Sunday, January 29th, 2023
Sunday, January 29th, 2023

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Michigan Lake Profile – Gull Lake, Kalamazoo County


Diverse fishery thriving on Kalamazoo’s Gull Lake


By Bill Parker


Past angler concerns about a dwindling bass population in Gull Lake have been appeased, and bass anglers are enjoying very good success on this water body.


For proof, look no further than the tournament pressure the lake endures. This year alone there were 60 bass tournaments on the 2,030-acre lake between May 24 and Oct. 11. If there was a problem with the bass population, directors would find another lake to hold their tournaments on, but that doesn’t seem to be an issue.


Due to those concerns about catching fewer bass in Gull Lake, the DNR conducted an assessment of the largemouth and smallmouth populations.


According to a report on the assessment written by DNR Senior Fisheries Biologist Kregg Smith, largemouth bass growth was at the statewide average length and they achieved the legal size limit of 14 inches at 5.7 years. A total of 2,542 largemouths were captured during the assessment along with 171 smallmouth bass. The smallies were also growing at the state average, and achieved the legal size limit of 14 inches at 4.2 years.


“Overall, the population of bass in Gull Lake appears to be in good condition and fishing regulations appear to be appropriate as reflected in the status of this survey,” Smith wrote. 


Although angling pressure is high, Smith doesn’t think overfishing was a problem.


“Current size and creel regulations are adequately protecting the largemouth bass population,” he wrote. “Biologists recommend that Gull Lake continue to be managed under the statewide regulation of a 14-inch minimum length limit with a creel limit of five largemouth bass per day.”


Bass aren’t the only fish anglers vie for on Gull Lake. The large, deep lake supports a wide variety of both coolwater and warmwater species. In fact, fisheries biologists collected 55 different species of fish in the most recent survey of the fishery. Many anglers tout Gull Lake as the best fishing lake in southwest Lower Michigan. 


There have been numerous reports of some big catches out of Gull including one ice angler who landed an 8-pound walleye.


Master Angler records compiled by the DNR support that fact. Over the past two years, 25 fish meeting Master Angler award minimums have been caught in Gull Lake. They include nine black crappies (between 14.13 inches and 15.63 inches long), four longnose gar (32.5 to 38), four pumpkinseed sunfish (9 to 9.88), four rock bass (11.5 to 12), two 14-inch yellow perch, and one 21.75-inch smallmouth bass.  


Since Gull is a two-story lake with both cold and warm water, the DNR stocked 400 lake trout in Gull in 2016 that averaged 28 inches long. In 2019 the state planted 11,000 rainbow trout averaging 5.8 inches each.


Located about 10 miles northeast of Kalamazoo, Gull Lake rests in northeast Kalamazoo County, and the northern tip of the lake dips into Barry County. 


At 2,030 acres and with a maximum depth of 110 feet, Gull is the largest lake in either county. In layman’s terms, it is approximately four miles long and one mile wide.


Several streams flow into Gull Lake including Prairieville Creek, a designated trout stream, located at the north end of the lake. A dam on Gull Creek maintains the water level.


 According to DNR documents, Grassy Island at the southwest end of the lake used to be a peninsula connected to the mainland before construction of a dam in 1833. Two other islands, known locally as the “Hogs Backs,” are sunken islands located in the middle of the lake and rise out of 50 feet of water to about 20 feet deep.


Anglers catch a variety of species all around those sunken islands.


“Gull Lake was formed by glacial activity about 14,000 years ago, when large ice chunks broke off from a retreating glacier. The lake was about half of its current size until 1833, when a pioneer built a dam for his sawmill in Gull Creek,” Smith wrote in his report. “The dam raised the water level by 14 feet and almost doubled the size of the lake. Gull Lake’s dam was upgraded to a sluice-gate structure in the 1880s. Since 1920, the Gull Lake Association owns, operates, and maintains the dam.”


Shoal areas make up about 30% of the total surface area of Gull Lake and are composed mainly of sand, gravel and rubble, according to the DNR. Marl and pulpy peat make up the rest of the lake’s bottom.


About 64% of the basin is 20 feet deep or deeper.


Most of the 18.5 miles of shoreline on Gull Lake is privately owned; however, there are two public access sites. The Prairieville Township Park on the north shore provides a four-lane boat launch ramp and parking for up to 70 boat trailers. Another, smaller access site is located on the northeast shore at the end of Baseline Road. 


The Kellogg Biological Station and Bird Sanctuary, owned by Michigan State University, are located on the east shore.

Gull Lake 

Nearest town……………Richland

Surface area…………..2,030 acres

Maximum depth………..110 feet

Water clarity……………………Clear


Fish species present: black crappie, bullhead, bluegill, bowfin, carp, green sunfish, lake trout, largemouth bass, longnose gar, northern pike, pumpkinseed sunfish, rainbow smelt, rainbow trout, rock bass, smallmouth bass, walleye, warmouth, white sucker, yellow perch.


For information: DNR district fisheries office (269) 685-6851, the DNR’s   website, D and R Sports (269) 372-2277.

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