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Lake Yankton Renovation, Postscript

A couple of weeks ago I blogged about the Lake Yankton Renovation.  That fisheries management project went off on schedule last week in spite of cool and rainy conditions.   Right now I want to show you a few pictures of dead fish because it demonstrates exactly why we do rotenone renovations, why we eliminate all fish in a body of water, and then re-stock.

It is somewhat ironic that fisheries biologists would purposely, intentionally kill fish, but that is exactly what we do and in some cases are very much happy to do it!  I will be the first to argue that each species of fish should be appreciated for its uniqueness and most of them can be a worthy challenge for any angler.  Likewise almost all fish can be very good on the table when prepared right.  However, the fact remains that some species of fish are not as desirable as others and in fact some species of fish very much have negative impacts on water quality, aquatic habitat, and other aquatic critters including, but not limited to, more desirable species of fish.  Take a look at these pictures of the fish that turned up after applying rotenone to Lake Yankton last week.

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I will not say that I closely examined every fish in those pictures, but I looked pretty hard.  I saw exactly one, 1, sport fish, a white bass, in one of those pictures.  There were lots of common carp, buffalo, some carpsuckers, grass carp and scads of silver carp.  You can see that the fish community in Lake Yankton was dominated by rough fish, rough fish easily comprised in excess of 90% of the biomass of fish found in Lake Yankton.  When rough fish dominate a fish community like that, water quality, habitat and all aquatic life suffers and the best way to improve the situation is to eliminate all fish and start over.

And that was not all.  Here are a couple of the biggest specimens:

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Al Hanson and Joe Rydell with a couple of mammoth bighead carp eliminated from Lake Yankton.

I am betting that by this week, a person can already see an improvement in the water quality at Lake Yankton.  I have seen water quality literally improve overnight on other rotenone renovations–eliminate rough fish like common carp and in some habitats gizzard shad, and conditions improve almost immediately.

There is no doubt that most of those undesirable species found their way into Lake Yankton when water backed up from the Missouri River into the lake during the great flood of 2011.  However, the proximity of Lake Yankton to the Missouri River also makes it just a little bit too easy for “bucket biologists” to illegally transfer fish into the lake as well.  Well-meaning but nonetheless illegal introductions of fish into public waters can and have destroyed a lot of good fishing for a lot of anglers.

No, a rotenone renovation does not mean that the Missouri River will never flood again nor that unwanted species of fish will never re-invade Lake Yankton.  In addition, rotenone renovations are NOT an inexpensive fisheries management tool, so they are not done frequently at the drop of a hat.  This latest renovation should produce many years of improved water quatlity, habitat and fishing at Lake Yankton.  If the lake needs a rotenone renovation again at some future date, that can be done, but it should be dozens of years from now and until then the fishing will be way better than it has been the past couple of years.

We joke about it, but that is making the “Good Life” even better!

About daryl bauer

Daryl is a lifelong resident of Nebraska (except for a couple of years spent going to graduate school in South Dakota). He has been employed as a fisheries biologist for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission for 25 years, and his current tour of duty is as the fisheries outreach program manager. Daryl loves to share his educational knowledge and is an avid multi-species angler. He holds more than 120 Nebraska Master Angler Awards for 14 different species and holds more than 30 In-Fisherman Master Angler Awards for eight different species. He loves to talk fishing and answer questions about fishing in Nebraska, be sure to check out his blog at outdoornebraska.org.

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