By Gary Hasenfus, Lake Advisory Board
Lake Lure, a perfect place for people, has been somewhat challenging for our fish population. Our lake tends to be slightly acidic and low in nutrients, and has gained considerable siltation through the years. In addition, late summer high water temperatures create less than optimum environmental conditions for some species.
However, not all is lost when positive procedures are adopted. For example, fish stocking has been a practice for many years starting in the early years of the lake’s development. The North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission (NCWRC) began stocking various trout species in the early 70’s. In 1979, NCWRC biologist stated that ”Trout production in the lake is limited due to increased summer water temperatures and siltation.”
In 1990, the town assumed the responsibility for the fishery with the NCWRC acting as consultants. The commissions’ evaluation was, “Trout habitat may have always been limited in the lake and warm summer water temperatures will continue to regulate trout populations”.
Because trout fishing was a popular winter fishing experience for many, the town continued to stock trout each winter, usually in early December. Harvest was delayed until late February or early March of each year. This trout stocking continued through 2006. In 2007, the Lake Advisory Board decided that instead of annual stocking, the small budget would be directed to a Comprehensive Lake Study. A broad evaluation would establish the very first “base line” for the fishery.
In May of 2007, the town contracted Blue Ridge Ecological to evaluate the fishery. Blue Ridge consisted of three young men with strong credentials, from Waynesville, NC. The study spanned two months and concluded that during warmest months only a very narrow section of the water column was suitable for trout habitation. Blue Ridge reported that trout were either dying or traveling up the many streams that enter the lake. In support of this summation, the study collected 554 fish via electro-fishing and gill netting, only to produce two small brown trout!
In summary, the Blue Ridge study created the need for a new slot limit for black bass. In 2008, NCWRC granted Lake Lure the ability to default to the state standard of a five black bass creel limit of fourteen inch fish, with two fish less than fourteen inches. Blue Ridge also stressed the need for additional habitat (Christmas trees) and the addition of threadfin shad, a primary food source for both black and white bass. The 2007 study established the “base line” needed for future growth of the fishery. These practices continue to date.
In 2011, a second fishery study was completed by Southeastern Pond Management (SPM).
SPM is located in Jackson, Tennessee, and operated by Jeffery Slipke, Ph.D., a highly regarded AFS certified fisheries professional known for his vast publications. This study was conducted using the same methods as the Blue Ridge study, with the exception that thirty largemouth bass were harvested to study their “growth” patterns. The amazing outcome of the aging process as related to “growth” was that a Lake Lure largemouth is approximately six years old when it obtains the legal length of fourteen inches!
Since 2007, the town has developed an active plan that greatly improved our fishery.
These priorities have produced good results with many who fish here, giving high marks to the on-going efforts. As proven by Volunteer Water Information Network (VWIN), Lake Lure’s water quality is far superior to many countries’ drinking water. Overall, Lake Lure has been a good fishery, but with consistent management practices now in place, will continue to be known as the “Gem”.