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 Salamonie Reservoir

Fish and Wildlife Research and Management Notes
Edward R. Braun, Fisheries Biologist
 Date: August 11, 2000  Title:
Impact of Water Level Management on Fish Populations of Upper Wabash Reservoirs - Project Progress Report



Mississinewa and Salamonie Reservoirs are U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) flood control projects in the upper Wabash River watershed. Both were constructed in the 1960's. The reservoirs were drawn down 25 feet in the winter to increase storage capacity. A three- year test of modified drawdown procedure at Salamonie and winter pool elevation at Mississinewa was begun in the fall of 1997. Under the agreement, the Division of Fish and Wildlife will monitor fish populations through general fish population surveys in August each year through 2001 and conduct angler creel surveys on both reservoirs and the tailwaters in 2001. Creel survey data was lacking for Mississinewa Reservoir so one was conducted during the summer of 1998 to collect reference data. Creel surveys were conducted on Salamonie Reservoir in 1992 and on the tailwaters of both reservoirs in the spring of 1997. General fish population surveys were conducted on Salamonie Reservoir 26-30 July 1999 and on Mississinewa Reservoir 9-13 August 1999. Sampling effort was reduced to 16 gill-net lifts and four hours dc electrofishing at each reservoir as recommended in the 1998 progress report to reduce mortality. Water levels at both reservoirs were stable during 1999.

The fish population of Mississinewa Reservoir continues to be dominated by gizzard shad and channel catfish. Bluegill and white crappie increased in relative abundance and size while white bass and largemouth bass relative abundance decreased. Thirty-five age 1+ and ten age 2+ walleye were collected, more than in any previous survey. Carp accounted for 6% of the sample by number but 25% by weight.

The fish population of Salamonie Reservoir is dominated by gizzard shad, white crappie and channel catfish which accounted for 44% of the biomass collected. Bluegill abundance and size increased. Largemouth bass abundance remains low. Carp accounted for 4% of the sample by number but 25% by weight.

In the fall of 1999 the ACE held a public meeting to inform people that there was a problem affecting the integrity of Mississinewa Dam. We were informed that the reservoir would be lowered to normal winter pool elevation of 712 ft. by the end of October 1999 to facilitate study of the problem and most likely not return to normal summer pool elevation until repairs were complete. ACE estimated that it would take at least three to five years to design, fund and complete repairs. Work plan 98825 therefore is put on hold until after repairs are complete and water level management can be renegotiated.



Mississinewa and Salamonie Reservoirs are U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) flood control projects on the Mississinewa and Salamonie Rivers respectively in northeast Indiana (Figure 1). Both were completed in the 1960's to control flood waters in the Wabash River. During summer months, surface acreage of Mississinewa Reservoir is maintained at about 3,180 acres and Salamonie Reservoir at 2,665 acres. After Labor Day each year, both have been lowered 25 feet by December to facilitate spring flood water storage. This drawdown seriously impacts recreational opportunities and the fish populations. After 30 years of operation, the ACE agreed to alter water level management practices to enhance recreation. Computer modeling indicated that a ten foot reduction in drawdown at Mississinewa and slower drawdown at both reservoirs would not have a major impact on the flood storage capacity. The ACE started a three year trial period in the fall of 1997 to verify the model. The Department of Natural Resources-Division of Fish and Wildlife will monitor the fish communities and fishing activity to see if any major changes can be correlated to the new water level strategy.



Fish population: The fish population of Mississinewa and Salamonie Reservoirs will be monitored yearly through standard fish population surveys conducted during August. Effort will consist of 24 gill-net lifts and 4 hours of night dc electrofishing per reservoir. Nets will be set in approximately the same locations and electrofishing stations will be the same shoreline areas each year. Data will be compared to previous years.

Angler use: Probability creel surveys will be used to estimate angler use. Methods will be the same as used at Salamonie Reservoir in 1992 (Braun 1996). Creel surveys will cover the period of April 1 through September 30. Creel survey data was lacking for Misissinewa Reservoir, therefore a creel survey was conducted in 1998 to establish a reference (Braun 1998). It was assumed that the fish population and fishing pressure had not changed appreciably in one year. Probability of ramp use was based on data collected by the ACE in 1989. In addition to the usual demographics, anglers were asked to answer several questions.

Angler creel surveys were conducted on the tailwaters of Mississinewa and Salamonie Reservoirs during April and May 1997 (Braun 1998). These creel surveys verified excellent fishing for walleye, crappie and catfish. These surveys are to be repeated in the spring of 2001for comparison.

