Fish and Wildlife Research and Management Notes
M. Schoenung, Fisheries Biologist
July 2, 2002
Sullivan Lake is a 461-acre impoundment located near Sullivan,
Indiana. It was constructed to provide flood control and
recreation. The maximum depth is 25 feet while the average depth
is about 10 feet. The lake and adjacent park are maintained by the
Sullivan County Park Board. Public facilities at the lake include
a campground, picnic area, beach, boat mooring docks, fishing dock
for the disabled, and two boat ramps. There are also numerous
private residences on the lake.
Sullivan Lake supports a typical warm-water fish community
consisting primarily of bluegill, largemouth bass, gizzard shad,
and white crappie (Andrews 1992 and 1998). Fish management at
Sullivan Lake is conducted by the Indiana Department of Natural
Resources and has focused primarily on largemouth bass and panfish.
A 14-inch minimum size limit has been in effect for largemouth
bass since 1976. To provide additional fishing opportunities and
help utilize surplus forage, saugeye (walleye-sauger hybrid) have
been stocked since 1983 (Table).
In 1994, a statewide review of the walleye program recommended
an experimental switch from saugeye to walleye at Sullivan Lake.
This was done to determine if walleye could perform as well as
saugeye. Three successful walleye stockings in 1995, 1996, and
1997 were followed up by a creel survey in 1998 to evaluate
overall performance and yield of walleye compared to previous
creel data for saugeye. This creel survey documented poor walleye
survival to adulthood with an overall reduction in harvest
compared to past saugeye yields and therefore a return to saugeye
was recommended (Andrews 1999). It was also recommended that the
statewide 14-inch minimum size limit be expanded to include
Sullivan Lake. This rule change went into effect in the spring of
The present survey was conducted June 4-6, 2001, with the
objective of evaluating the overall status of the fishery. Fish
sampling efforts consisted of 1.5 hours of D.C. night
electrofishing, 10 overnight gill net sets, and 6 overnight trap
net sets. Additionally, standardized fall saugeye indexing was
conducted October 1, 2001. This report presents the results of the
survey, selected results from fall electrofishing, and
recommendations for future work.
Saugeye and walleye stocking history at Sullivan Lake,
1983 through 2001.
||Total per Acre
Sullivan Lake was several feet above normal pool at the time of
the survey. The lake had not yet stratified due to heavy rains
prior to the survey. Dissolved oxygen was adequate for game fish
survival to a depth of at least 12 feet. The Secchi disk reading,
an index of water transparency, was 2.9 feet, indicating poor
Fish sampling efforts produced 2,173 fish weighing an estimated
746.10 pounds. Gizzard shad were most abundant by number (50.9
percent), followed by bluegill (21.5 percent), white crappie (8.3
percent), saugeye/walleye (7.5 percent), largemouth bass (7.3
percent), and channel catfish (1.0 percent). Gizzard shad were
also most abundant by weight (33.8 percent), followed by saugeye/walleye
(16.1 percent), largemouth bass (14.9 percent), common carp (10.3
percent), bluegill (8.5 percent), channel catfish (8.3 percent),
and white crappie (4.4 percent). Other fish collected in the
survey include spotfin shiner, black crappie, yellow bullhead,
warmouth, black bullhead, green sunfish, brown bullhead, redear
sunfish, and golden shiner.
A total of 1,107 gizzard shad weighing an estimated 252.00
pounds was collected. Shad ranged from 6.8 to 13.7 inches in
length. A majority of the shad collected were between 7.5 and 8.5
inches in length (58.7 percent). No young-of-the-year (YOY) or age
1 shad were collected but several schools of small shad were
observed during the survey. Shad growth was slightly below average
to age 3 and average thereafter in comparison to growth at other
The bluegill sample consisted of 468 fish weighing an estimated
63.60 pounds. Harvestable size bluegill, those 6.0 inches and
larger, comprised 56.2 percent of the catch. Bluegill 7.0 inches
and larger accounted for just 17.5 percent of the catch and no
preferred size fish (8.0 inches or larger) were collected.
Bluegill ranged in length from 1.7 to 7.7 inches. Bluegill growth
was average to age 3 but decreased to slightly below average
thereafter compared to bluegill growth at similar impoundments.
