Fish biologists take a lot of heat for not keeping their fingers on the pulse of northern Indiana lakes.
But when you only have three district biologists overseeing some 180 natural lakes that have public access (about 33,000 acres of water) and another 70 that have limited access, is it really possible?
Historically, fish managers have tried to conduct a thorough survey of each lake every 5-10 years. Those surveys require a lot of man hours to run shock boats and nets over a 10-day period. Couple that with our weather issues, you can see that not every lake gets looked at as often as biologists or sportsmen would prefer.
That’s why the northern fisheries district has undertaken a more regional approach that allows them to get a snapshot comparison of more lakes utilizing a “status and trends” system.
This summer, for example, they will get a snapshot view of at about 16 lakes over two days and feed that data into a computer.
Lakes to be surveyed are: Indiana Lake in Elkhart County; Hill, McClure, and Waubee lakes in Kosciusko County; Adams and Royer lakes in LaGrange County; Crooked, Gordy and Miller lakes in Noble County; Flint Lake in Porter County; Riddles Lake in St. Joseph County; Arrowhead, Hamilton, Little Lime, and Silver lakes in Steuben County, and Little Cedar Lake in Whitley County.
“We’re not getting lazy; we’re doing more surveys and working smarter,” said biologist Jed Pearson.
During the abbreviated surveys, biologists will use electrofishing boats, gill nets, and trap nets to capture fish. Each will be identified, measured and released. Scale samples are taken from popular sport fish to determine their growth rate.
Although this system is a spot check, the lakes chosen represent a variety of lake habitats enabling the DNR to compile a composite view of how fish populations change in northern Indiana over time.