Archer Lake 2011 Survey Report Prepared by Brian Gunderman

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1 Archer Lake 211 Survey Report Prepared by Brian Gunderman Introduction Archer Lake is a 64 acre lake located about miles southeast of the city of Coldwater. Archer Lake is part of the Coldwater-Marble Chain of Lakes. Short navigable channels connect Archer Lake to Marble Lake to the northeast and Bartholomew Lake to the southwest (Figure 1). All of the lakes in the Coldwater- Marble Chain are at approximately the same elevation and the direction of water movement within the system is variable. There are two outlets from this system. The Sauk River flows out of Marble Lake, and the Coldwater River flows out of Coldwater Lake. There are dams on both of these outlets. These dams are used to maintain the legal lake levels of 984. ft above sea level in summer and 983. ft above sea level in winter. The lake consists of two basins. The north basin has a maximum depth of 36 ft, and the south basin has a maximum depth of 26 ft. On some maps, the north basin is referred to as Middle Lake and the south basin is labeled Archer Lake. Drop-offs generally are moderate to steep. About % of the lake (by surface area) is > 2 ft deep (Figure 2). Marl is the predominant substrate in the littoral zone. Archer Lake is surrounded by poorly drained, loamy soils of the Barry-Locke-Hatmaker series, and Darcy groundwater models indicate low potential for groundwater inputs to the lake. Agriculture is the primary land use in the watershed. Aside from the marina on the east side of the lake, the entire shoreline of Archer Lake is developed with residential and vacation homes. The 211 habitat survey revealed a total dwelling density of 2.1 dwellings/mile (32.4 dwellings/km). Approximately 91% of the shoreline is armored with seawalls or riprap, which is one of the highest percentages recorded for lakes in Michigan. Large woody structure is lacking, and no submerged logs were observed during the habitat survey. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) boat launch on the channel between Archer and Marble lakes provides public access to this system. Limnological sampling was conducted at the deepest point in Archer Lake on September 8, 211. As expected, the lake was thermally stratified (Figure 3). The epilimnion extended from the surface to a depth of 16 ft. Water temperatures within the epilimnion were relatively uniform, ranging from 68.6 o F to 68.2 o F. The metalimnion (zone of thermal change) extended from 16 ft to 27 ft. Water temperatures declined from 68.2 o F at the top to.6 o F at the bottom of the metalimnion. The cold waters of the hypolimnion extended from 27 ft to the bottom of the lake. The dissolved oxygen concentration was about 7 ppm from the surface to 1 ft and dropped rapidly to <1 ppm by 17 ft. The total alkalinity was 184 mg/l, which is indicative of a hardwater lake with substantial buffering capacity. The biological productivity of a lake is strongly dependent on its supply of two key nutrients: phosphorus and nitrogen. Nitrogen is the limiting nutrient when the ratio of total nitrogen to total phosphorus is <1:1 and phosphorus is the limiting nutrient when this ratio is >1:1 (Shaw et al. 24). In Archer Lake the ratio of total nitrogen to total phosphorus was 3:1, so it appears that phosphorus is the limiting nutrient in this system. The total phosphorus concentration was 28.4 µg/l. The Secchi disk depth, which provides an index of water transparency, was. ft. These water quality parameters suggest that Archer Lake is a eutrophic or highly productive lake. The chlorophyll a concentration (an index of algal biomass) was.2 µg/l, which is more indicative of a mesotrophic or moderately productive lake (Carlson and Simpson 1996). Fish Collection System Page 1 of 2 Printed: 7/26/213

