Michigan Department of Natural Resources
Allegan and Barry counties
T02N, R11W, Section 1; T03N, R11W, Section 36 in Allegan County
T02N, R10W, Sections 4, 5, 6, 8, 9; T03N, R10W,
Sections 19, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33 in Barry County
Gun Lake is located in Yankee Springs and Orangeville Township in Barry
County, and in Wayland and Martin townships in Allegan County. It is 2,680
acres in size, covering more than four sections of area. The lake is approximately
11 miles west of Hastings, 27 miles southeast of Grand Rapids, and 32
miles northeast of Kalamazoo.
The soils adjacent to the lake to the west are primarily sandy loams
and loamy sands, which tend to be poorly drained, and have slow surface
runoff. On the east side of the lake, the adjacent soils are sands or
loamy sands, with some areas where cutting and filling have altered natural
soils. To the west, the balance of the watershed is primarily fine sand
and sand complexes. The land is nearly level or slightly undulating, and
well to excessively drained. Runoff varies with the degree of slope, which
can reach 40% or more. To the east, the topography is more varied, with
sands, loamy sands, and muck soils scattered throughout the watershed.
Drainage varies from poor in the Houghton and Adrian muck soils to well
to excessively drained in the Coloma, Boyer, and Spinks loamy sand complexes.
The Gun Lake watershed encompasses 30 square miles and is in the Kalamazoo
River Basin, draining into Lake Michigan. It has 17.8 miles of shoreline,
with 1.4 miles more shoreline in islands. The lake has eight inlets, including
those from Payne, Long Hall, and Fawn lakes. The Hall Lake inlet feeds
three walleye rearing ponds on the east shore of the lake. The outlet
of Gun Lake is the Gun River, a designated trout stream for most of its
length. The lake level is controlled by a dam in the outlet just above
Patterson Road, which was built in 1905. Land use in the watershed is
predominantly agriculture, though a large percentage of the land is included
in the Barry State Game Area and Yankee Springs Recreation Area and remains
in its natural wooded state.
The lake is separated into an east and west basin which differ significantly
in depth and structure. The west basin is almost uniformly shallow and
has a maximum depth of 5 feet, with the exception of Robbin's Bay and
Pickerel Cove, which have maximum depths of 34 and 25 feet, respectively
(Figure 1). The bottom is marl with sandy shorelines. The two deeper bays
have muck and marl bottoms and limited areas of gravel in the shallows.
The shoreline of this basin was historically wooded, with several segments
of encroaching shoreline, numerous deadheads, and large areas of submerged
and emergent vegetation. Development on the lakeshore has altered much
of this shoreline.
The east basin has a marl bottom with a few small areas of peat. Depths
vary greatly, to a maximum of 68 feet. More gravel is found in the east
basin, and the shoreline is steeper in many areas. Historically both emergent
and submergent vegetation were more limited, and fewer deadheads were
present. Numerous submerged and emergent islands are surrounded by gravel
bars and boulders. This basin was developed earlier and has many bulkheads
and seawalls along the shoreline. Several peninsulas project into the
east basin, with steep banks. There are some shallower bays in this basin,
with maximum depths of 7 to 8 feet, with sand and gravel along their shorelines.
The northeast section of the basin has an encroaching shoreline. There
is an area of steep shoreline with numerous springs on the east shore,
formerly known as the Cascades. Brush shelters were installed to provide
additional habitat in this basin in the early 1950s.
In general, water quality in the lake is good. There is a sewage treatment
plant serving all the residences and businesses around the lake, the Gun
Lake Sewer Authority, that was built in 1980. The most recent water chemistry
of the lake was completed in the deepest part of the east basin in August
of 1989. Dissolved oxygen levels were 5 ppm or better to a depth of 24
feet. Water temperatures ranged from 73° at the surface to 49°
near the bottom. A 1968 water chemistry survey showed dissolved oxygen
levels above 5 ppm at least 25-30 feet in three major bays of the lake,
with water temperatures between 17-20°C. In 1989 total alkalinity
ranged form 110-147 ppm, indicating fair buffering capacity. In 1968 average
total alkalinity ranged from 120-135 ppm. The pH ranged from 8.2 to 8.8
in 1985, and in 1968 it ranged from 6.5 to 8.0 ppm. Additional parameters
measured in the 1968 survey included ammonia, phosphorus, iron, chlorine,
sulfates, sodium, and conductivity.
