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ISA Conservation Grants for 2007

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The Illinois Smallmouth Alliance has built upon its’ tradition of a strong commitment to conservation by launching a formal granting program during 2007. Four grants were awarded in April of 2007. Each funded project focuses on ISA goals of preserving, understanding, and restoring the processes that sustain native smallmouth bass populations in Illinois. Results of each project will be shared with members and the public through the ISA’s web page, the Bronzeback Bulletin and peer-reviewed articles.


The awards for 2007 restore habitat, reduce siltation, and improve understandings of stressors such as heat stress and turbidity on smallmouth bass populations in Illinois.


A summary of each projects assembled by Jim J is provided below:


Project 1: Assessment of summer thermal habitat and the influence of

temperature on growth of smallmouth bass


Project goals: The goals of the proposed project are to assess summer thermal habitat and quantify the influence of water temperature on growth potential of smallmouth bass from Big Creek, which contains the most southerly population of smallmouth bass in Illinois. Specific objectives include:


Project relevance and justification: Completion of the proposed project will provide insight into the extent to which smallmouth bass in Big Creek may be exposed to warm summer water temperatures that can limit fish growth, particularly in areas with limited riparian shading. Summer water temperatures are likely to have a strong influence on annual growth rates of smallmouth bass in Big Creek due to its location in extreme southern Illinois. Reductions in growth rate of adult fish can lead to declines in condition and size, and ultimately, reproductive capacity. Alternatively, Big Creek smallmouth bass may be adapted to relatively warm temperatures, which would be detected by the proposed laboratory study as a higher upper thermal limit for growth than has previously been found for smallmouth bass. This study will determine the frequency of occurrence of warm summer temperatures that reduce the extent of habitat that is capable of supporting smallmouth bass growth during summer in Big Creek. If results of this study indicate that warm summer temperatures are limiting smallmouth bass thermal habitat in Big Creek (particularly in areas with limited riparian shading), future actions could be taken to restore riparian vegetation, with the goal of increasing suitable thermal habitat for smallmouth bass. Thus, the proposed study will provide basic information about smallmouth bass and their habitat in Big Creek that will enable determination of whether habitat restoration is needed to protect southern Illinois’ only stream containing smallmouth bass. This is consistent with the ISA’s mission of enhancing available habitat for smallmouth bass and protecting the ecosystems that support smallmouth bass.


Applicant: Dr. Gregory Whitledge

Assistant Professor

Fisheries and Illinois Aquaculture Center

Southern Illinois University

Project 2: Effects of turbidity and cover on prey selection of smallmouth bass


Project Goals: Smallmouth bass Micropterus dolomieu, a clear-water predator, is not typically found in turbid environments. In both streams and lakes, however, flooding events or wind/wave action can increase turbidity in water that can persist for extended periods. Smallmouth bass can consume a variety of prey including crayfishes as well as several fishes such as open water minnows and benthic species. We are investigating how increasing turbidity levels affect prey selectivity of smallmouth bass in tank experiments with three prey species (crayfish Orconectes virilis, a model cyprinid, golden shiner Notemigonus crysoleucas, and an introduced benthic fish, round goby Neogobius melanostomus). Additionally, the interaction between turbidity and cover is being investigated to determine its affect on prey selectivity of smallmouth bass. Experimental predators and prey have been collected from both Jordan Creek and Lake Michigan in Illinois. Preliminary results suggest that prey selection shifts from round gobies to more neutral selection for all three prey types as turbidity increases.


Project Relevance and justification: This experiment will provide insight into the predatory behavior of smallmouth bass, the effects of turbidity on piscivory, and the degree to which round goby (a recent invasive species) are preferred by smallmouth bass. Such information will be useful both to ecologists interested in natural history of fishes and to fisheries managers interested in the effect of turbidity on smallmouth bass prey selection. Results will also be applicable to anglers interested in diet patterns of smallmouth bass with relation to turbidity and cover.



Mark W. Carter

Division of Ecology and Conservation Science

Aquatic Ecology and Conservation Section

Illinois Natural History Survey


Dr. David H. Wahl

Illinois Natural History Survey

Senior Professional Scientist

Kaskaskia Biological Station


Dr. John M. Dettmers

Senior Fisheries Biologist

Great Lakes Fishery Commission


Project 3: Clear Creek Stream Stabilization and Habitat Enhancement Project


Project Purpose: Stabilize the eroding stream banks along Clear Creek and the South Fork of the Apple River and provide habitat in the form of “lunker” structures and boulders. Funding is needed to pay for the needed materials and labor costs, and to help provide matching dollars for a grant from the US Fish and Wildlife Service.


Project Goals: Clear Creek is a high gradient stream and erosion is occurring in some areas of the park along the adjacent picnic and fishing areas. Stone toe protection, along with “lunker structures” are proposed in this area to provide quality habitat while protecting the stream bank. This will prevent the silt from entering the stream, while at the same time providing quality habitat. Lunkers often provide excellent habitat for smallmouth bass as well as trout. The rock added over and behind the structures provides protection for the stream bank, and prevents further erosion. The project will protect and restore approximately 1,500 feet of stream bank, and increase the aquatic habitat of the stream. The expected improvements to the water quality, aquatic habitat, and fish populations in Clear Creek will demonstrate integrated conservation and raise public awareness.


Monitoring the success of the project will include annual fish population surveys completed by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources fisheries personnel. Coupled with historic fisheries data dating back to 1988 the surveys will provide good evidence of success.


Collaborators: The Illinois Department of Natural Resources is collaborating on this project with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Trout Unlimited, and the members of the Driftless Area Habitat Restoration Initiative.


Project 4: Indian Creek Stream Stabilization and Habitat Enhancement Project


Project Purpose: Stabilize the eroding stream banks along Indian Creek before the creek enters Shabbona Lake and provide habitat in the form of rock structures. This area has two ninety degree turns that has major erosion problems.


Project Goals: Indian Creek is the major water source for supplying Shabbona Lake. There are areas of erosion which are causing siltation problems in the upper creek arm of the lake. The erosion is also affecting main road bridge, a nearby hiking bridge and a hiking trail. Without stabilization efforts the bridges will eventually fail. By repairing the area now, the project will help solve the problems of siltation and erosion. The project will provide needed habitat for Smallmouth Bass, other stream fish and insects.


Project Relevance and Justification: The stream bank improvements will help reduce silt and enhance water clarity entering Shabbona Lake. They will also provide habitat for Smallmouth, other stream fish and insects. This project will be visible form the main park road and will show all visitors that improvements to habitat are constantly needed and accomplished.



Kerry Novak AND Denny Sands

Site Superintendent Treasurer

Shabbona Lake State Park Shabbona Lake Sportsman Club


Collaborations: The list of collaborators will be the Illinois Department Of Natural Resources, The Shabbona Lake Sportsman Club and Shabbona Lake State Park


Anyone wishing to support the ISA or get more information can do so by visiting the ISA website at: www.illinoissmallmouthalliance.com. The deadline for next year’s grant applications is March 31st, 2008.

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In addition to the important research and habitat restoration and improvement work, ISA will reap some additional benefits.


Every time these researchers publish or present their work at a professional conference, the Alliance will be listed or acknowledged, often prominently, as a sponsor/grant provider. Second, looks like ISA has started a network supplying potential speakers for the Blowout and/or regional meetings.


Thanks to all those who brainstormed this program and worked to get it going!


Bill K.

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