Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Heat wave, fish kills take toll, but not necessarily devastating

How low are area creeks and rivers? A four-wheeler splashes through the almost dry bed of Spring Creek at its mouth along the Illinois River in mid-July.NewsTribune photo/Craig Sterrett

How low are area creeks and rivers? A four-wheeler splashes through the almost dry bed of Spring Creek at its mouth along the Illinois River in mid-July.
Craig Sterrett
Department of Natural Resources biologists saw some good news and bad news in fish kills this summer in northern Illinois.

First the bad news: One of the fish kills happened due to high water temperatures in Spring Lake, the state’s main site for brood stock for muskellunge and northern pike the DNR stocks statewide. 

Regional fisheries biologist Dan Sallee said 40-year muskie and northern expert Wayne Herndon does a fantastic job of managing the breeding program at the lake, which is perfect habitat for muskies and northern.

But it wasn’t perfect habitat for all of the fish during the late June and July heat waves, and the state lost many valuable fish at Spring Lake. 

Still, the fish kill didn’t wipe out the population. Neither did some other kills of muskies and northerns in Illinois lakes. Most fish kills do not kill out everything.

Sallee said there also was a significant fish kill at the cooling lake for theDresdennuclear power plant, although public access and fishing are not allowed there. As of July 19, he was been pleasantly surprised to see the fish atLa SalleLakeholding their own, even though water temperatures in the coolest spot in the lake were in the 90s. He said the hybrid striped bass — one of the great attractions at the lake for anglers — are susceptible to high temperatures.
Now the good news: Reports of Asian silver carp and Bighead carp kills continued to come in to the DNR district office in July. Unfortunately, the kill isn’t likely to wipe out the population of these destructive invasive Asian carp species. They’re extremely prolific and lay millions of eggs.

Sallee often has been asked for a number or percentage of the Asian carp that have died this summer.

“People have asked me ‘how many’ and I say ‘One less than I’d like to see die,’” Sallee said.
Some fish kills also have been noticed on small streams.

In a weekly submitted fishing report to the NewsTribune, longtime tournament angler, fisherman and bait shop personality Thom Matejewski of Spring Valley remarked, “With the heat and dry weather, a lot of the smaller creeks are not fishable. The larger streams (like the Vermillion andGreen River) are still producing some good smallmouth.” (To get off the drought topic for a moment, Matejewski suggested: “Top water baits like a pop-r or a Rapala twitched on the surface seem to be producing the most fish. Northern pike are doing very well on theGreen riveroff spinner baits around the Amboy area.”)

While some fish die as stream levels fall, Sallee said many of the larger fish find their way to deep holes and many more migrate downstream.

During dry seasons along the Mississippi River, for example, smallmouth often congregate at the mouths of creeks — especially spring-fed creeks and seem to wait in the river until their creeks refill. Bass tournament anglers sometimes catch more smallmouth bass than largemouth bass on theMississippiduring competitions during dry seasons, Sallee said.

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