2 During , bluegills, largemouth bass, and yellow perch were stocked in Archer Lake and in other lakes within the Coldwater-Marble Chain (Table 1). Throughout the state, annual stocking programs for these species were discontinued after fisheries managers determined that such programs were unnecessary and could have undesirable effects on the receiving populations (e.g., reduced growth due to increased competition for forage). The Michigan Department of Conservation (predecessor to MDNR) used gill nets and seines to assess the fish community in Archer Lake during the summer of Bluegills and largemouth bass were the most abundant species in the catch, followed by yellow perch and black crappies. A few northern pike and pumpkinseeds also were collected. Anglers reported good fishing for bluegills and largemouth bass. No fish have been stocked in Archer Lake since 194, but some stocking has occurred in Coldwater and Marble lakes. Tiger muskellunge were stocked in Marble Lake during and in Coldwater Lake during Walleyes were stocked in Marble Lake in 1987 and in Coldwater Lake during As there are no barriers between the lakes, some of these fish could have moved into Archer Lake after stocking. Materials and Methods A variety of methods were used to evaluate the fish community in Archer Lake during May 211. Fish were captured with trap nets, fyke nets, gill nets, seines, and nighttime electrofishing gear (Table 2) as part of MDNR s Status and Trends Program. This program involves standardized sampling in randomly selected lakes to provide information regarding spatial and temporal trends in Michigan s fish communities. Total lengths were recorded for all fish. For game fish species, spine or scale samples were collected from 1 fish per inch group for age determination. Results Twenty-six fish species were collected during the 211 survey (Table 3). Bluegill (n = 878) was the most abundant species, composing 44% of the catch by number and 19% of the catch by weight. Fifty-four percent of the bluegills were 6 inches or larger. Size structures of bluegill populations can be challenging to interpret because each gear type exhibits some degree of size selectivity (Figure 4). In an effort to minimize the subjectivity associated with analyses of bluegill catch data, Schneider (199) developed a standardized scoring system for interpreting length-frequency distributions of bluegills collected with various types of sampling gear. The size scores for the Archer Lake bluegill population were. (good) based on the trap net and large-mesh fyke net samples and 2.6 (poor-acceptable) based on the electrofishing sample (Schneider 199). The mean growth index for bluegills was +.2, which is indicative of average growth (Figure ). Nine year classes of bluegills were collected (Figure 6). Yearlings were abundant, composing 21% of the total bluegill catch. Total annual mortality was estimated to be 7% for adult bluegills (ages 4-9; Figure 7). Black crappie (n = 134) was the second most abundant panfish species in the sample. Eighty-seven percent of the black crappies were 7 inches or larger and growth was average (Figures 8-9). Ten year classes were collected (Figure 1). Age 6 fish were particularly abundant and made up 3% of the black crappie catch. Fish Collection System Page 2 of 2 Printed: 7/26/213

3 Yellow perch (n = 1) composed 2% of the total fish biomass during the survey. Yellow perch in the inch range were common, but no fish > 9 inches were captured (Figure 11). Age 3-4 fish made up 73% of the yellow perch catch (Figure 12). Growth was average for perch up to 4 years of age. The sample size was limited, but growth appeared to be below average for older fish. Pumpkinseeds (n = ) and redear sunfish (n = 16) made up approximately 3% of the total fish biomass in the catch. Eighty percent of the pumpkinseeds and all of the redear sunfish were 6 inches or larger and mean lengths-at-age were above statewide averages. Redear sunfish, pumpkinseeds, and warmouth often hybridize with bluegills and with each other. Hybrid sunfish (n = 234) composed 13% of the total fish biomass during the 211 survey. Largemouth bass (n = 187) were the most abundant predators in the catch. Legal-sized fish (14 inches and larger) only composed 4% of the sample (Figure 13). Mean lengths-at-age were average for young bass and below average for age and older fish (Figure 14). The age structure was skewed toward young fish (Figure 1). Age 6 and older fish composed about 6% of the sample. Total annual mortality for largemouth bass ages -7 was estimated to be 73% (Figure 16). Thirteen northern pike were captured during the survey, including fish from five different year classes (Figure 17). The total length range for these fish was inches (Figure 18). The mean growth index for northern pike was +.7, which suggests that growth is slightly above average (Figure 19). Analysis and Discussion Predators (largemouth bass, northern pike, bowfin, and spotted gar) composed 33% of the biomass during the 211 survey. Schneider (2) observed that predators typically make up 2-% of the biomass in lakes with desirable fish communities. Based on this standard, Archer Lake appears to have a healthy predator-prey ratio. As with most other lakes in southwest Michigan, bluegill is the primary game species in Archer Lake. Catch-per-effort (CPE) with specific gear types provides an index of relative abundance of bluegills. From 22 through 27, 23 Michigan lakes were sampled as part of the Status and Trends Program and 184 of these lakes supported bluegill populations (K. Wehrly, MDNR Fisheries Division, unpublished). The Archer Lake bluegill CPEs for trap nets, large- and small-mesh fyke nets, and electrofishing gear were in the top 2% of the values recorded during the Status and Trends surveys. The CPE data indicate that bluegill abundance in Archer Lake is high relative to the statewide mean and about average for lakes in southwest Michigan. There was a large discrepancy between the bluegill size score based on the trap net and fyke net sample (good) and the size score based on the electrofishing sample (poor-acceptable). The size score based on the netting effort probably is a more reliable indicator of the quality of the fishery. The nets were fished for three nights, whereas electrofishing only was conducted on a single night. Schneider (199) noted similar concerns regarding the suitability of one-night electrofishing survey data for calculating size scores. Overall, Archer Lake appears to be supporting an average to good bluegill fishery. Bluegills are abundant, growth is average, and total annual mortality was in the middle of the range reported for Michigan bluegill populations (Schneider 2). Although large bluegills are rare in Archer Lake, hybrid sunfish > Fish Collection System Page 3 of 2 Printed: 7/26/213

