Date: 04-17-06 12:58
I received a reply to some questions about the state of DNR activities for Horseshoe. Here is their reply:
Horseshoe lake is pretty infertile as far as its potential to grow fish. The DNR was very involved with Horseshoe lake over a twelve year study period that ended in the early 1990's. We were trying to see if activities like walleye stocking and actual direct removals of bullheads and stunted panfish could help improve the quality of stunted panfish populations. See the problem was not that all the big fish were harvested so much as the panfish (except crappie) grew so slowly most lived out their life time without reaching decent size. Walleye like to feed on bluegill but we never could get the walleye population high enough (even with experimental stocking of very large walleye fingerlings (10 inches or bigger) to make a difference in thinning out stunted panfish . Direct removal of bullheads and panfish did cause a significant growth spurt in remaining panfish but the effects only last a couple years. With fewer panfish and bullheads and only a small walleye population more of the eggs laid survived so things quickly went back to as stunted as before. Because we had created a small walleye population we have continue regular stocking but I suspect that the walleye population is now very low. The next time Horseshoe comes up for a survey I will have to decide if walleye stocking is worth continuing or not.
After the bass size limit went into effect in 1989 stunted panfish became much less of a problem on area lakes because the natural predator was protected. Now the bass are usually more abundant and suffer from slow growth. Back in the early 1990's Horseshoe had only a modest bass population but it was known for producing some real big ones. I suspect bass are more numerous now but not very many much over the 14 inch size limit.
As far as crappie go, they were never very abundant in the twelve years we studied the panfish. Its pretty typical for crappie populations to be cyclical with a peak in fishing every 4 or 5 years and then several years of low populations. Stocking crappie would not be effective management tool. The habitat conditions are adequate for crappie to reproduce naturally. If natural fingerlings aren't surviving well neither would stocked ones.
Bass are the dominant predator and they are already closed for the first part of the season and under a fairly high size limit and most people don't consider them good table fair and fish them catch and release regardless. Closing the gamefish season for just a few years would not accomplish much except to attract a lot of fishing pressure when it reopened. Actually if the growth of bass on Horseshoe is as poor as what we have recently found on nearby Nancy and Kimball chain, closing the season entirely may not result in any more or bigger bass or better panfish than present situation.