Citizens Lake again finds itself in recovery situation
The fact that Citizens Lake has a landmark honoring long-time DNR fisheries biologist Ken Russell says all there is to say about the small body of water near Monmouth in Warren County.
In 2016, a historic bridge from 1895 was dedicated to Russell, who helped relocate the bridge.
Russell also left his mark on the fishery, spearheading a recovery after a winter fish kill five years ago. There have been setbacks, but it appears Citizens is still solidly on the comeback trail.
The 26-acre lake has 1.4 miles of shoreline that is accessible to bank fishing. Boat ramps are available on both basins and a small trailer campground is situated near the north lake basin.
Largemouth bass and bluegill fishing was rated good to excellent for several years, but the harsh winter of 2014 suffocated various species of fish underneath the lake’s ice. More largemouth bass and roughly 2,000 channel catfish were stocked by DNR later that year.
The lake has a south basin of 17.7 acres with a maximum depth of 33 feet and a north basin of 8.3 acres with maximum depth of 13 feet. The two basins are connected by a short channel that is spanned by the aforementioned historic bridge.
In the fall of 2018, Citizens’ past seemed to return – DNR sampled the fish population and noted a very strong blue green algal bloom. A moderate fish kill was then observed on the south half of the lake. The kill was composed primarily of gizzard shad and bluegills, but also had largemouth bass, channel catfish and black crappies involved.
But it appears the lake is doing well. Following are some notes from the 2018 fish survey by DNR:
- Largemouth bass: In 2018, the population appears to be defined by a high percentage of fish from 4 to 10 inches and from 16 to 21 inches in length with the group from 10 to 16 inches missing. The bass population appeared to be rebounding from the complete winter fish kill in 2014, but will need to be evaluated again to see how the fish kill affected the population.
- Bluegills: The bluegill population was sampled by 143 fish. The current bluegill population is rated as below average with the larger fish up to 7 inches in length. This population is of high density and in average body condition. The establishment of the dense gizzard shad population in 2018 has caused a serious space and food competition with the bluegill population in Citizens Lake.
“After the late September 2018 low oxygen fish kill, a request was placed for a supplemental bluegill and redear sunfish stocking for Citizens Lake,” DNR noted. “Lasalle Hatchery stocked 15,419 bluegills at 1.1 inches and 7,792 redear sunfish at 1.3 inches in October 2018. This was an effort to utilize available fish stocks from the hatchery to quickly reestablish a sport fish balance.”
- Redear sunfish: The current redear population is rated as a low density with the larger fish up to 10 inches in length. The fall 2018 stocking will be evaluated for establishment.
- Black crappies: In 2018, the black crappie population was sampled by 22 fish in the fall surveys. The size ranged from 6.7 to 7.9 inches in length and the body condition was average. No harvest or length limit is necessary at this time for the crappie population.
- Channel catfish: The channel catfish population was sampled by five fish in the fall electrofishing survey. The current channel catfish population is rated as good with the larger fish up to 23 inches in length. This population is of moderate density and in good body condition. Jake Wolf hatchery stocked 1,213 fish at 6.4 inches in 2018.
“An annual stocking of non-vulnerable channel catfish is scheduled for the future,” DNR noted.
Even with all the good news, Citizens is still some time away from returning to a prime fishing lake.
“The quality of fishing right now is not very good, due to the size of the fish,” DNR explained. DNR explained fish kills are normal on lakes and ponds as a thick layer of ice blankets the water. It happens when light cannot go through the ice. This slows the growth of algae and plants that produce the oxygen. This is more likely to happen in shallow ponds compared to deeper ones. That’s because deeper ponds have a greater volume of oxygen and are more likely to sustain fish.
— Ralph Loos
Nearest town Monmouth
Surface area 26 acres
Max. depth 33 feet
Bluegills, largemouth bass, channel catfish, crappies
Largemouth bass – protected slot length limit with one fish greater than or equal to 15 inches and/or five fish less than 12 inches daily; bluegills and redear sunfish: 10 fish daily harvest limit; channel catfish – six per day creel limit.