June 12, 2008

Company’s Donation Adds to Striped Bass at Clinton

By Scott Richardson;[email protected]

Striped bass may be the strongest fish swimming in Illinois waters with the exception of muskies and flathead catfish.

As of this week, more hybrid stripers are swimming in Clinton Lake thanks to Exelon, which operates the nuclear power plant at the 5,000-acre reservoir. The company donated 50,000 hybrid striped bass fingerlings about three to four inches long as one of several initiatives to improve fishing and the natural setting at the lake.

John Petro, Exelon's principal environmental specialist, said the gift was in response to a comment from Illinois Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist Mike Garthaus.

He was unsure the state could supply a desired quantity of the fish for Clinton Lake because of competition from other state- managed reservoirs for the limited number of the fish raised by IDNR hatcheries. They do not spawn naturally. Exelon decided to step up to the plate.

"We are trying to work closer with the DNR to develop the fishery on this lake, and this is a starting point for the company," Petro said. "This is an example of what we can do in the future."

"From day one, the company has been committed to having this be a good lake ..." added Bruce Paulsen, Exelon communications specialist at the plant. "We want this to be a good place for people to come and enjoy."

The history of hybrid striped bass at Clinton Lake is as old as the reservoir itself. IDNR began stockings in 1978 and continued adding about 50,000 of the young fish until the late 1990s, when the number of available fish began to fall. Just 4,000 young hybrids were stocked last year.

In the late 1990s, the IDNR also began stocking pure striped bass, one parent of the hybrids, every year or during alternate years. The lake also has a population of white bass, the other parent of the hybrid line, but Petro said their numbers have been declining over the years.

The hybrids and pure stripers that are in the lake are thriving because the reservoir contains ample food in the form of gizzard shad. But, Garthaus said the absence of large numbers of striped bass in recent stockings have taken a toll on the population. Catch rates during annual surveys are poor, he said. DNR biologists once captured six hybrids an hour during surveys. That numbers is now one fish per hour.

"Our hybrid striped bass are really low," he said. "If you're going to catch a hybrid striper at Clinton now, it's going to be pretty big because it's pretty old."

Ten-pound fish are possible, but most of the larger ones range from six to seven pounds, he said.

Garthaus lauded Exelon for its contribution of striped bass plus other planned projects, including a new fish rearing pond that the company will fund at the lake. Garthaus hopes construction will be done this year so walleyes can be raised in it in 2009.

Three existing rearing ponds at the reservoir are being used to raise black-nosed crappies. Over the years, keeping good numbers of crappies in the lake has been problematic, as it is at other cooling plant reservoirs. Biologists are unsure why.

Elsewhere, Exelon recently contributed fish cribs at Braidwood, which is a cooling reservoir at another company power plant in northern Illinois. The company and IDNR also are cooperating on a habitat project to add vegetation at Braidwood to give young fish a place to hide from predators and increase their odds of survival.

Garthaus, who has planted some vegetation at Clinton, is hoping to do a more extensive project there with the company's help in the future.

High water

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Lake Shelbyville expects the flood-control reservoir to crest today. The rising water forced the corps to open high water ramps and close secondary ramps. Boats can be launched at Bo Wood, Dam West, Lithia Springs, Lone Point, Opossum Creek, Wilborn Creek, Eagle Creek State Park, and Wolf Creek State Park.

Coon Creek and Whitley Creek are the only primary boat ramps closed because of high water. All beaches and secondary boat ramps are closed. Other activities around the lake also are impacted.

Boaters beware. Watch for floating debris, and big boats may have little or no clearance under bridges.

For information on conditions, phone (217) 774-2020.

Tournament results- Domenic Theison of Mackinaw and Tom Cassel of Danvers won the Bass 25 event on Evergreen Lake on Sunday with five bass of 12.70 pounds, including big bass of 3.35 pounds. Jon Hodge and Brian Bounds were second. Paul Hudson and Chad Fandel were third. - Adam Stark won the Bloomington Normal Bass Club event on Mississippi River pool 19 with a five bass limit of 11.75 pounds. Dave Whalen was second. Jerry Martoglio was third.

Scott Richardson is Pantagraph outdoor editor. Contact him at (309) 820-3227 or e-mail [email protected] Share stories and read past outdoor and fishing columns at www.pantagraph.com/ blogs

. Share stories and read past outdoor and fishing columns at www.pantagraph.com/blogs

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