A Clear Success

Officials with Nebraska Game, Fish & Parks are pleased with the progress made on Lake Yankton one year after the manmade lake below Gavins Point Dam was partially drained and poisoned due to the overwhelming presence of endangered species. Officials noted, among other things, the clarity of the water on the lake now, as exhibited at the shoreline near the bottom of this photo, which was taken last month.

Exactly one year after a complete chemical renovation of Lake Yankton, signs of the lake’s recovery are everywhere.

Jeff Schuckman, Nebraska Game, Fish & Parks Northeast district fisheries manager, told the Press & Dakotan things are looking positive for the lake.

"I’d say everything is right on track and looks fantastic," Schuckman said.

He added that there are a lot of visible signs of the lake’s recovery.

"Probably everybody that’s been at the lake this summer has noticed how clear the water is," he said. "There’s abundant vegetation growing again in the lake which is great for fish habitats and for waterfowl. I was up there about three weekends ago doing some kayaking with my wife and really noticed a lot of users on the lake — lot of kayaks, canoes, the swimming beach was full, people on those stand-up paddle boards. It’s great to see the use back on the lake. And the water is just crystal clear."

The lake was partially drained and filled with 700 gallons of chemicals last September in an effort to kill off invasive species that had overtaken it following the flooding in 2011.

Schuckman said the lake’s fish population is also making a comeback.

"We do have a full complement of our stocking completed since the renovation," he said.

Since the renovation, the lake has been stocked with 16,759 large-mouth bass fingerlings (2014), 132,640 bluegill fingerlings, 300,000 walleye fry, 38,475 large-mouth bass fingerlings (2015), 50,018 black crappie fingerlings and 3,210 10-inch channel catfish.

Schuckman said those fish have been growing fast.

"I have seen some bass and blue gill swimming around," he said. "Looks like the bass are in that 8- to 10-inch range, and I’ve seen bluegill look like they’re around six inches or better."

He added that, so far, it’s looking as though the lake is free of invasive species.

"We feel it was a complete renovation," he said. "We got a very good kill on the lake and, while we haven’t been up there with our sampling gear yet taking a look at it, I haven’t seen any evidence of any unwanted species in there at this time."

He said there are plans to go to the lake later in the fall to check fish sizes and sample for any unwanted species such as Asian carp later in the fall.

Schuckman said all of this means a good fishing forecast for the near future.

"I think it’s going to get better as we go forward," he said. "As these fish start to get some size on them — they’re still going to grow real good — next summer, people are going to be able to go out there and catch-and-release large-mouth bass. Maybe towards the end of next summer, you’re going to see some of them pushing towards that 15-inch minimum size limit range. By this time next year you’re definitely going to see bluegill, probably seven and a half to eight inches long. It’ll be a couple of years yet for those crappie to get some size on them, but everything’s developing right on track."

He added that walleye will also take a few years to reach maturity.

Schuckman said they’re happy overall with how the year since the renovation has progressed.

"We’re real pleased with it," he said. "(We) appreciate the patience of people. I think, as everyone can see, it was really a good thing for that lake and we’re happy with the way it turned out and looking forward to people having some good fishing in that lake for years to come."

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