The Lake Gun
Other species are growing slightly above or below state average rates, but are within what is considered an acceptable range. Gun Lake is heavily developed and receives substantial boating pressure from riparians and boaters using the State Park and County access sites. Much of the pressure is from recreational boating, especially in the summer months, and anglers are restricted to early morning and late evening or night fishing. Boating pressure has reduced the wild rice beds in the west basin to a fraction of their former size. There is also a fair amount of duck hunting on the lake each fall.
Residents often claim that they "lose their lake" between Memorial Day and Labor Day each year. Gun Lake now supports a good fishable population of walleyes. Annual fingerling stockings have averaged over 20, fish in the last decade and is regulated by the success at the ponds operated by the Gun Lake Protection Association GLPA , with plants occasionally augmented from the District rearing ponds. This rate of only seven to eight fingerlings per acre is much below the recommended rate for Region III per acre for fingerlings 2 inches or smaller , but a successful fishery is still supported.
It is not known if natural reproduction contributes to the population of walleyes in Gun Lake. Walleyes have been the target in surveys more than any other species in Gun Lake. The average size of fish in collections since ranged from 8. Despite the frequency of surveys, walleye growth was not evaluated regularly, but the few analyses done show growth to be much above average in Gun Lake.
The northern musky population in the lake has been reduced to a fraction of what existed prior to cessation of stocking in While Great Lakes muskies were native to the lake, it is doubtful that natural reproduction could maintain a musky population today, given the extensive development of the lake.
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Cultural development is cited as a primary reason for the decline of native musky populations in many northern states Dombeck et al. Competition with northern pike is another crucial factor in the success of muskies when the two coexist in a lake. Pike are known to utilize similar forage to the musky, and are predators on young-of-the-year muskies Dombeck et al. Walleye would also compete with muskies for forage at some sizes, and could prey on young-of-the-year muskies.
Surveys since the initiation of musky stocking show the average size of fish ranging from Because of the difficulty of accurately aging esocids from scales, only two surveys included analysis of growth. In growth was much above average, and in the few muskies collected were growing below state average rates. Northern pike numbers have increased in the lake in recent years, and a good fishery exists for them today. Small areas of suitable habitat still exist on the lake for the population to maintain itself, and a large marshy area at the Payne Lake inlet is available for spawning.
Anglers interested in large sports fish have apparently turned to pike and walleyes following the decline in the musky population.
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Conservation Officer reports and local fishing reports support this change, but no creel census data exists from recent years. The average size of pike collected in surveys ranged from Growth in pike aged in was slow, with fish growing 0.
The yellow perch population does not appear to have changed significantly from the populations surveyed in the early s and s. Maximum size of perch in survey collections was between 10 and 12 inches, with the exception of a subsample collected during musky broodstock netting in , when the largest perch sampled was 8.
The average size of perch ranged from 4. These averages are of course greatly influenced by gear type; the two surveys with the lowest average size of perch and were those where 2 to 5 inch perch collected while electroshocking made up the majority of the perch sampled. The catch-per-unit-effort CPUE in surveys has fluctuated from year to year, and was higher in than in previous years. Many local anglers are convinced that the average size of perch declined after musky stocking for broodstock was initiated in , and that fewer large perch have been caught in recent years.
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We have no census data to verify these claims. There is no evidence of a significant change in the average or maximum size of perch collected in surveys, either before or after the initiation of stocking either muskies or walleyes. Growth has been above average in all surveys with available growth data, except the sample, where the This was also a smaller sample of perch than in all other surveys.
Bluegills have averaged between 4. Growth is slightly below average in all but the oldest surveys. Black crappies averaged between 5.
Growth has been at state average rates in recent years. These species, along with rock bass and pumpkinseed sunfish, should produce a good panfish fishery in the lake. However, Gun Lake is not noted as one of the better panfish lakes in the District, since several nearby lakes are capable of producing 8 and 9 inch bluegills rather consistently. Smallmouth and largemouth bass are a very popular sport fish in Gun Lake, and generate many hours of fishing by both individual anglers and organized clubs.
The average largemouth in surveys has been between 7. Growth is somewhat slow, but generally has been within acceptable ranges in all surveys. Smallmouth bass have averaged between 5. Growth is slow in smallmouths; in all surveys where growth was evaluated, the fish averaged at least 1.
