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Cave Run Habitat Project Update

November 25, 2014
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Fish habitat being added in eight areas in Cave Run Lake; Project will go through 2016

Cave Run Habitat Project Update

By Chris Erwin

On Nov. 18, the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife held a town hall meeting to update the public on a habit project and the about management of largemouth bass in Cave Run Lake in Morehead, Ky.

The long-range goals of the project are directly connected to the management of the fish populations, so it was fitting to tackle them both at this meeting. The idea is to do what they can to improve the fishing. Our eastern lakes are not as fertile as the western lakes, but there are things that can improve growth rate and fish populations.

It is believed that increasing the prey population will in turn increase the predator populations. Tom Timmermann, KDFWL’s eastern Kentucky biologist, is heading up the habitat project to attempt to do just that. The game plan is a long-range plan to build habitat in eight locations on Cave Run Lake. Two of the eight were completed this year. So far, it appears to be a success. But Timmermann warned, “We are not going to see a quick magical fix on Cave Run Lake. However, over the long run, the data is trending towards success.”

About two miles of habitat were placed in the lake this year, which should start improving prey populations next year. The DFWL is still collecting items to build more fish attractors to be place in the water next year. If you have anything that could be used to build fish attractors call the DFWL at 1-800-858-1549. So far, they have been using plastic pallets, wooden pallets, cedar trees, plastic five gallon buckets, Christmas trees, wooden stakes, and PVC pipes.

This map was produced by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife to show the areas where the habitat has been added to Cave Run Lake and where future sites are for more habitat to be added in 2015 and 2016. (Courtesy of the KDFWL).

This map was produced by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife to show the areas where the habitat has been added to Cave Run Lake and where future sites are for more habitat to be added in 2015 and 2016. (Courtesy of the KDFWL).

I will continue to keep you informed as this project moves forward.

The other part of the meeting was about the largemouth bass management. They covered creel survey data that spanned all of the way back into the 80s. According to their data some measurable factors have come to light since the department imposed the slot limit. No. 1, bass are growing faster thus making it through the slot (13-16”) a lot faster. More 20-inch bass were reported caught per fishing hours on the water than ever before.

The idea here is Cave Run has a high rate of breeding success and low fertility, so the herd needs thinned so more forage is available for fish entering the slot. By doing this, more fish grow quickly passed the 16-inch mark, the upper end of the slot.

According to the DFWL, fish below the slot, fish smaller than 13 inches are plentiful due to the high breeding success rate. They believe that the lake can stand about 40% of these to be harvested, and their model will still work. They say that to date; only about 23% are being harvested right now before they reach the slot. So they feel they are well within the margin of early harvested small bass to stay on track to grow fish faster than before the slot limit was imposed.

If you had hopes the slot limit would be removed on Cave Run Lake, from the data I have seen on the 18th, I can safely say you’re waiting on something that’s not going to happen.

I will say I have been someone who has been against the slot limit for the last 10 years I have railed against it and wrote many articles explaining my views. However, I am beginning to change my mind. I have looked at all the data, and it’s hard not to see the difference in growth rates. It may not be helping populations, but it appears to be growing fish faster and putting more fish in the 20” class. The idea is the added habitat may increase the numbers by supporting more prey fish for the predators to feed on. We will keep you posted, as always we are eager to hear from you.

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