East Chain Lake is a 485 acre lake with two district basins (north and south) that has a maximum depth of 6 feet. The lake is adjacent to the city of East Chain in Martin County. Only 3 fish population assessments or surveys have been completed prior to 2013 with an initial assessment in 1992 followed by follow-up surveys in 1997 and 2001. East Chain Lake is susceptible to low dissolved oxygen levels in the winter due to shallow water and abundant aquatic vegetation leading to frequent fish winterkills. It seems that fish kills occur approximately once every 8 to 9 years at varying levels of severity. Recently, winterkills in the winters of 2000-2001 and 2008-2009 were not severe and resulted in minor partial fish kills. A fish population assessment was conducted from 8-11 of July 2013 with 12 trap nets and no gill nets due to shallow water and abundant aquatic vegetation.
The catch rate of northern pike in East Chain was 1.4 fish per trap net in 2013 which was below the long-term catch rate of 1.8 and less than the previous two surveys. Northern pike in the sample ranged in length from 8.4 to 29.5 inches with an average length of 23.6 inches and an average weight of 2.5 pounds. The overall health of the fish in the sample was good. The size structure the fish in the trap net sample indicates a population that is composed of larger fish. Habitat abundance and quality are favorable to northern pike spawning in the lake and the sample indicated decent natural reproduction in East Chain in 2013. Northern pike are hardy fish and can survive low oxygen levels, this is true in East Chain Lake as the population appears relatively stable from year-to-year. Currently, the good size structure metrics and good health of northern pike in East Chain Lake along with evidence of natural reproduction indicates that the population is doing well. Fishing for northern pike in East Chain Lake should be the main attraction for anglers over the next year or two and large fish could be caught from the lake.
No yellow perch were collected in the trap net sample in 2013. In previous years the trap net catch rate ranged from 0.4 fish per trap net to 2.5 fish per trap net with a long-term average of 1 fish per trap net. There may be yellow perch present in East Chain Lake, but trap nets may have missed them in July given the conditions in the lake at the time. Yellow perch will be stocked in the spring of 2014 in East Chain Lake. This will help to boost the population and provide a more abundant forage base for northern pike and an additional fishing opportunity for anglers.
The black crappie catch rate in 2013 was low with only 2 fish caught in the entire trap net sample. The expected catch rate range for East Chain Lake is between 1.2 and 20.5. The long-term catch rate is 2 fish per trap net. Black crappie has never been a dominant species in East Chain Lake, except during the 1997 survey when the catch rate was 5.2 fish per trap net. While the catch rate has been below 2.0 fish per net for several surveys in the past, the white crappie catch rate has been more encouraging. Historically, white crappie have been more abundant than black crappie. It may be more appropriate to view black and white crappie as one species in East Chain Lake as they do hybridize quite frequently. When they are combined the crappie population looks more stable. The white crappie catch rate in 2013 was just below 0.7 fish per trap net. The expected catch rate range for East Chain Lake is between 0.2 and 6.0 indicating the white crappie catch rate is within the expected range. The long-term catch rate is nearly 4 fish per trap net so the current catch rate is below the average, but the size of the fish in the sample was very good. White crappie in the sample ranged in length from 9.0 to 11.0 inches with an average length of 10 inches. The overall health of the fish in the sample was excellent and indicated that the fish were foraging successfully. When viewed together with black crappie, the catch rate is nearly 1 fish per trap net and closer to or within the expected range for each species. Crappie abundance is cyclic in nature, and the populations appear to be in a down cycle, but the fish that are present are large and healthy. Crappie anglers may have a hard time finding the schools of fish in East Chain Lake, but when they do, they will be happy with the size of the fish.
Other species present in 2013 in the trap net sample were bigmouth buffalo (n=1; 0.1 per net), black bullhead (n=44; 3.7 per net), common carp (n=83; 6.9 per net), freshwater drum (n=11; 0.9 per net), golden shiner (n=3; 0.3 per net), orangespotted sunfish (n=1; 0.1 per net), walleye (n=5; 0.4 per net), and white sucker (n=1; 0.1 per net). Bigmouth buffalo, black bullhead, walleye, and white sucker all had catch rates less than their expected catch range. Freshwater drum and golden shiner had catch rates within their expected catch range. Common carp was the only species with a catch rate that exceeded its expected catch range. Orangespotted sunfish do not have an established expected catch range so a determination could not be made. Sizes of the fish were good and they appeared healthy. Walleye anglers may find some decent sized fish in East Chain Lake over the next year or two.
Prepared by Nate Hodgins