There are so many environmental possibilities that we couldn't intelligently speculate based on what we know.

I hope you just had a tough year, I know all too well what it's like to lose a great home lake.

Best of luck this year,

Keith

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Excellent answer RoLo. I agree with you. I have seen this situation manifest itself on a few small family farm ponds that range from 5-20 acres here in Maryland. I was wondering also, can you say eutrophication three times real fast, ;D

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Excellent answer RoLo. I agree with you. I have seen this situation manifest itself on a few small family farm ponds that range from 5-20 acres here in Maryland. I was wondering also, can you say eutrophication three times real fast, ;D

Yes....but I have a little trouble with "hypereutrophication"  ;D

Roger

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                                                                   LOL, :)

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I've got friends that owned 2 properties over the years each with about a 2-3 acre lake on them.  Both had fairly decent bass populations which I helped monitor.  The first pond, they let a neighbor fish it and within a year I wasn't able to pull a fish bigger than 12" out of it.  Their second lake on a different property had an OK population but within a year I couldn't pull a fish out of it.  One day their son found footprints and a broken rod on the dam. He followed the footprints to the property line and could see where somone had been jumping the fence.  It's not hard to clean out a smaller pond.

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It's not hard to clean out a smaller pond.
There's no doubt about it Cart.

I've Told This Story Before:

When my wife was a real estate agent in Georgia, we got exclusive permission to fish a 3-acre pond, which hadn't been fished

in years (not legally anyway). A building project was in the works, and the pond was slated to be filled-in and developed,

so it was a catch-and-KEEP situation. Though we only fished from shore, the entire perimeter of the pond was passable.

During our first couple of visits to that pond it was Pure Heaven! We caught about one bass every 10 or 15 minutes,

about 8 to 10 bass per hour between us. Oddly, there were very few undersize bass, but no lunkers either. All the bass

ran between 1½ and 3 pounds, the heaviest being 3.5 lbs (a little disappointing). We fished that pond about 3 times a week,

normally fishing about 1 or 2 hrs in the evening. With each successive trip I noticed that our success was in a steady decline,

we were catching fewer-and-fewer and smaller-and-smaller bass. After about a half-dozen trips (couple of weeks)

the fishing was extremely slow, and then after another couple of weeks we were getting skunked more than half the time.

At that point, I quit fishing that pond altogether, because we had several others ponds that remained very productive.

It's interesting to note that all the other ponds that continued to yield plenty of bass were different in many ways:

1. We released all our bass in all the other ponds

2. The other ponds ranged between 12 and about 200 acres (a long cast didn't come close to reaching the center of the pond)

3. All the other ponds had sections of impassable shoreline

I now believe that a 3 acre pond can be fished-down in "one month" by "two anglers" who practice catch-and-KEEP.

I'm sure that much larger ponds would experience a similar fate if they're subjected to proportionately similar conditions

(one catch-&-keep fisherman per acre, a boat and a few months).

Back At The Ranch

Rather than kill all the bass, I came prepared with a large holding tank and transplanted some of the bass

into my tiny backyard pond in Rico, Georgia. When I say tiny, I mean TINY, as it only taped about 20-ft across and 30-ft long,

but on the upside, this allowed me to keep an eye on all the goings-on in that pond. At one point there were 6 hungry bass

in there and I would test different lures and retrieves using hookless lures. In truth, the bass were so aggressive

(starving perhaps), that I really didn't learn very much. I truly believe that a novice fisherman could've caught all 6 of my bass,

literally "fishing-out" that tiny pond in about 15 minutes!

As a footnote, I noticed that on most of the private ponds we fished, the biggest bass almost always fell first,

generally within the first hour or so. I'd imagine this is due to the aggressive behavior of the pond Lords so to speak.

Roger

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Thanks for the help on this guys. This lake is a little bigger than your average farm pond. we've estimated 40-50 acres when looking at an aerial map comparing it to plots of known size. Vegitation has never been a big problem, though 2005 saw a significant coontale outbreak. The numbers of fish are still good. We have no problem catching 20 or more bass in a full day of fishing. The problem is that the big bass have all but disappeared...or maybe they've just gotten better at hiding.

Here's to better luck in '07!

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