Despite slow growth rates, many smallmouths reach sizes acceptable to anglers. Thirty percent of the smallmouths taken in were 12 inches or larger, and individuals up to 5. Brown, black, and yellow bullheads are found in Gun Lake. It is not known if any significant fishery exists for these species. In addition to the game species mentioned above, other predator fish that are found in Gun Lake and that contribute to the balance of the fish population include bowfin, longnose gar, and spotted gar.
Presently, Gun Lake is stocked annually with walleye fingerlings. Musky stocking was suspended in , and has not resumed. The broodstock designation for the lake was lifted in , and spearing is again allowed on the lake. The last collection of broodstock for muskies was in At that time, pike and 47 muskies were taken, as well as 39 walleyes. Good habitat exists for walleye growth and reproduction, and the addition of additional spawning habitat has been considered. Good water quality should be assured by the continued operation of the Gun Lake Sewer Authority.
The existing sport fishery in Gun Lake should be expected to continue, and could be enhanced. The following recommendations can accomplish this goal. A full fisheries survey should be conducted at Gun Lake at least every 10 years, to monitor the entire fish population, and make changes in the management direction of the lake as necessary. In addition, a full creel survey should be conducted within the next 2 years to determine present harvest rates of walleyes and other game fish in Gun Lake.
This information will be invaluable in guiding the management direction of the lake, and in evaluating the success of the walleye plants in sustaining or expanding the fishery. Musky stocking should not be resumed at the present time. The growing pike and walleye populations will negatively impact on any chance of successfully reestablishing a significant musky population. The existing musky population will be reduced further by continued angling pressure, and cannot be expected to sustain itself through natural reproduction.
Renewal of muskellunge stocking in Gun Lake will be dependent on population changes which would again favor muskellunge survival and growth. The desire of musky anglers to have a quality fishery can be met at another lake in the District, such as Thornapple Lake in Barry County.
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Several of the lakes currently managed for tiger muskies could also be switched to northern musky plants if fish were available, or stocking of other lakes could be investigated. Despite the support from some local and visiting anglers, the musky is too highly regarded as a sport fish, and too expensive to raise, to continue stocking in a lake where many of the riparians and anglers using the lake do not welcome them. The cooperative rearing agreement for walleyes with the GLPA should be continued. Further, a minimum stocking rate should be established to maintain or try to improve the fishery that now exists.
This will necessitate augmenting the rearing pond production if it is not adequate, whenever District rearing pond production allows it. Alternatively, the GLPA should consider purchasing additional fingerlings if the rearing pond production is below the minimum number recommended. The GLPA could also look for additional ponds for cooperative rearing facilities. An evaluation of possible natural reproduction of walleyes needs to be conducted, by alternate year stocking for a minimum of 4 years. If natural reproduction is found to be adequate enough to contribute significantly to the fishery, the established stocking schedule should be adjusted appropriately.
If natural reproduction is shown to be insufficient to support the walleye fishery, reasons for the deficiency should be investigated. The GLPA should pursue boating regulations for the lake, such as a slow, no-wake period from early evening to early morning. This would enhance fishing opportunities on the lake and allow the best utilization of the walleyes being stocked in the lake. Dombeck, M. But even in those first days, I have already discovered that in an unnatural setting, nature can still take over.
In three, my father will show me how to find Orion in the night sky. We will map the stars for hours, listening to the frogs and cicadas. I will feel a bone-deep sense of guilt and horror watching the animal die, even though I realize just how close I came to stepping on it and understand venom. In five, I will strain my ears toward a haunted chorus floating across the water. The voices belong to soldiers from Fort Jackson, which sits just beyond the trees on the other side of the lake.
The wind distorts their training cadences until it sounds like they are battling banshees.
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In fact, they are mobilizing for war in the Persian Gulf. Our gulf, our lake, remains peaceful, even as the world around it grows more complicated and confusing. In the summers, I will watch my mother slather herself with baby oil and bask like a lizard on the dock while reading embossed-cover paperbacks. I will spread out a towel next to her, trace patterns in the clouds, and imagine we are on a Nile barge with Cleopatra or rafting the Mississippi with Tom and Huck.
Once I am a teenager, the dock will be the operating base of my timid rebellion. But I am more a child than not, and I still enjoy feeding the ducks more than I let on. I wish the filmstrip did not run out there, but it does.
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