Fisheries Biologist Talks about Monroe and Crane's Lake Greenwood

by Don Jordan
2/18/01

Photo.jpg (5531 bytes)After 16 years as the Avoca district fisheries biologist for the Indiana Div. of Fish and Wildlife, nobody has ever known Lake Monroe’s fishery better than Steve Andrews who now manages fish and wildlife at Crane.

"I really enjoyed managing Lake Monroe and figuring that fishery out. It was definitely a challenge. I enjoyed developing the predator stocking program there," said Andrews in a recent interview from his new office at Crane.

"Monroe is probably one of the more complex and dynamic fisheries in the state. Nobody will every fully understand what is going on out there. We may be got a hold of some of the basic interactions...the ones you notice," said the biologist who conducted a dozen fisheries surveys of various types at Monroe. "There has been a gradual improvement in the crappie fishing over the last 10 years or so."

The average size of Monroe crappie has increased over the past 10 years. It is possible to catch nice 11 and 12 inch crappie at Monroe now, but they are very hard to locate and are usually in deeper water than most anglers try at Monroe. The presence of larger crappie in Monroe is probably directly related to Andrews’ stockings of wiper and walleye, and the pressure those predators exert on Monroe’s volatile gizzard shad population.

Monroe’s gizzard shad population accounts for nearly one-third of the entire fishery. This population explosion was one reason Andrews stocked wiper and walleye. The results are noticeable, but so are environmental factors at Monroe.

"One of the things I noticed is the increasing development at the lake, and in particular, all the small coves now have a group boat pier in them. Development was noticeable. Also, there has been a noticeable increase in fishing for largemouth bass and particularly in tournament fishing. . The number of boats on the lake has increased to the point that I only go to Monroe during the week" he continued.

"I think tournament fishermen are pretty good at regulating themselves Catch and release fishing has been a main factor that has kept the bass fishing good. I would say Monroe is in the top 20 bass lakes in the state. The numbers of larger bass are still relatively good compared to a lot of lakes," said the Bedford resident.

Lake Monroe’s future? Here’s what Andrews said: "I don’t know that anybody ever figured out the entire fish population there, but Monroe will probably continue to (be similar to) what it has been for the next 10 to 20 years, and there may be a gradual decline due to aging of the lake. People at Monroe are fortunate that so much of that watershed is protected from development. Predator stocking can at least convert shad into usable fishing opportunities."

LAKE GREENWOOD

Andrews new territory may not be as overwhelming as Monroe’s 100,000-acre fishery, but Lake Greenwood inside the Crane reservation is home to nesting bald eagles and is one of the most beautiful and interesting bodies of water in southern Indiana. Andrews is already working on improving or at least holding the line on the fishery there.

Lake Greenwood covers 800 acres and is open to the public in the Crane’s public fishing and boating program. Any U.S. citizen can fish Greenwood by purchasing either a $15 annual pass or a $2 daily pass.

"Greenwood is primarily warm water fishery: largemouth bass, bluegill, redear, crappie, channel catfish. It is unusual in that it has a reproducing white bass population, and it doesn’t have gizzard shad as a forage bass. White bass are apparently spawning in the lake somewhere," explained the 45-year-old biologist.

He is attempting to get walleye established in Greenwood. The species was introduced last year in the "first modern day stocking" of walleye.

As many local anglers familiar with Greenwood will remember, a large variety of species was stocked at the impoundment over 20 years ago. Northern pike and walleye were among them, but, as Andrews explained, "they never did contribute anything to the fishery."

You may find walleye in Greenwood soon, however. There were two stockings in 2000, he said. One dose of 27,000 1- and 2-inch fingerlings went into Greenwood last June, and 900 "advanced" fingerlings, 6- to 8-inches long were stocked in October.

"Survival of those (June) fingerlings was very limited, if at all. Survival was relatively good for the October advanced fingerlings. The Indiana DNR did a fall shocking survey. They had a catch rate of 6.5 per hour. There standard for a successful stocking is 7 per hour. I have had at least one report of walleye being caught last fall, but we do have a few yellow perch in the lake, in the 6- to 10-inch range that might look like walleye. We do plan to stock walleye for at least the next two years," he said.

Unlike Monroe where walleye were intended to help control gizzard shad, there are no gizzard shad in Greenwood, so far…knock on wood. Andrews said there was a gizzard shad "scare" in the early 90s. A 12- to 15-inch slot limit for largemouth was imposed then, mainly in response to gizzard shad showing up in a survey. The shad have not reappeared, but the slot limit is coming back at Greenwood.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife biologists conducted a fishery survey on Greenwood last summer, and the outcome of that survey has stimulated some tinkering.

"We had a fish management meeting a week ago between federal and state biologists. We agreed to a slot limit for Greenwood this year. The goal is to increase the harvest of smaller bass," he added.

Andrews described Greenwood’s fishery, overall, as being in "good condition, especially the panfish and channel catfish. Largemouth bass are good in numbers, but there aren’t many legal fish." The slot limit, he hopes, will increase the number of larger bass and decrease the number of small ones.

Here’s Andrews summary of other discoveries from the summer, 2000 Greenwood survey:

*Bluegill: "Bluegill were nice size, 9.5 to 10 inch maximum, average about 7.5 inches, and abundant. There was concern that smaller bluegill were not as abundant as they should be. That might be related to the high density bass population. Out of 111 bluegill (in the survey), 31 were 8 inches or larger. So, over a fourth of the bluegill were large ones. There were some big redear in the survey. The biggest was 10 inches."

*Crappie: "The crappie fishery was average. Most fish were in the 9- to 10-inch range. There are both white and black crappie in Greenwood.

*Channel Catfish: The average was in the 2.5- to 3-lb. range. They have established a reproducing population in Greenwood and that is kind of unusual. Typically you see catfish reproduction controlled by bass predation, but Greenwood apparently has some other forage opportunity for bass that is different. There is a large population of shiners. That may be what they are eating. There is also a fairly large population of spotted suckers and white suckers.

Crane also offers reserved public deer hunts in the season, and there is a group campground for scouts and the like at one of the military reserve’s other, smaller lakes; however, Greenwood is the only spot open to general public use. Crane is not open to the public for spring wild turkey hunting.

The Crane website address is:  http://www.crane.navy.mil

 

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