A total of 180 white crappie was collected in the survey. They
ranged from 1.4 to 13.8 inches in length with an estimated total
weight of 34.48 pounds. Crappie 8 inches and larger accounted for
30.6 percent of the sample as compared to 30.5 percent in 1997 and
35.3 percent in 1991 (Andrews 1998). Crappie 10 inches and larger
accounted for 3.9 percent of the sample compared to 0.8 percent in
1997 and 5.0 percent in 1991. Crappie reproduction appeared to be
fairly consistent with the exception of the 2000 year class which
is somewhat weak. Crappie growth was below average to age 1 and
average from age 2 through age 4. The crappie population has been
relatively stable since 1991.
A total of 164 walleye and saugeye was collected in the survey.
Fish ranged from 7.8 to 25.4 inches in length with an estimated
weight of 119.61 pounds. Harvestable saugeye/walleye (those 14
inches and larger) accounted for 28.0 percent of the fish
collected. An additional 269 walleye/saugeye were collected during
fall sampling. These fish ranged from 7.6 to 26.7 inches in
length. Fall electrofishing produced 74.0 (YOY) saugeye/hour and
46.5 age 1 saugeye/hour. This compares favorably to previous mean
catch rates at Sullivan Lake for walleye (25.8 YOY/hour) (4.5 age
1/hour) and saugeye (23.9 YOY/hour) (9.3 age 1/hour) (Andrews
1998). Growth by species, was slightly above average for walleye
and average for age 1 saugeye with age 2 saugeye growth slightly
below average. The largemouth bass sample consisted of 159 fish
weighing an estimated 110.67 pounds. Bass ranged from 1.5 to 20.0
inches in length with 18.9 percent of legal size or larger (14
inches). The electrofishing catch rate (102.0 bass/hour) for
largemouth bass is high for a lake dominated by gizzard shad and
is consistent with catch rates from past surveys. Growth of
largemouth bass was above average to age 1 and slightly above
Twenty-one channel catfish were sampled that weighed an
estimated 62.11 pounds. Channel catfish ranged from 11.8 to 28.7
inches in length. The last stocking of channel catfish at Sullivan
Lake took place in 1993. Channel catfish catch rates in subsequent
surveys have varied little from those observed while stockings
were taking place, indicating that natural reproduction is
sufficient to maintain a fishable population.
Other fish collected in the survey that may make occasional
contributions to angler harvest include black crappie, yellow
bullhead, warmouth, common carp, black bullhead, green sunfish,
brown bullhead, and redear sunfish.
Sullivan Lake should offer excellent fishing opportunities for
saugeye and largemouth bass for the next several years. Saugeye
growth continues to meet the district average with the exception
of growth in 2000 which decreased slightly for all age classes
when compared to growth in previous surveys. Interestingly, this
slower than average growth directly corresponds with what appears
to be a missing year class of gizzard shad. No age 1 shad were
collected in the survey (2000 year class). Saugeye catch rates are
higher than those observed in any previous sampling and are
probably related to the increase in the stocking rate from 50 to
100 fish/acre. The inclusion of this lake under the statewide
14-inch walleye minimum size limit should improve the saugeye size
Sullivan Lake appears to have potential to be managed as a
quality largemouth bass fishery. Largemouth bass densities are
high for a lake dominated by gizzard shad and growth is excellent.
A work plan has been written to conduct more in-depth management
of largemouth bass at selected waters including Sullivan Lake in
an attempt to improve fishing for quality size largemouth bass.
Fishing opportunities should be good for crappie and bluegill
although average size may be smaller than desired. More limited
fishing opportunities exist for channel catfish and bullheads.
Overall, the Sullivan Lake fishery has remained remarkably stable
over the past 10 years. While gizzard shad abundance is a concern
(over 50 percent by number), they are continuing to provide a good
source of forage for saugeye, largemouth bass, and those crappie
that reach lengths large enough to utilize them.
Poor water clarity is limiting the growth of aquatic
macrophytes at Sullivan Lake. Aquatic plants provide valuable
cover and food sources for fish, protect shorelines from erosion,
and enhance water quality and clarity. The Sullivan County Park
Board is currently pursuing state funding for lake enhancement
projects. These projects are a valuable tool in improving water
quality. The park board is encouraged to continue to utilize this
resource to improve the water quality at Sullivan Lake. The park
board should also embrace opportunities to improve land use within
the watershed of Sullivan Lake through involvement with County
Soil and Water Conservation Districts and cooperative watershed
Andrews, S.J. 1999. Fishing pressure, fish harvest and
comparative creel returns for supplementally stocked saugeye and
walleye at Sullivan Lake. Indiana Department of Natural Resources.
