11 February 2013

Lake Renovation at Lakeland Sandhills

After years of cooperative effort to achieve a common goal, the condition of Clear Lake was dramatically changed December 4, 2012. Unwanted fish had degraded the quality of the lake, located in the Lakeland district of southern Brown county, so a chemical treatment was applied to get rid of them.

There were nine biologists from the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission involved, along with their equipment which included four boats, an airboat to "work the shallows," and an ATV to treat the drainage, said Dave Tunink, a fisheries biologist with the state agency.

Airboat checking Clear Lake, December 4th.

Photograph by Kyle Graham, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. All photographs courtesy of Bruce Beebout.

Club members and others were also actively involved during the day-long tasks.

"Fish species observed during the renovation were dominated by common carp and small black crappie with very few northern pike and largemouth bass," said Tunink. "It was a fish population that needed to be removed and reestablished."

"It was a perfect day of it," said Merlin "Turk" Beebout, a member of the Clear Lake Club since 1974, explaining the weather conditions the day of treatment.

"Loading up" the boats at Clear Lake.

"The application of the chemical went exactly as planned," according to the January 2013 club newsletter. "Some ground crews took care of some of the smaller ponds to the north. The air boat was able to attack areas the larger boats could not access."

Overall, the cost of the project was over $100,000, which includes actual costs and in-kind services. The Sandhills Task Force and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service each contributed $20,000.

Members of the New Clear Lake Club contributed $16,000 to the project, Bruce Beebout, a member said. They also "did necessary dirt work, pumped some ponds down, assisted in the application of the chemical on those ponds, prepared access to the lake for boats at the lake, and fed the crew on the day of the lake treatment."

Crew enjoying lunch.

Birds such as the great blue heron, ducks and geese, swans and eagles, Bruce Beebout said, are expected to benefit from an improvement in the quality of habitat of the lake. The place now, does not have any hydrological connection to any other lakes or streams, that might provide a means of access for unwanted fish such as the common carp to get reestablished.

"A beautiful sight." Dead carp along the lake shore. Photograph by Kyle Graham.

Species of fish expected to be restocked in the lake this spring are yellow perch, largemouth bass, and black crappie, said Tunink. They would quickly grow to harvestable size in two to three years, according to a note in the club newsletter.

Game Commission biologists will also sample the lake in a couple of years to "evaluate the fishery," Tunink indicated.

Partners involved in the project were club members, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, the Sandhills Task Force, the North Central RC&D, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Clear Lake Club was started in mid-1917, and currently has 28 members.

Aerial view of Clear Lake, looking from east to west. Photograph by Jim Van Winkle.