Fisheries biologists go to school four to six years to learn how to manage our natural lakes and reservoirs. Unfortunately, a few anglers think they know better.
I managed a kids fishing derby at Shadyside Lake for over 25 years. We wanted to stock channel catfish for the kids to catch, but first, we had to get a stocking permit from the Indiana DNR. It is illegal for a private citizen to stock any kind of fish in a public lake without a DNR Permit.
In the late 1980's, I fished a lot of Red Man Tournaments. Some anglers complained about the slow growth rate of bass at Patoka and West Boggs reservoirs. "We need shad in these lakes," was the common theme. Somebody illegally stocked these lakes and others with gizzard shad.
The pride of Patoka was the numerous 9 to 10 inch bluegills. After the shad took over and began competing for food, the best bluegill was usually less than eight inches.
In recent years, West Boggs was taken over by shad and had to be drained twice, including this summer.
Cold winters with lots of snow covered ice is a shad's worst enemy and although last winter's prolonged cold weather killed thousands of gizzard shad in several northeast Indiana lakes, DNR fisheries biologists hoped even more of the nuisance fish would have died.
Our DNR reports that gizzard shad, a silver-colored forage fish, can over-populate a lake and compete with popular sport fish. Where abundant, shad can also indirectly reduce water clarity by feeding on microscopic animals that normally eat algae.
"The fewer shad we have in our glacial lakes, the better," said Neil Ledet, the DNR district biologist who covers several counties that border Ohio and Michigan.
According to Ledet, gizzard shad do not occur naturally in most lakes within his district; however, shad have appeared in more lakes throughout the state in recent years due to unauthorized stockings.