4 8 inches (many of which have bluegill ancestry) are common. These hybrids are a nice bonus for anglers filling their stringers with the inch bluegills that predominate in this system. This lake supports one of the better black crappie fisheries in southwest Michigan. The crappie population density in Archer Lake is high. The Archer Lake black crappie CPEs for trap nets and large-mesh fyke nets were in the top 2% of the values recorded during the Status and Trends surveys (K. Wehrly, MDNR Fisheries Division, unpublished). The size structure of the catch was acceptable. Black crappies of harvestable size are common, but this system does not produce many trophy fish. Yellow perch occupy offshore areas during the period when Status and Trends surveys are conducted, and perch typically compose a small percentage of the total biomass in the catch. Gill nets usually are the most effective gear for capturing yellow perch. The yellow perch CPE for gill nets in Archer Lake was in the top 1% of the range for Status and Trends surveys (K. Wehrly, MDNR Fisheries Division, unpublished), so it appears that the yellow perch population density in this system is relatively high. Few fish older than age 4 were collected during the 211 survey. The relative scarcity of older fish could be caused by high fishing mortality, but no creel survey data are available to evaluate this hypothesis. Another plausible explanation is that the observed age structure is the result of wide variation in natural recruitment which is commonly observed for yellow perch populations (Forney 1971). Redear sunfish are not native to Michigan. This species was introduced into several Branch County lakes during the 19s, but no records indicate that redear sunfish were stocked in the Coldwater-Marble Chain. Redear sunfish apparently were introduced into this system via unauthorized stocking activity during the 197s or early 198s. In terms of numbers, this species is a minor component of the fish community in Archer Lake. However, the size structure of the 211 redear sunfish catch was impressive. The minimum length for redear sunfish catch-and-release entries in MDNR s Master Angler Program is 1 inches. Thirty-eight percent of the fish captured during the survey were > 1 inches. Largemouth bass are abundant in Archer Lake. Nighttime electrofishing is the most efficient method for capturing bass. The largemouth bass CPE on Archer Lake was.4 fish/minute. Only one out of 136 largemouth bass lakes sampled during the Status and Trends surveys had a higher electrofishing CPE. The scarcity of legal-size largemouth bass in Archer Lake probably is due to heavy exploitation (Figure 16). Allen et al. (28) summarized largemouth bass mortality data from numerous previous studies. The total annual mortality estimate for Archer Lake was within the top 2% of the estimates compiled by Allen et al. (28). The apparent decline in largemouth bass growth after age 4 may be misleading (Figure 14). There does not appear to be a lack of forage for adult bass in this system. The most probable explanation for the pattern in mean lengths-at-age is that fishing mortality is higher for fast-growing bass than for slowgrowing bass. Fast-growing individuals reach legal size earlier and likely have a shorter life span than slow-growing individuals. The CPE data indicate that the northern pike population density in Archer Lake is low relative to many lakes in northern Michigan and about average for southwest Michigan populations (K. Wehrly, MDNR Fisheries Division, unpublished). The sample size was limited, but the age structure of the catch suggests that fishing mortality is low. Northern pike spawn on flooded vegetation in wetlands. There are no wetlands adjacent to Archer Lake but some remain around Wright Lake and at the northern end of Marble Lake. These wetlands also serve as nursery areas for juvenile fish of many different species. Because Fish Collection System Page 4 of 2 Printed: 7/26/213