Most of the lakeshore is developed, with the exception of the marshy
northeast shore in the east basin and the state land included in Yankee
Springs Recreation Area. Parks Division controls about 4 miles of the
shoreline of the lake, and maintains a camping area, two boat launch sites,
and a day use area located on the peninsula dividing the two basins of
Gun Lake. There is another public launch site operated by Allegan County
on the west shore of the west basin. Several private resorts with boat
rentals are operated in the summer.
Early records indicate there were native populations of both muskellunge
and walleye in Gun Lake. The lake mapping crew in 1945 noted they had
seen pictures of record catches of walleyes, pike, bass, and muskellunge.
Species they reported seeing in anglers' creels were perch, bluegills,
pike, muskies, largemouth and smallmouth bass, and sunfish. Walleyes (yellow
pike-perch) were first reported in gill-net and seine surveys in 1950
and were stocked in the lake as early as 1921 (see Appendix 1).
The composition of the fish population is essentially the same today
as it has been since the 1940s (Table 1). Earlier seine surveys took a
variety of forage species including blacknose, mimic, sand, spottail,
emerald, spotfin, and golden shiners, bluntnose minnow, central mudminnow,
banded killifish, logperch, johnny darter, brook silversides, and northern
creek chub. The abundance of several game species has fluctuated over
past decades and has dictated the management practices on the lake. According
to angler reports, northern pike were apparently abundant in the 1930s
and 1940s, then declined for some unknown reason. A 1950 survey showed
modest numbers of pike, but low numbers were seen in subsequent years
until the most recent surveys in the 1980s. Musky numbers were historically
sufficient to support a winter spear fishery, but no summer fishery ever
developed. Few muskies were collected in surveys until plants for broodstock
were initiated in the mid-1970s. Existing walleye populations were augmented
by fry plants in the 1920s, but apparently sufficient numbers were already
present to create at least a modest fishery. Fair numbers of walleyes
were collected in surveys since the 1950s, even in years when no walleyes
Currently a good fishery exists for walleyes, and the northern pike fishery
has improved in the last few years. Only a remnant musky population exists,
and the fishery has declined significantly in recent years. The lake is
very popular with bass anglers, with good success for both largemouth
and smallmouth bass. Panfish fishing is considered average. Anglers report
the perch fishery has improved over the past few years, but that fewer
big perch are caught now than before musky stocking was initiated. These
reports must be tempered with the known opposition to musky stocking among
some local anglers and riparians, and their claim that muskies ruined
the perch fishery that existed in past years.
Fish growth in Gun Lake is average for most species, with a few notable
exceptions (Table 2). Smallmouth bass are growing slowly at all ages.
Walleyes are growing very well; many are reaching legal sizes by their
second year of growth. Other species are growing slightly above or below
state average rates, but are within what is considered an acceptable range.
Gun Lake is heavily developed and receives substantial boating pressure
from riparians and boaters using the State Park and County access sites.
Much of the pressure is from recreational boating, especially in the summer
months, and anglers are restricted to early morning and late evening or
night fishing. Boating pressure has reduced the wild rice beds in the
west basin to a fraction of their former size. There is also a fair amount
of duck hunting on the lake each fall. Residents often claim that they
"lose their lake" between Memorial Day and Labor Day each year.
Gun Lake now supports a good fishable population of walleyes. Annual
fingerling stockings have averaged over 20,000 fish in the last decade
and is regulated by the success at the ponds operated by the Gun Lake
Protection Association (GLPA), with plants occasionally augmented from
the District rearing ponds. This rate of only seven to eight fingerlings
per acre is much below the recommended rate for Region III (25-50 per
acre for fingerlings 2 inches or smaller), but a successful fishery is
still supported. It is not known if natural reproduction contributes to
the population of walleyes in Gun Lake.
Walleyes have been the target in surveys more than any other species
in Gun Lake. The average size of fish in collections since 1961 ranged
from 8.3 to 20.8 inches, and individuals up to 27 inches and 7 pounds
have been taken. Despite the frequency of surveys, walleye growth was
not evaluated regularly, but the few analyses done show growth to be much
above average in Gun Lake.
