Where carp, bullheads and stunted crappie were once the catch of the day and anglers were scarce, a fisheries management project has transformed Yellowstone Lake into a fishing hotspot where anglers regularly land trophy size game fish, including a 57-inch musky.
“It’s been 14 years since the fisheries management plan was initiated and the Yellowstone Lake fishery is better than ever with no signs of slowing down,” says Bradd Sims, Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist based in Dodgeville.
Volunteer Wayne Stietz and WDNR conservation warden Nick Webster show off the smallmouth and largemouth bass that Yellowstone Lake is becoming known for.
“We expected a good response, but we didn’t expect it to be across the board. Panfish, catfish, walleye and bass have all shown a positive response and are providing great fishing in an area with few lakes.”
Recent surveys have shown that walleye are abundant, with more than five adult fish per acre, as are catfish, with more than 20 adult channel catfish per acre.
Of the largemouth bass sampled, 56 percent were greater than 16 inches while 24 percent were over 18 inches. Yellowstone Lake also supports a low density quality musky fishery as well that in 2006 produced a catch-and-release world record musky of 57 inches, Sims says.
Located in Lafayette County, Yellowstone Lake was created in 1954.
From the beginning, the lake would run a 15-year cycle starting with a desirable sport fishery and ending as a fishery dominated by carp, bullheads, and stunted crappie.
In 1968 and 1983 the lake would be drained and rotenone used to kill off rough fish. “In 1998 the cycle came full circle once again –Yellowstone was dominated by carp and bullheads with a nonexistent sport fishery,” Sims says.
Instead of using rotenone again, however, DNR and partners decided to try something different. They created a management plan that included removing carp, stocking predator species and reducing and controlling sediment entering the lake from land draining to the lake. They also sought to improve habitat and, once fish were restocked in the lake, put in place protective regulations to allow the populations to grow.
From 1998 to 2012 the Lafayette County Sportsman Alliance, DNR, private individuals, Natural Resources Conservation Service and Lafayette County Land & Conservation Department, implemented the plan of restoring the Yellowstone Lake sport fishery.
Sims says the results have exceeded expectations and the project has drawn calls and visitors from surrounding states’ natural resource agencies. “At the time, this kind of a bio-manipulation project was something new,” he says. “The results are probably better than we expected,” he says.
Recent surveys showed walleye ranging from 10.5 to 27 inches, largemouth bass 6.5 to 22.5 inches, channel catfish 20 to 27 inches, bluegill 2.5 to 8.9 inches and black crappies from 7 to 10.7 inches, Sims says.
John Arthur, superintendent of the Yellowstone Lake State Park, says the lake is the draw to the state park, whether spring, summer, winter or fall.
“The excellent fishery — thanks in no small part to Bradd — draws many people to this property,” Arthur says. “People come to fish because they catch fish here. Yellowstone is known for its crappies and to a lesser degree, its record book musky.”
And ice fishing accounts for 80 percent of park attendance during the frozen water months, Arthur says.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Bradd Sims 608-935-1935