Angler creel surveys provide more insight into fishing opportunities at Sand & Wamplers lakes

close-up of bluegill in handFrom April through October 2017 the DNR conducted an angler creel survey at Sand Lake in Lenawee County and at Wamplers Lake in Jackson/Lenawee counties. A clerk stationed at those locations counted and interviewed anglers several days each week and then estimates of catch and effort were calculated for the entire survey period based on the information collected. Here's what we found!

At Sand Lake, which is 440 acres, there were 11,600 total angler hours during that six-month time period. Fisheries managers consider Sand Lake to have a low to moderal activity level, with high catch rates compared to other similar-sized lakes in the area. There were 50,728 total fish estimated to be caught, which equals out to 4.4 fish per hour. Of the fish caught 23,000 of them were bluegill and 17,800 were largemouth bass.

Meanwhile, on Wamplers Lake which is 780 acres, there were 20,500 total angler hours during that same time period. There were 89,000 estimated fish caught, which is approximately 4.3 fish per hour. Of those fish caught 23,500 of them were bluegill and 14,500 were largemouth bass. Other species caught included northern pike, yellow perch, pumpkinseed, rock bass and black crappie.

Jeff Braunscheidel, who is a fisheries biologist in southeast Michigan, is analyzing the creel data collected in 2017 and will incorporate it into a complete survey report in spring 2018. He says most of the data that was collected wasn't that surprising.

"Wamplers Lake is very popular with anglers and gets heavy fishing pressure," he explained. "It's almost twice the size of Sand Lake and had almost twice the number of angler hours, plus nearly twice the total number of fish caught."

Braunscheidel noted that just as many bluegill were caught in both Sand and Wamplers lakes, but the number harvested differed. Nearly 11,000 bluegill were harvested at Sand Lake while only 5,700 bluegill were harvested at Wamplers Lake. He thinks that implies the bluegill in Sand Lake were of a larger size and more desirable for keeping.

"Then you look at the largemouth bass numbers for both lakes and realize there's something there as well," Braunscheidel said. "More bass were caught on Sand Lake, despite the higher fishing effort on Wamplers Lake. But catch rates on Sand were double. Despite the popularity at Wamplers Lake for bass fishing, Sand Lake may actually be the better bass lake."

Braunscheidel notes there was a larger variety of other fish species caught in good numbers on Wamplers Lake compared to Sand Lake.

"I would say, if you want to harvest fish other than bluegill or bass, then Wamplers Lake is the better choice. Overall though, both lakes had good catch rates and are worth a trip."

Stay tuned for the full survey report available at Michigan.gov/fishing later this spring. If you have questions, feel free to contact Jeff Braunscheidel at braunscheidelj@michigan.gov or 248-666-7445.