Sunday, February 5th, 2023
Sunday, February 5th, 2023

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Lake McMaster, Knox County

Largemouth bass efforts still in progress at McMaster

By Ralph Loos

There were only three DNR-sanctioned fishing tournaments on Lake McMaster in 2021, so using weigh-ins to gauge biologist’s ongoing efforts to boost the number of largemouth bass in the 14- to 18-inch slot does not tell a complete story.

According to DNR, 121 largemouths were brought to the scales in those three tourneys, with the largest weighing a little over 4 pounds.

The most recent DNR survey of the lake took place in the fall of 2020, when 168 largemouth bass were collected via electrofishing. 

“The largemouth bass population appears to be defined by a high percentage of fish from 4 to 18 inches in length, with good average relative weights,” DNR reported, noting that the bass regulation at McMaster had been changed in 2017 to a protected slot length limit from 14 to 18 inches with a three-fish daily harvest limit. The goal of the new bass regulation is to increase the density of the bass population from 14 to 18 inches. 

“Future surveys will need to evaluate further why the bass population has not started to restructure into the 14- to 18-inch size range,” DNR added. “The goal of the protected slot length limit is to create a high density bass population that is composed of fish large enough to be efficient predators upon the panfish and gizzard shad population.”

At 165 acres, McMaster is not a large lake, but it has a maximum depth of 65 feet. 

The lake was built by the Midland Coal Company in the late 1970s as a water supply reservoir. Along with deep water, it features shallow bars, numerous bays and points, abrupt drop-offs, islands, flooded timber and extensive shallow flats of submerged aquatic plants.

In other words, great fish habitat.

As for other species, muskies and walleyes have fared well at the relatively deep Lake McMaster, which  is situated within the Snakeden Hollow State Fish and Wildlife Area in Knox County.

Following are some notes from the most recent DNR sampling of McMaster.

Muskies: During those three fishing tournaments monitored by DNR last year, three muskies were caught.

No muskies were collected in that 2020 sampling, but a total of seven muskie were sampled by the spring trapnet survey in 2019. These fish ranged from 33.6 to 44.1 inches long. The body condition of these fish was low at an average. The sample was composed of five males and two females –  one of the females had a tag from a historical tagging event. 

“She was originally tagged in 2006 at a length of 37 inches and 13.5 pounds,” DNR reported. “On April 16, 2019, she was recaptured at a length of 43.7 inches long and 21.9 pounds. She grew approximately .5 inches and .65 pounds per year over those 13 years.”

In 2017, the muskie harvest regulation was changed from a one fish daily harvest limit over 48 inches, to a harvestable slot from 36 to 42 inches, and 48 inch minimum length limit with one fish daily harvest limit. This regulation is an attempt to allow anglers to reduce the density of very slow-growing male muskie in McMaster. 

Bluegills: The bluegill population was sampled by 37 fish in the fall 2020 electrofishing survey. The current bluegill population is rated as average with the larger fish up to 8.3 inches in length. This population is of moderate density and in average body condition.

Redear Sunfish: The redear sunfish population was sampled by one fish in the 2020 electrofishing survey. The current redear population is rated as average with the larger fish up to 10 inches.

In 2017, the bluegill and redear sunfish regulation was changed from a 10 fish daily harvest limit to a 25 fish daily harvest limit. 

“This change will allow anglers the ability to harvest more bluegill and redear sunfish per daily visit to Snakeden Hollow waters,” DNR explained.

Black crappies: The black crappie population has had an average rating in recent years. In 2020, the black crappie population was sampled by 13 fish. In 2017, the crappie regulation was changed from a five fish daily harvest limit, to a 25 fish daily harvest limit with no more than 10 fish greater than or equal to 10 inches. 

“The goal of the new regulation is to allow the harvest of more of the slower-growing black crappie, while maintaining and promoting the population structure of crappie over 10 inches in length,” DNR noted.

In 2019, the black crappie population was sampled by 31 fish in spring trapnets and 39 fish in the spring electrofishing survey. In all, 69 stock size black crappie were sampled. These indices have all been steady the last six years with a slight rise beginning in 2017. The new regulation will be evaluated to these indices.

Walleyes: No walleye were sampled in 2020. The walleye population was sampled by 33 fish in spring trapnets and 15 fish in the spring electrofishing survey. The current walleye population is rated as good with the larger fish up to 27.5 inches in length. The CPUE for trapnets was at 2.1 fish per net night in 2019. 

DNR stocked more than 13,000 fingerling walleyes in 2021.

• Channel Catfish: The channel catfish population was sampled by two fish in 2020. The current channel catfish population is rated as good with the larger fish up to 22 inches in length. 

This population is of moderate density and in good body condition. Jake Wolf hatchery stocked 3,000 fish at 7.7 inches in 2020. 

Lake McMaster

Nearest town: Victoria

Surface area: 165 acres

Max. depth: 65 feet

Shoreline: 7.5 miles

Species present include: Largemouth bass, channel catfish, bluegills, crappies, walleyes, muskies.

Site information: 309-879-2607

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