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Walleye Waters



Sullivan Lake


Fish and Wildlife Research and Management Notes
  Author: Brian M. Schoenung, Fisheries Biologist
 Date: July 2, 2002  Title: SULLIVAN LAKE

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 2002.

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.


Table. Saugeye and walleye stocking history at Sullivan Lake, 1983 through 2001.
Year Species Stocked Number Stocked Total per Acre Length (inches) Mean Range
1983 5,840 12.7 1.3 1.0-1.5
1984 18,200 39.5 2.1 1.9-2.6
1985 23,748 51.5 1.8 1.6-2.2
1986 23,031 50.0 1.9 1.3-2.5
1987 7,701 16.7 2.0 1.6-2.3
1988 23,450 50.8 2.1 2.0-2.6
1989 23,200 50.3 1.3 1.1-1.4
1990 23,050 50.0 1.5 1.4-1.7
1991 23,059 50.0 1.5 1.0-1.8
1992 23,050 50.0 1.3 1.2-1.5
1993 23,050 50.0 1.5 1.3-2.1
1994 24,325 52.8 1.6 1.3-1.8
1995 23,535 51.1 2.0 1.7-2.2
1996 23,113 50.1 1.4 1.2-1.7
1997 23,050 50.0 1.5 1.1-1.8
1998 46,100 100.0 1.6 1.3-1.9
1999 39,044 84.7 1.9 1.3-2.7
2000 34,520 74.9 2.0 1.8-2.3
2001 44,482 96.5 1.7 1.3-2.0


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 water clarity.

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 similar lakes.

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 average thereafter.

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 structure.

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 alliances.


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.

Back to Management and Research Notes


The following questions were considered in developing each rule change proposal. Prepared by Gwen White

What new rule or rule change is being proposed?

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) inches long.

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 this problem/opportunity?

None known.

Under what statutory authority can DNR make the proposed change/addition?

IC 14-22-2-6

What history/background is behind this suggested change?

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?

Not known.

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 fishery.

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?

None known.

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.




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