5 these wetlands are so important to the continued health of the fish, reptile, and amphibian communities, they should be protected from future draining, filling, or development. No walleyes were collected during the 211 survey. Walleyes stocked in Coldwater Lake occasionally may stray into Archer Lake. However, this does not appear to be a common occurrence. Management Recommendations Archer Lake currently is providing good fishing opportunities for panfish, largemouth bass, and northern pike. No stocking is recommended at this time. The primary management goal is to protect and improve aquatic habitat in this system. At least three different methods will be used to accomplish this goal. Fisheries Division personnel will continue to review Michigan Department of Environmental Quality permit applications for potential effects on aquatic resources. If a proposed project is likely to degrade the aquatic habitat, Fisheries Division staff will object to the proposal and suggest feasible alternatives. Fisheries Division will work with the lake association and other organizations to educate riparian landowners on the effects of various practices (e.g., chemical weed treatments and seawall construction) on aquatic ecosystems. As opportunities arise, Fisheries Division also will provide technical assistance to local units of government interested in establishing ordinances that protect aquatic habitats from pollution or unwise development. References Allen, M. S., C. J. Walters, and R. Myers. 28. Temporal trends in largemouth bass mortality, with fishery implications. North American Journal of Fisheries Management 28: Carlson, R. E., and J. Simpson A coordinator's guide to volunteer lake monitoring methods. North American Lake Management Society, Madison, Wisconsin. Forney, J. L Development of dominant year classes in a yellow perch population. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 1: Schneider, J. C Classifying bluegill populations from lake survey data. Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Fisheries Technical Report 9-1, Ann Arbor. Schneider, J. C. 2. Interpreting fish population and community indices. Chapter 21 in Schneider, J. C. (editor). 2. Manual of fisheries survey methods II: with periodic updates. Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Fisheries Special Report 2, Ann Arbor. Schneider, J. C., P. W. Laarman, and H. Gowing. 2. Age and growth methods and state averages. Chapter 9 in Schneider, J. C. (editor). 2. Manual of fisheries survey methods II: with periodic updates. Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Fisheries Special Report 2, Ann Arbor. Shaw, B., C. Mechenich, and L. Klessig. 24. Understanding lake data. University of Wisconsin - Extension, Publication G382, Madison. Fish Collection System Page of 2 Printed: 7/26/213

6 Table 1. Fish stocking in Archer Lake, Year Species Life stage Number Number/acre Average length (inches) 193 Bluegill Fall fingerling 1, Bluegill Fall fingerling 3, Yearling 2, Bluegill Fall fingerling 1, Bluegill Fall fingerling 2, Yellow perch Fall fingerling 1, Bluegill Fall fingerling 1, Yellow perch Fall fingerling, Bluegill Fall fingerling 1, Largemouth bass Fall fingerling Bluegill Fall fingerling 1, Bluegill Fall fingerling 2, Largemouth bass Fall fingerling Largemouth bass Fall fingerling 8 3. Table 2. Sampling effort during the fish community survey on Archer Lake, May 211. Each net night equals one overnight set of one net. Sampling period Gear Effort May 9-12 Trap net 3 net nights May 9-12 Large-mesh fyke net 6 net nights May 9-12 Small-mesh fyke net 6 net nights May 9-12 Graded-mesh gill net 6 net nights May 18 Nighttime electrofishing 3 minutes May 18 Seine 3 hauls (2 ft each) Fish Collection System Page 6 of 2 Printed: 7/26/213

7 Table 3. Numbers, weights, lengths, and growth indices for fish species collected during the fish community survey on Archer Lake, May 211. Fish were captured using trap nets, fyke nets, gill nets, seines, and nighttime electrofishing gear. Length range (inches) Percent legal or harvestable 1 Species Number Percent by number Weight (lbs) Percent by weight Growth index 2 Bluegill Hybrid sunfish Largemouth bass Black crappie Yellow bullhead Yellow perch Pumpkinseed Bluntnose minnow Brown bullhead Rock bass Brook silverside Warmouth Sand shiner Redear sunfish Northern pike Bowfin Spotted gar Spotfin shiner Golden shiner Common shiner Common carp White sucker Logperch Blackchin shiner Blacknose shiner Johnny darter Green sunfish Total 2, Harvestable size is 6 inches for bluegill, pumpkinseed, green sunfish, redear sunfish, hybrid sunfish, warmouth, and rock bass, and 7 inches for black crappie and yellow perch. 2 Average deviation from the state average length at age (Schneider et al. 2). Mean growth indices less than -1 indicate below average growth, indices between -1 and +1 indicate average growth, and indices greater than +1 indicate growth is faster than the state average. Fish Collection System Page 7 of 2 Printed: 7/26/213

