Roots and Wings
BY PHILLIP ROGERS, CARTERVILLE FWCO
on Patoka River NWR. Credit: Brad Rogers, USFWS
The Carterville Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office (FWCO) has been growing and expanding their work for the last several years. We have projects spread out over our entire area of responsibility which includes all of Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio, but have also been called upon by other regions to help out and do work in Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania. The driving forces for our expansion have largely been Asian carp problems, Environmental DNA analysis, and Ohio River watershed habitat projects. Even with our expanding horizons, there are a couple projects that have deep roots at Carterville FWCO and we take great pride in them.
National Wildlife Refuges
Working with our local National Wildlife Refuges (NWR) is one responsibility that can often be easy to overlook. With the many pressing Asian carp issues that seem to be never ending and always a priority, our staff time is stretched thin. Carterville FWCO cooperatively manages the fishery resources on Crab Orchard NWR with refuge staff and Illinois Department of Natural Resources (DNR). In recent years however, a shortage in staff has limited the amount of time we could spend supporting their management. In 2015 we were able to renew our full commitment to the management on the refuge. We were fortunate enough to increase the size of our staff which in turn allowed us to carve out the needed time to participate in all the activities.
filamentous algae in one of the two ponds on base.
Credit: Brad Rogers, USFWS
Some of the Crab Orchard NWR projects and activities we have been involved with so far in 2015 include a fish management coordination meeting, habitat improvement on Crab Orchard Lake, springtime sport fish sampling on Devil’s Kitchen and Little Grassy Lakes, fish sampling for a Crawfish Frog habitat improvement project, and a Kids Fishing Derby. We are also coordinating the stocking of approximately 14,000 Largemouth Bass into Crab Orchard Lake and 25,000 Yellow Perch into Devil’s Kitchen Lake. You can read more about most of these activities in other FWS Field Notes entries.
Crab Orchard NWR is a valuable resource to the people of Southern Illinois. All of us here at Carterville FWCO are dedicated to doing our part to conserve, protect, and enhance those resources for the enjoyment of all its current and future users.
Part of our expanding workload this year also included doing some work at the Patoka River NWR in southern Indiana. In October 2014, we wrote a Field Notes article about forming a new partnership with Patoka River NWR. On April 20, 2015 staff from Carterville FWCO headed back to Patoka to sample several ponds on a newly acquired parcel of land. The purpose of the trip was to evaluate the fish populations and create bathymetric maps of each pond. The lack of historic information on these water bodies made a fish sample necessary so that refuge managers can set regulations. The managers at Patoka River NWR also wanted the lakes mapped so they could identify hazards (deep drop offs), mark those hazards, and provide that information along with the maps to the public. The water bodies that we sampled are currently closed to the public but are scheduled to be opened in the fall of 2015.
Fishing Derby at Crab Orchard NWR in 2015. Credit: Rob Simmonds, USFWS
Managing fishery resources on military bases is another project we work on at Carterville FWCO. We have provided fisheries assistance to Scott Air Force Base (AFB) in Belleville, Illinois and Naval Support Activity Crane (NSA Crane) in Crane, Indiana for over twenty years. Throughout those years we have managed to maintain excellent fishing opportunities on base for all the military personnel and their families. The issues we face with these fisheries vary widely. At NSA Crane the fisheries tend to be very stable and need little management. Each year we perform a standard night time electrofishing survey and evaluate the long term trends in our data. Typically no action is ever needed but occasionally improvements to the Largemouth Bass population are desired and we may change the regulations slightly to achieve the desired results. Creel and angler surveys show that the users of the lakes at NSA Crane are very pleased with the management of the water bodies.
Fish management at Scott AFB is a bit more complex. The lakes at Scott AFB are significantly smaller and more heavily used by base personnel than the lakes at NSA Crane. In the past, we have had to deal with over exploitation of fish, weed management, bucket biologists (unplanned fish stockings), and fish kills. The biggest issue we face currently is eutrophication (nutrient enrichment) of Scott Lake. The lake has filled in significantly with sediment from adjacent agriculture fields and allowed filamentous algae and duckweed to become serious problems. The problem is so severe that chemical treatments are becoming too costly to maintain. Carterville FWCO has been working with managers at Scott AFB to develop a plan to restore the lake and re-route the drainage ditches in order to provide a long term fix to the problem. Despite these challenges we have been able to maintain angler satisfaction on the base. We hope in the near future we will be able to help with restoration efforts on Scott Lake and provide a more enjoyable outdoor experience for the users.
Credit: Brad Rogers, USFWS
While these projects may not be in the limelight, they are deeply rooted in our history. The areas we help manage have been providing countless people opportunities to enjoy the outdoors and fishing for many years. Carterville FWCO remains dedicated to its partners and the public and looks forward to serving both for many more years to come.