Indianapolis. 17 pp.
Andrews, S.J. 1998. Sullivan Lake 1997 fish management report.
Indiana Department of Natural Resources. Indianapolis. 17 pp.
Andrews, S.J. 1992. Sullivan Lake 1991 fish management report.
Indiana Department oNatural Resources. Indianapolis. 16 pp.
to Management and Research Notes
SAUGEYE AT SULLIVAN LAKE
following questions were considered in developing each rule change
proposal. Prepared by Gwen
What new rule or rule change is being
Delete the reference to Sullivan Lake from 312
IAC 9-7-12(b) to establish a 14-inch minimum size limit on walleye
and hybrid walleye (saugeye) at Sullivan Lake (Sullivan County).
- 312 IAC 9-7-12 Walleye; sauger; saugeye
- Authority: IC 14-22-2-6
- Affected: IC 14-22
Sec. 12. (a) The daily bag limit is six (6) for
any combination of walleye, sauger, or saugeye.
(b) Except on
Sullivan Lake and the
Ohio River, and as provided in subsection (c), a person must not
possess a walleye or saugeye unless it is at least fourteen (14)
Does this change indeed address a problem
or opportunity? What problem/opportunity does it address?
Opportunity. Sullivan Lake was originally exempted
from the statewide walleye/saugeye size limit because of an ongoing
research project to determine if walleye would survive and grow as
well as saugeye at this lake. The research is now complete
indicating that saugeyes yielded the best fishery and the statewide
limit should be applied.
Will it enhance or protect anyone's
quality of life? How?
Enhance. Removal of the exemption will provide
survival of quality walleye and saugeye in Sullivan Lake.
What is the null-alternative (in simple,
concise, understandable terms)? The null-alternative is what will
realistically happen if the rule is not implemented (political,
institutional, legal, social, economic impacts of not implementing).
Allow continued unrestricted angling for and
possible depletion of saugeye/walleye stocks in Sullivan Lake.
What are other alternative solutions to
Under what statutory authority can DNR
make the proposed change/addition?
What history/background is behind this
Sullivan Lake was originally exempted from the
statewide walleye/saugeye size limit because of an ongoing
research project to determine if walleye would survive and grow as
well as saugeye at this lake.
What technical/scientific basis is there
for this change (attitude or biological surveys, etc.)?
Fisheries research is now complete indicating
that saugeyes yielded the best fishery and the statewide limit
should be applied.
Is there any anecdotal information that
would be helpful in understanding a need for this change?
Who are potentially affected interests
(internal and external, individuals and groups)?
Anglers for saugeye / walleye on Sullivan Lake.
What problems may this change create for
potentially affected interests?
Anglers will not be able to remove as many
saugeye / walleye smaller than 14 inches from the lake.
Are there any people who will be
indirectly affected by this change?
Bait and tackle dealers in the area may benefit
if the size limit effectively leads to development of a quality
Identify potentially affected interests
who feel that the DNR should not be making this change. What do you
anticipate their concerns/arguments will be?
Anglers who take saugeye smaller than 14 inches.
What can be done to minimize potential
negative impact to these potentially affected interests?
Encourage catch and release fishing and promote
the benefits to anglers of the size limit
Have potentially affected interests been
involved on the development of this proposal so far? If so, how and
to what extent?
The proposed change was favored by over 93% of
the anglers interviewed at Sullivan during a 1998 angler survey.
What misperceptions may people have about
this rule change?
What may potentially affected interests
suspect is DNR's hidden agenda?
Undue restriction on fisheries.
How should the potentially affected
interests concerns be addressed?
Provide information on the fisheries and creel
surveys that provide support for the change. Recognize that
changes to bag and size limits may be a temporary management tool
that will be evaluated through creel or fish surveys. If the
change is not having the desired effect, it may be removed in
subsequent rule packages. Enforcement should be easier, as the
change eliminates an exception to the general rule.