This report covers general fisheries surveys conducted on Mississinewa and Salamonie Reservoirs in 1999. Sampling effort was four hours of dc night electrofishing and 16 gill-nets lifts per reservoir. The Salamonie Reservoir survey was 26-30 July 1999 and the Mississinewa Reservoir survey was 9-13 August 1999. Creel surveys were not scheduled during 1999.

  • Water chemistry analysis was conducted on 26 July. The water was green from a planktonic algal bloom. Secchi disc was four feet and dissolved oxygen was present to a depth of 20 feet.
  • Twenty-four species were represented in the catch of 2,609 fish weighing 1,443.45 pounds (Appendix B). Fifty-four percent of the number and 54.6% of the weight were species commonly sought by anglers.
  • Gizzard shad was the most abundant species with 996 collected. YOY were very abundant but not collected as they were <2.0 inches in length. Length range of shad collected was 3.1-14.0 inches.
  • Length range of the 543 white crappies collected was 1.3-9.4 inches. White crappie accounted for 20.8% of the sample by number and 6.0% by weight. Only 19.5% were 8 inches. Growth was average.
  • Black crappies are also present but few in number. Length range of the 20 collected was 2.6-9.4 inches. Growth was similar to white crappie.
  • Channel catfish accounted for 19.8% of the sample by number but 43.2% by weight. Length range was 1.2-27.0 inches. Forty-three percent were 16 inches while 8.9% were 20 inches.
  • Bluegill accounted for 5.2% of the sample by number and 0.9% by weight. Length range of the 136 bluegills collected was 1.0-8.1 inches. Twenty-five percent were 6 inches. Growth was above average.
  • Carp accounted for 4.4% of the sample by number and 25.9% by weight. Length range was 9.4-27.8 inches. Forty-two percent were 20 inches while 4.3% were 24 inches.
  • Ninety-one white bass were collected. Length range was 2.1-16.0 inches. Eighty percent were YOY and 2.0-4.5 inches and only one was >12 inches. Growth was average.
  • Thirty-one percent of the 87 largemouth bass collected were YOY and 2.0-5.0 inches. Length range of older bass collected was 6.7-19.5 inches. The 19.5 inch bass was fin clipped from the 1992 population estimate and was ten years old. Nine were 14 inches and three were 18 inches. Growth was above average.
  • Two flathead catfish were collected, 8.2 and 12.6 inches.

  • The later and slower drawdown from summer to winter pool at Salamonie Reservoir does not appear to have improved the fish population. When compared to the last general survey conducted in 1991, the species composition, size ranges and catch rates for most fish species are nearly the same.
  • Gizzard shad still dominate the fish population and are the main forage species. Electrofishing catch rate of shad larger than six inches was 125 per hour in 1999 compared to 105 per hour in 1991. Gill-net catch rate was only 17 per lift in 1999 compared to 84 per lift in 1991.
  • White crappie are the target of the majority of anglers on Salamonie Reservoir. The population remains dominated by age 2+ and 3+ fish averaging 7.5 inches in length. While gill-net catch rate decreased slightly from 36.5 to 31 per net lift, the electrofishing catch rate increased from 9.7 to 11.8 per hour. Many anglers complain about the small size of crappies and request a ten inch size limit. It takes three years for the crappies in Salamonie to reach eight inches. It would take five to six years for them to reach ten inches. Few survive past age 3+, so a ten inch size limit would allow virtually no harvest of crappies.
  • Channel catfish remain the third most abundant species. Gill-net catch rate decreased slightly from 34 per lift to 28.6 per lift but electrofishing catch rate remained at 15.3 per hour both years. Catfish are probably an underutilized resource.
  • Electrofishing catch rate of stock size (8 inches) largemouth bass declined from 17.7 per hour to 12.3 per hour. The bass population remains low in this inhospitable environment. Those that survive grow rapidly, reaching legal size of 14 inches at age 4+, a year earlier than the average for northern Indiana.
  • Catch rate of age 1+ and older white bass declined slightly from 2 per net lift to 1.1 per net lift and electrofishing catch rate also declined from 1 per hour to 0.75 per hour. Growth was the same during both surveys. White bass populations are very cyclic and it appears that both surveys occurred near the low point in that cycle. The large number of young-of-year collected may indicate an upward trend in the cycle.
  • Despite continued stocking, walleye have not fared well in Salamonie Reservoir. None were collected during the 1999 survey. Salamonie Reservoir personnel continue to raise walleye fingerlings in rearing ponds on the property which are released directly to the lake with no attempt to determine the number released. Observations during draining of the rearing pond indicate low numbers of walleye were released in recent years which may be a contributing factor. The tailwaters downstream of the dam however, continue to provide excellent walleye fishing, especially during spring. These fish most likely come from the reservoir during fall drawdown.




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