Local News

Efforts to remove carp from Wonder Lake underway, but may go slower than hoped

Muskie stocking also took place this fall, which could help initiative

A barrel of carp removed from Wonder Lake in December 2021.

In mid-December, a group of commercial fishermen came to Wonder Lake to conduct an experiment.

They wanted to test the lake’s population of carp to see whether they could catch enough to make it worth their while to come back and get netloads to send to New York on a tanker trunk for sale, according to the Wonder Lake Sportsman’s Club.

The fishermen hoped for thousands of pounds of carp, which would have benefitted them by giving them product and could have helped Wonder Lake gain a more balanced fishery.

There are too many carp in the lake now, and not enough other fish like muskie that can prey upon them and hold the carp population in check, sportsman’s club members have said.

But it didn’t work out the way everyone had hoped.

The commercial fishing outfit pulled set five nets and pulled them up later to capture only a half-barrel of carp, all mostly from one net. They concluded they couldn’t catch enough carp as efficiently as needed to make the fishing venture viable, the sportsman’s club said.

Carp removal efforts are continuing, however.

“The positives of this adventure is we learned how to set a net and catch the fish. We’re told that we could do it. A new net cost about $500, and we could do it several times a year,” said Dennis Gallo, the secretary for the Wonder Lake Sportsman’s Club.

The club also welcomed the news that testing of Wonder Lake’s carp by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources found them to be fit for human consumption and issued a permit that said so. The club took it as a sign that the lake is healthy enough to keep the fish edible.

But there are simply too many.

The sportsman’s club is also acting on a recent survey of the lake performed by fish biologists that found an “overabundance” of carp and recommended the introduction of some predatory fish to thin them out.

It also found “we did not have a desirable amount of vegetation in the lake for a fishery,” Gallo said.

The sportsman’s club’s response was to spend about $16 apiece on 500 muskie between 12 and 16 inches long and stock them in the lake this fall, Gallo said.

Plus, the club is also working on building “fish cribs” made from polyvinyl chloride piping meant to provide small fish or just-hatched muskie a place to hide from mature, hungry fish, including carp.

Gallo said the club could construct dozens of the cribs and has permits from the lake’s manager, the Wonder Lake Master Property Owners Association, to deploy them in various locations around the lake this spring.

The cribs, the sportsman’s club hopes, could prove useful for future generations of muskie.

John Tollini, a trustee for the Wonder Lake Village Board and a member of the sportsman’s club, said the club in the past has opted to purchase more muskie at smaller sizes for a lower cost per fish to maximize the number stocked in the lake.

But that approach can have its drawbacks, as muskie “are basically carp food” until they reach a certain level of maturity, Tollini said.

He’s in favor of this year’s plan involving the more mature muskie as they are, at the 12- to 16-inch size, considered “small predators” rather than potential carp prey.

“The whole ecology of the lake is damaged by the overpopulation of these things,” Tollini said of the carp. “They quickly grow to a size where they have no predators in the lake, so they just go to town. I’m definitely a fan of this year’s efforts.”