Saturday, February 4th, 2023
Saturday, February 4th, 2023

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Evergreen Lake, McLean County

Record muskie, saugeye lurk in Evergreen

By Ralph Loos
Editor

Before we get to news regarding Evergreen Lake’s emerging largemouth bass population, let’s point out the documented fact that state record saugeyes and muskies are roaming the 925-acre McLean County water.

To wit: During DNR’s sampling of the lake in 2021, biologists collected a saugeye weighing in at 10.2 pounds. The current state record is a 9.68-pounder caught way back in 2001.

What would be a record muskie also was collected by DNR.

It’s also important to note that the recent 10.2-pound saugeye isn’t even the largest DNR has sampled – In 2018, the agency weighed one at 10.6 pounds.

During DNR’s 2021 spring netting survey, five saugeyes were collected per net-night, a tick below th average of 5.5 per net-night. Of the saugeyes collected over 10 inches, 100% were longer than 14 inches and 49% were more than 18 inches.

There is a three-fish, 18-inch minimum length limit for saugeyes at Evergreen.

As for bass, DNR is reporting that 21 fishing tournaments were held on Evergreen in 2021. In all, 350 largemouth bass were caught in those events, with many of them weighing in above the 5-pound mark. The largest bass came in at 6.46 pounds, with two others topping the 6-pound mark.

DNR’s 2021 survey resulted in a catch rate of 95.5 bass per hour,  just below the management objective of 100 bass per hour. Of the bass collected over 8 inches, 42% were larger than 12 inches and 20% were longer than 15 inches.

The lake’s muskie population continues to hold its own.

According to DNR, muskies larger than the current state record of 38 pounds, 8 ounces were collected during spring netting surveys of Evergreen in 2006, 2007 and 2010. 

Which is why it’s no surprise that state fisheries biologists have looked at and predicted “the next state record muskie could come from Evergreen.”

During its 2021 survey, DNR collected 3.7 muskies per net-night, with 20 net-nights of effort. The average is four muskies per net-night. 

Approximately 53% of the muskies collected were larger than 38 inches and 26% were larger than 42 inches. 

The largest muskie collected was just under 48 inches and weighed 39.3 pounds – above the current state record of 38.5 pounds.

A big part of the muskie success at Evergreen has been the result of past work put in by the Illini Muskie Alliance, avid muskie anglers and local volunteers. One example is the project by the McLean County Parks and Recreation Department, which worked with local anglers to erect a barrier below Evergreen’s spillway to lower the escapement potential of muskies downstream. 

“When needed, muskies are collected below the lake and returned to the lake,” an IMA report explained. “For example, in 2007 approximately 225 muskies were collected and put back in the lake. In an average year, there may be 30 to 40 muskies returned to the lake.” 

Evergreen has a 48-inch minimum length limit for muskies. 

The crappie fishery was once dominated by white crappies, but since 2006 the black crappie population has been more prevalent in fish surveys and anglers’ creels. 

During DNR’s most recent electrofishing survey, approximately 35% of the white crappies collected were larger than 10 inches. Approximately 60% of the black crappies collected were larger than 10 inches.

Smallmouth bass, once native to Evergreen, have been stocked. Survey numbers were not significant, DNR noted.

In 2021, a total of 1,915 smallmouths 4 to 7 inches long were stocked into the lake, along with  1,050 adult muskies.

Stocking efforts so far in 2022 include 1.3 million saugeye fry and 56,000 saugeye fingerlings.

Largemouth bass also were stocked this year, with 282 adult bass put into the lake.

Evergreen Lake is located approximately 15 miles north of Bloomington, and is easily accessible by taking I-39 north to the Lake Bloomington/Evergreen Lake Exit, then proceeding west on the Lake Bloomington Road Evergreen.

 The lake was built in 1970 to serve as a secondary water source for the City of Bloomington. It is owned by the City of Bloomington and is managed by the McLean County Department of Parks and Recreation. 

Evergreen Lake is part of Comlara County Park. It has an average depth of 19.7 feet and a maximum depth of 50 feet. There are two boat launches on the lake and one canoe launch. Comlara County Park offers 137 campsites, a swimming beach, and showers. 

The Friends of Everbloom is an organization that assists with habitat projects and improving the lake’s quality. 

Two pole and line fishing only; no trot lines, jugs or bank poles. Sport anglers may take carp, carpsuckers, buffalo, gar, bowfin, and suckers by pitchfork, gigs, bow and arrow or bow and arrow devices.

Evergreen Lake

Nearest town: Bloomington

Surface area: 925 acres

Avg. depth:  19.7 feet

Primary species present:

Bluegills, largemouth bass, saugeyes, catfish, white bass, crappies, muskies.

Lake information: 

309-434-6770

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