The northern musky population in the lake has been reduced to a fraction
of what existed prior to cessation of stocking in 1983. While Great Lakes
muskies were native to the lake, it is doubtful that natural reproduction
could maintain a musky population today, given the extensive development
of the lake. Cultural development is cited as a primary reason for the
decline of native musky populations in many northern states (Dombeck et
al. 1986). Competition with northern pike is another crucial factor in
the success of muskies when the two coexist in a lake. Pike are known
to utilize similar forage to the musky, and are predators on young-of-the-year
muskies (Dombeck et al. 1986; Inskip 1986). Walleye would also compete
with muskies for forage at some sizes, and could prey on young-of-the-year
Surveys since the initiation of musky stocking show the average size
of fish ranging from 12.7 to 37.0 inches, and reached 41.0 inches in size.
Because of the difficulty of accurately aging esocids from scales, only
two surveys included analysis of growth. In 1983 growth was much above
average, and in 1989 the few muskies collected were growing below state
Northern pike numbers have increased in the lake in recent years, and
a good fishery exists for them today. Small areas of suitable habitat
still exist on the lake for the population to maintain itself, and a large
marshy area at the Payne Lake inlet is available for spawning. Anglers
interested in large sports fish have apparently turned to pike and walleyes
following the decline in the musky population. Conservation Officer reports
and local fishing reports support this change, but no creel census data
exists from recent years. The average size of pike collected in surveys
ranged from 16.6 to 24.8 inches, and individuals up to 41 inches were
collected. Growth in pike aged in 1989 was slow, with fish growing 0.7
inches below state average rates.
The yellow perch population does not appear to have changed significantly
from the populations surveyed in the early 1950s and 1960s. Maximum size
of perch in survey collections was between 10 and 12 inches, with the
exception of a subsample collected during musky broodstock netting in
1985, when the largest perch sampled was 8.4 inches. The average size
of perch ranged from 4.7 to 8.3 inches. These averages are of course greatly
influenced by gear type; the two surveys with the lowest average size
of perch (1989 and 1983) were those where 2 to 5 inch perch collected
while electroshocking made up the majority of the perch sampled. The catch-per-unit-effort
(CPUE) in surveys has fluctuated from year to year, and was higher in
1989 than in previous years. Many local anglers are convinced that the
average size of perch declined after musky stocking for broodstock was
initiated in 1977, and that fewer large perch have been caught in recent
years. We have no census data to verify these claims. There is no evidence
of a significant change in the average or maximum size of perch collected
in surveys, either before or after the initiation of stocking either muskies
or walleyes. Growth has been above average in all surveys with available
growth data, except the 1984 sample, where the -0.5 growth index is still
considered "normal". This was also a smaller sample of perch than in all
Bluegills have averaged between 4.8 and 6.9 inches in surveys, and individuals
up to 10 inches have been collected. In 1989, over 56% of the bluegills
were 6 inches or larger. Growth is slightly below average in all but the
oldest surveys. Black crappies averaged between 5.6 and 10.1 inches, and
individuals up to 13 inches have been collected. Over 92% of the sample
collected in 1989 were over 7 inches. Growth has been at state average
rates in recent years. These species, along with rock bass and pumpkinseed
sunfish, should produce a good panfish fishery in the lake. However, Gun
Lake is not noted as one of the better panfish lakes in the District,
since several nearby lakes are capable of producing 8 and 9 inch bluegills
Smallmouth and largemouth bass are a very popular sport fish in Gun Lake,
and generate many hours of fishing by both individual anglers and organized
clubs. The average largemouth in surveys has been between 7.3 and 11.8
inches and individuals up to 19 inches have been collected. Growth is
somewhat slow, but generally has been within acceptable ranges in all
surveys. In 1989, 17% of the largemouth collected were legal size or larger,
and individuals up to 4.6 pounds were collected. Smallmouth bass have
averaged between 5.9 and 10.8 inches in surveys, and individuals up to
20 inches have been taken. Growth is slow in smallmouths; in all surveys
where growth was evaluated, the fish averaged at least 1.0 inches below
state average rates. Despite slow growth rates, many smallmouths reach
sizes acceptable to anglers. Thirty percent of the smallmouths taken in
1989 were 12 inches or larger, and individuals up to 5.0 pounds were collected.
