Lake Yankton coming back to life 5 months after poisoning aimed at killing off unwanted fish

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YANKTON, South Dakota — Five months after a complete chemical renovation, the impact at Lake Yankton in southeastern South Dakota is already clear.

Literally, according to an official with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

In an effort to eliminate the large number of invasive species that made their way into the lake after the 2011 Missouri River flood, the lake was drawn down last September and about 700 gallons of chemicals were dumped into the waters.

Restocking efforts began shortly after and will continue through this summer, according to Jeff Schuckman, the Northeast District fisheries manager.

The first thing people will notice about the lake? How clear the water is, Schuckman told the Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan (http://bit.ly/1ASek2F ).

"It clears up like magic once we got the rough fish out of there," he said.

From the time of the flooding until last September, the visibility in Lake Yankton was about 3-6 inches, Schuckman said. Now, it's closer to 2 1/2 meters, or approximately 95 inches, he said.

"Because the water has cleared, you'll see more vegetation, too," Schuckman said.

Shortly after the renovation, once the dead fish rose to the surface and eventually decomposed, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission — along with the South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks Department — stocked largemouth bass and bluegill back into the lake, Schuckman said.

"In a new lake situation, they grow very quickly," Schuckman said. "There's no other competition in the lake for them."

The bluegill will spawn late this summer, Schuckman said, so those numbers will quickly rise. The largemouth bass will take two years to spawn, he said, and so officials will stock 150 fingerlings per surface area in July.

Two other fish species will also be stocked, including black crappie later this summer or early in the fall, while channel catfish will be introduced this summer.

"We'll have a full complement of fish in there by this summer," Schuckman said. "And things will develop very quickly."

In time, the two departments will conduct an annual stocking of walleye, as well as a stocking of channel catfish every other year. The bass, bluegill and black crappie will all spawn on their own, and won't need regular restocking, Schuckman said.

Eventually, there will be opportunities for anglers on the lake, though Schuckman said certain fish won't be at the length limit.

With such a complete renovation, there was a fear that not every rough fish was eliminated. But officials are optimistic, Schuckman said.

"It appeared to be very successful," he said. "I didn't see any live fish after the renovation."

There were other concerns, as well.

"I was a little concerned that once we drew the lake down, we also had to deal with some in-flow situations," Schuckman said.

Five months after the renovation, however, the lake has been completely transformed, starting with the water clarity on down to the vegetation, Schuckman said.

"I'm confident we got 100 percent (of the rough fish)," he said.


Information from: Yankton Press and Dakotan, http://www.yankton.net/

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