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Tournament News Powered By Lake Drive Marine

By Louie Stout

The St. Joseph River bass population remains stable and the future looks pretty good, says Elkhart/South Bend Aquatic Biologist Dar Deegan.

In fact, he noted, the river experienced a really good bass spawn – both largemouth and smallmouth - last year.

“Maybe the best I’ve seen since I’ve been here,” Deegan said. “We also had a good one in 2018, despite the record flood we had in late winter that year.”

The introductions of non-native gizzard shad and explosion in the bluegill population have provided plenty of forage and zebra mussels have cleared the river allowing for plant growth.

“Even though shad have created bigger bass, the population has remained stable,” Deegan said. “You get a good spawn one year and see bigger bass five years later, but the population seems to remain stable over time.”

Shad are high in protein but the forage fish’s population also can get out of control and reach sizes too big for most gamefish to eat. When the population is out of balance, survival of young bass, bluegill, crappie and walleyes suffers because of competition for plankton and other microscopic food.

It’s that imbalance that has caused fish managers to eradicate shad periodically on Worster Lake at Potato Creek State Park.

But on the St. Joe, so far so good.

On another note, the Indiana DNR has plans to survey the St. Joe bass population later this year to evaluate the performance of the slot limit instituted a few years ago. Currently, anglers must release all bass sizes 12 to 15 inches and only may keep two over 15 inches.