Brown, black, and yellow bullheads are found in Gun Lake. Individuals
up to 15 inches were collected in 1989, and over 98% of the sample of
bullheads were of a size acceptable to anglers. It is not known if any
significant fishery exists for these species.
In addition to the game species mentioned above, other predator fish
that are found in Gun Lake and that contribute to the balance of the fish
population include bowfin, longnose gar, and spotted gar.
Presently, Gun Lake is stocked annually with walleye fingerlings. Musky
stocking was suspended in 1984, and has not resumed. The broodstock designation
for the lake was lifted in 1985, and spearing is again allowed on the
lake. The last collection of broodstock for muskies was in 1985. At that
time, 115 pike and 47 muskies were taken, as well as 39 walleyes. Good
habitat exists for walleye growth and reproduction, and the addition of
additional spawning habitat has been considered. Good water quality should
be assured by the continued operation of the Gun Lake Sewer Authority.
The existing sport fishery in Gun Lake should be expected to continue,
and could be enhanced. The following recommendations can accomplish this
1. A full fisheries survey should be conducted at Gun Lake at least every
10 years, to monitor the entire fish population, and make changes in the
management direction of the lake as necessary. In addition, a full creel
survey should be conducted within the next 2 years to determine present
harvest rates of walleyes and other game fish in Gun Lake. This information
will be invaluable in guiding the management direction of the lake, and
in evaluating the success of the walleye plants in sustaining or expanding
2. Musky stocking should not be resumed at the present time. The growing
pike and walleye populations will negatively impact on any chance of successfully
reestablishing a significant musky population. The existing musky population
will be reduced further by continued angling pressure, and cannot be expected
to sustain itself through natural reproduction. Renewal of muskellunge
stocking in Gun Lake will be dependent on population changes which would
again favor muskellunge survival and growth. The desire of musky anglers
to have a quality fishery can be met at another lake in the District,
such as Thornapple Lake in Barry County.
Several of the lakes currently managed for tiger muskies could also be
switched to northern musky plants if fish were available, or stocking
of other lakes could be investigated. Despite the support from some local
and visiting anglers, the musky is too highly regarded as a sport fish,
and too expensive to raise, to continue stocking in a lake where many
of the riparians and anglers using the lake do not welcome them.
3. The cooperative rearing agreement for walleyes with the GLPA should
be continued. Further, a minimum stocking rate should be established to
maintain or try to improve the fishery that now exists. This will necessitate
augmenting the rearing pond production if it is not adequate, whenever
District rearing pond production allows it. Alternatively, the GLPA should
consider purchasing additional fingerlings if the rearing pond production
is below the minimum number recommended. The GLPA could also look for
additional ponds for cooperative rearing facilities.
4. An evaluation of possible natural reproduction of walleyes needs to
be conducted, by alternate year stocking for a minimum of 4 years. If
natural reproduction is found to be adequate enough to contribute significantly
to the fishery, the established stocking schedule should be adjusted appropriately.
If natural reproduction is shown to be insufficient to support the walleye
fishery, reasons for the deficiency should be investigated.
5. The GLPA should pursue boating regulations for the lake, such as a
slow, no-wake period from early evening to early morning. This would enhance
fishing opportunities on the lake and allow the best utilization of the
walleyes being stocked in the lake.
Dombeck, M. P., B. W. Menzel, and P. N. Hinz. 1986. Natural muskellunge
reproduction in midwestern lakes. American Fishery Society Special Publication
Inskip, P. D. 1986. Negative associations between abundances of muskellunge
and northern pike: evidence and possible explanations. American Fishery
Society Special Publication 15:135-150.
D. C. Johnson, District Fisheries Biologist
Fisheries Division, Lansing and Region III
Table 1.-Species and relative abundance of fishes collected by
number and weight in Gun Lake, 1989 (all gear).
Table 2. Mean length and age at capture, and mean growth index
of game species in Gun Lake, 1989.
Appendix 1.--Gun Lake stocking summary, 1921 to present.
Last Update: 08/06/02