2018 surveys found most species ever on Lake Missaukee

DNR crew haul fish into the department\'s boat while conducting a fish survey of Lake Missaukee on Tuesday, May 15, 2018.

LAKE CITY — Fathead minnows and golden shiners have been found in Lake Missaukee for the first time, officially.

Surveys conducted in 2018 found the popular bait species in the lake.

Anglers who break rules about dumping bait in lakes are not necessarily to blame.

Fathead minnows and golden shiners are likely native to Lake Missaukee and have probably been here all along, according to Mark Tonello, Michigan Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist who led the surveys and authored a 2019 report based on the surveys.

Previous surveys have not found the fathead minnows and golden shiners, probably because a lot of surveys do not target minnow species, Tonello said. (That’s not to say surveys always miss minnows; various netting techniques found several minnows or bait species in Lake Missaukee in 2018, including the golden shiner; electrofishing or seining techniques found the fathead minnow).

Additionally, the survey found that fish are generally growing well. Bluegill, largemouth bass and northern pike are growing slightly slower than average in the state of Michigan, but it is common for those species to grow slower in Northern lower Michigan, according to the report. However, walleye, pumpkinseed sunfish, rock bass and smallmouth bass are growing faster than the state average.

Three species previously found in Lake Missaukee were not found in 2018, though each of those species (blacknose shiner, bowfin and Johnny Darter) had been found only once previously.

Altogether, the 2018 survey detected the most number of fish species on record in Lake Missaukee in one year, 22 species. Surveys on Lake Missaukee have been conducted in 1927, 1939, 1941, 1965, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1987, 1994, 1999, 2004, 2017 and 2018.

The most abundant Lake Missaukee species, according to the survey, were bullhead species. They were 65.5% of the catch by numbers and 62.5% of the catch by weight.

Lake Missaukee should be surveyed again within the next 10 years, according to Tonello’s management recommendations. He’s also recommending continuing to stock walleye at a rate of about 100,000 spring fingerlings every other year and is suggesting to keep Lake Missaukee’s no minimum size limit for northern pike.

Tonello, whose work territory is the Muskegon River watershed, said he didn’t do any surveys of lakes in Wexford, Missaukee, Osceola or Lake counties in 2019 and it’s not clear yet whether there will be any local surveys in 2020.

“I don’t like it but that is reality when you only have a few people,‘ Tonello said.

However, to the best of his knowledge, fish populations are steady in local lakes and walleye stocking programs will continue.

“That’s a pretty popular program,‘ Tonello said. He anticipates stocking Fife Lake, Rose Lake, Lake Mitchell, Lake Cadillac, Tippy Pond, Hodenyple Dam Pond and Big Star Lake with walleye in 2020.

(Status of the Fishery Resource report, Lake Missaukee last surveyed 2018: https://www.michigan.gov/documents/dnr/SFR2018-261_656410_7.pdf )

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