8 Hodunk-Messenger Chain of Lakes Sauk River Coldwater River Marble Lake Archer Lake Wright Lake Lake Bartholomew Fisher Creek East Long Lake ² Coldwater Lake Miles Tallahassee Creek Figure 1. Coldwater-Marble Chain of Lakes, Branch County, Michigan. Stars indicate public access sites maintained by Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Fish Collection System Page 8 of 2 Printed: 7/26/213

9 Figure 2. Bathymetry of Archer Lake, as determined by the Michigan Department of Conservation in Depths are in feet. Fish Collection System Page 9 of 2 Printed: 7/26/213

10 Depth (ft) Temperature (F) Depth (ft) Dissolved oxygen concentration (ppm) Figure 3. Temperature and dissolved oxygen profiles for Archer Lake on September 8, 211. Fish Collection System Page 1 of 2 Printed: 7/26/213

11 Number of fish Trap Nets and Large-Mesh Fyke Nets n = Number of fish Electrofishing n = Number of fish All Gear Types n = Figure 4. Length frequency distributions for bluegills captured in Archer Lake using trap nets and largemesh fyke nets, nighttime electrofishing gear, and all gear types, May 211. Fish Collection System Page 11 of 2 Printed: 7/26/213

12 Archer Lake (mean observed lengths) State Average Figure. Growth of bluegills in Archer Lake, as determined from scale and dorsal spine samples collected during May 211. State average lengths from Schneider et al. (2). Fish Collection System Page 12 of 2 Printed: 7/26/213

13 Percent of catch Figure 6. Age frequency distribution for bluegills captured in Archer Lake during May Ln(Number) = * Age R 2 =.72, P =.32 Annual mortality = 7% 4 Ln(Number) Figure 7. Observed ln(number) versus age for bluegills captured in Archer Lake during May 211. Fish Collection System Page 13 of 2 Printed: 7/26/213

14 Number of fish n = 134 Figure 8. Length frequency distribution for black crappies captured in Archer Lake during May Archer Lake (mean observed lengths) State Average Figure 9. Growth of black crappies in Archer Lake, as determined from scale and dorsal spine samples collected during May 211. Rectangles indicate that less than five samples were collected from that year class. State average lengths from Schneider et al. (2). Fish Collection System Page 14 of 2 Printed: 7/26/213

15 4 3 3 Percent of catch Figure 1. Age frequency distribution for black crappies captured in Archer Lake during May n = 1 2 Number of fish Figure 11. Length frequency distribution for yellow perch captured in Archer Lake during May 211. Fish Collection System Page 1 of 2 Printed: 7/26/213

16 Percent of catch Figure 12. Age frequency distribution for yellow perch captured in Archer Lake during May n = Number of fish Figure 13. Length frequency distribution for largemouth bass captured in Archer Lake during May 211. Fish Collection System Page 16 of 2 Printed: 7/26/213

17 16 14 Minimum size limit Archer Lake (mean observed lengths) State Average Figure 14. Growth of largemouth bass in Archer Lake, as determined from scale and dorsal spine samples collected during May 211. State average lengths from Schneider et al. (2). Fish Collection System Page 17 of 2 Printed: 7/26/213

18 Percent of catch Figure 1. Age frequency distribution for largemouth bass captured in Archer Lake during May Ln(Number) = * Age R 2 =.996, P =.42 Annual mortality = 73% 3. 3 Ln(Number) Figure 16. Observed ln(number) versus age for largemouth bass captured in Archer Lake during May 211. Fish Collection System Page 18 of 2 Printed: 7/26/213

19 4 4 3 Percent of catch Figure 17. Age frequency distribution for northern pike captured in Archer Lake during May n = 13 Number of fish Figure 18. Length frequency distribution for northern pike captured in Archer Lake during May 211. Fish Collection System Page 19 of 2 Printed: 7/26/213

20 Minimum size limit Archer Lake State Average Figure 19. Growth of northern pike in Archer Lake, as determined from dorsal fin ray samples collected during May 211. State average lengths from Schneider et al. (2). Fish Collection System Page 2 of 2 Printed: 7/26/213

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