Fish and Wildlife Research and Management Notes
Edward R. Braun,
| Date: August 11, 2000
Impact of Water Level Management on Fish Populations of Upper
Wabash Reservoirs - Project Progress Report
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
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.
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
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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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.
Big Turkey lake
Eagle Creek Reservoir
Lake of the Woods