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Watts Lake Renovation

Our Nebraska Game & Parks fisheries personnel had an opportunity to get another quick renovation done this spring.  There have been some news releases on this, but I am guessing many folks may have not heard about it.  Here is an extended version of the news release, a version with a little more detail on why these projects are so beneficial:

Watts Lake Renovated to Improve Fishery

Recently the US Fish and Wildlife Service and Nebraska Game and Parks Commission(NGPC) renovated Watts Lake on the Valentine National Wildlife Refuge, addressing an unbalanced fish community triggered by drought conditions in 2012.

Fisheries biologist Zac Brashears of Valentine said low water levels that year caused a partial winterkill in Watts that resulted in problems with the fishery. The goal of the renovation was to remove common carp, northern pike and black bullhead.

Melvin Nenneman, Valentine National Wildlife Refuge(NWR) biologist, emphasized that the Valentine NWR was established “as a refuge and breeding ground for migratory birds and other native wildlife”.  Common Carp are a non-native fish from Europe and Asia, intentionally introduced into Midwest waters as a game fish in the 1880s.  Mr. Nenneman noted their introduction has proven to be a nuisance to wildlife managers because of its negative effects on native fish, ecosystems, and water quality in wetlands and lakes. Their feeding disrupts shallowly rooted plants and muddies the water, which inhibits sunlight penetration, further reducing plant growth.  Their feeding habits also increase the availability of phosphorus which increases algae abundance.  Deterioration of wetland water quality reduces aquatic vegetation and invertebrates, which waterfowl rely on during migration and during the breeding season.

The lake was renovated by removing all fish from the lake on March 27. It will be stocked this spring and summer with black crappies, largemouth bass, bluegills and yellow perch.  Fisheries biologists expect the fishery to rebound quickly with harvestable fish in three to five years. 

There are nine lakes open to fishing on the Valentine National Wildlife Refuge which include: Watts, Hackberry, Dewey, Clear, Willow, Duck, Rice, West Long and Pelican Lakes.

Another NGPC renovation project occurred in 2014 at Rat and Beaver lakes, just south of the refuge. Yellow perch, bluegills, crappies and largemouth bass were stocked there late last year and Mr. Brashears expects them to become large enough to harvest in a couple of years.

The culprits: lots of unwanted common carp. Biologists counted over 1,300 dead common carp. Photo by Doug Graham, thanks Doug!


If you are unfamiliar with how fisheries biologists use a rotenone renovation to produce good fishing, please go back and read this blog post, Rotenone Renovation.

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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