Managing twin ponds in Upper Peninsula: Roxbury Ponds East & West

DNR employees placing trees on iceIn the Upper Peninsula's western Chippewa County are two ponds, around a half mile apart, which were for decades managed as trout lakes for anglers to enjoy. These ponds - Roxbury Pond East and Roxbury Pond West - were formed during the creation of Lakeshore Drive.

Serving as remnants of that massive construction project these ponds, although located in an ideal setting at only 35 miles from Sault Ste. Marie, lacked habitat and fisheries populations but the DNR worked hard to rectify that.

For many years trout species were stocked in both ponds but upon constant evaluation that practice was discontinued in 2005. Fish weren't surviving in the ponds, anglers weren't catching many fish, and there was an overall lack of interest on the public's part.

"We really thought hard about what we wanted to do with both of these ponds after we stopped stocking trout there," said the local DNR fisheries biologist Cory Kovacs. "We considered them for walleye rearing ponds but then settled on creating local warmwater fisheries by doing wild fish transfers."

For Roxbury Pond West that meant two types of activities would need to occur to transition to that type of fishery. In 2014 and 2015, it received a total of 275 adult bluegill and 48 adult largemouth bass. The fish were taken from two area lakes near Newberry and were certified as disease-free before being stocked.

Then in 2016, in partnership with the U.S. Forest Services' Hiawatha Unit, habitat improvements were made by dropping trees along the shoreline and placing brush bundles that will provide cover structure for those stocked fish.

"The ultimate goal for Roxbury Pond West is that those bluegill and largemouth bass will reproduce and become self-sustaining," shared Kovacs.

Roxbury Pond West has walk-in access only but visitors can hand carry in a canoe or kayak. There is a short walk from the available parking lot down to the water.

Similar activities were conducted on Roxbury Pond East as well. Fisheries Division staff placed brush bundles there in the winter of 2016 and the following fall 150 black crappie were stocked.

"Black crappie fisheries are limited in the eastern U.P.," explained Kovacs. "This pond offered an excellent opportunity to create a warmwater fishery and many anglers love crappie!"

The plan is to stock again in 2017 and 2018 to establish multiple year classes in Roxbury Pond East, but it's unlikely that natural reproduction will occur. But forage minnows are available there for the black crappie to feed on.

Access at Roxbury Pond East is similar to that available at the west pond, with a foot path leading from the parking lot down to the water. It is also allows for the carrying in of a small boat.

Kovacs is quick to point out that winter fishing might be a great option for both ponds as their proximity to Lake Superior allows for great ice cover. If you're in the area this summer, fall or winter you might want to consider paying them a visit!