A DNR effort to improve bass fishing at two Noble County lakes continues to show progress.

A temporary rule put in place last summer reduced the number of small, over-abundant largemouth bass at Big and Crane lakes, according to state fisheries biologists.

The rule set aside a 14-inch minimum size limit and temporarily allowed anglers to take home bass that were 10 to 14 inches long.

Earlier surveys revealed both lakes were dominated by small, slow-growing bass, with few larger than 14 inches.

Sampling this spring indicated anglers took out about one-third of the small bass at Big Lake and two-thirds of the small bass at Crane Lake.

At Big Lake, estimated numbers of 10- to 14-inch bass dropped from 4,426 last year to 2,878 this year. Numbers at Crane Lake declined from 1,162 to 374.

By reducing the number of small bass, biologists say those that remain should grow faster and larger.

To protect the remaining bass, the 14-inch minimum size limit is now back in effect at both lakes.

“Ideally we wanted anglers to take home half of the number of small bass in each lake, but we’re happy with the outcome,” said Jed Pearson, DNR biologist. “We’ll now see if too many bass were taken from Crane Lake and not enough were taken from Big Lake.”

The DNR will continue to monitor the number of bass in both lakes to study the long-term effects of the temporary rule. If successful, similar regulations may be imposed at other lakes with too many small bass.

The key, Pearson said, is to get numbers of bass in line with the productivity of a lake and its food supply.

Since 1998, when the 14-inch size limit was imposed at all northern Indiana lakes, some lakes have developed dense populations of small bass. The majority of lakes, however, now have both higher overall numbers of bass and larger bass.

Biologists aren’t sure why some lakes produce too many bass.

“If we can restore balance to the bass populations in Big and Crane lakes, we hope that maybe they will stay that way,” Pearson said.

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