Michigan Department of Natural Resources
Jackson County (T1 and 2S, R2E, Sections 1, 2, 35, and 36)
Surveyed May 30, 1991
Gary L. Towns
Clear Lake lies in extreme eastern Jackson County, less than one mile
from the Washtenaw County line. The small community of Waterloo is less
than two miles to the north and the City of Jackson is approximately 12
miles to the southwest.
This lake, in the Waterloo Recreation Area, is surrounded by rolling
tree-covered hills. Many other lakes and marshes dot the landscape nearby.
Clear Lake was mapped in 1944 by the Michigan Department of Conservation.
In the mapping report, R. Scholman, mapping party leader, referred to
Clear Lake as "the most scenic lake in Jackson County". Permanent houses
and cottages now surround nearly 75% of the shoreline. A county park on
the western shore offers swimming and carry-on boat access, but there
is no public boat launch.
Clear Lake spans 136 acres and has one major basin with a maximum depth
of 34 feet (see map of Clear Lake). Basin
substrates are composed mostly of marl, with lesser amounts of sand and
fibrous peat. There are no large inlets; apparently spring-flow from surrounding
hills maintains the lake water level. Water exits the lake through a small
outlet along the northern shore. A concrete sill helps to maintain the
water level in the lake.
In 1944, an inventory of aquatic plants was conducted. Chara sp.,
a macro-algae, was found to be the most dense plant in the lake. Lily
pads, bulrushes, pondweeds, and many other plant species common to area
lakes were also found. Details of that study can be found in the files.
The first recorded inventory of biological and physical features of Clear
Lake occurred in 1936. At that time there were numerous cottages, a few
resorts, and "one or two" boat liveries. Even at that time, summer fishing
pressure was reported as "heavy" and the lake had a good fishing reputation.
During that study, a rather typical collection of warmwater fish was present
including: bluegill, largemouth bass, yellow perch, pumpkinseed, rock
bass, green sunfish, mud pickerel, black crappie, brown bullhead, yellow
bullhead, and a host of shiners, darters, and minnows. Conspicuously absent
from that report were northern pike, a large predatory species common
to area lakes.
Stocking records indicate that Clear Lake was planted with bluegills,
bass and perch several times between 1937 and 1946. This was a common
practice in public waters until fishery research showed that such stocking
was unnecessary and uneconomical. Fingerling smallmouth bass (3,000) were
stocked in 1946. Sandy shoals with fair amounts of gravel led to expectations
of smallmouth bass reproduction. Apparently similar considerations were
made when walleye fry were stocked from 1951 through 1955. Subsequent
surveys and fishing reports indicate that neither of these species survived.
The lake mapping party reported that "nice catches of bluegills, perch
and pike" were made by anglers during the winter of 1944. The party did
not attempt to collect fish.
The first detailed fishery survey of Clear Lake was conducted in 1956.
Trap nets, gill nets and seines were used in an effort to fully evaluate
the fish population. Similar species (as those reported earlier) were
found with the additions of northern pike and bowfin (dogfish). The growth
rates of game fish captured in 1956 were analyzed using fish scales. Average
growth rates for most species were found to be below state averages. Yet,
pumpkinseed, yellow perch, and rock bass appeared to be growing above
state average rates.
Another survey, in 1961, captured nearly 4,400 fish. During this survey
a large seine (1,600 feet long) was used to sample approximately 10 acres
of the lake. Once again growth rates were poor. Bluegills and black crappie
were found to be growing an inch or more below state average growth rates.
Largemouth bass and northern pike were growing more than 2 inches below
state averages. Only pumpkinseed and yellow perch were growing at average
rates. The largest bluegill captured during that survey was 7.3 inches
A survey in 1971 (using gill, fyke, and trap nets) again captured many
fish, but of relatively small size. Growth was not analyzed, but observers
reported that bluegills appeared "stunted" while pumpkinseed were in fair
condition. The average size of the pumpkinseed catch (5.9 inches) was
0.4 inches above that for bluegills.
In 1985, another intensive survey of the fish population indicated that
growth trends over time were very stable and, in general, well below state
averages. The average growth rates for bluegills and crappie were well
below state rates. Some larger bluegills were captured in this survey
(up to 8.3 inches), but they were found to be old fish. In fact, over
71% of scale-sampled bluegills were 5 years old or older. After that study,
it was concluded that fish were growing slower, but surviving longer than
in other comparable lakes. This resulted in a fair to good panfish fishery.
Pumpkinseed once again supported a larger average size than bluegills.
Fishing pressure remained "intense" during that period with many reports
of limit catches of bluegills in the first few weeks of the ice fishery.
Because pumpkinseed sunfish consistently exhibited good growth and condition
in the lake, redear sunfish were stocked in 1987. Redear usually do well
in clear, marl bottom lakes. Snails are a preferred food item of both
pumpkinseed and redear. However, unlike pumpkinseed, redear sunfish grow
to large sizes-up to 12 inches-in some Michigan lakes.
Encouraged by riparians and the water quality in this lake, Fisheries
Division stocked smallmouth bass in Clear Lake in 1987. However, an experiment
to raise smallmouth bass in nearby Portage Creek Pond was all but a failure.
The entire annual production of 415 fingerlings was stocked in Clear Lake.
The 1991 survey of the fish population provided some information very
similar to previous surveys as well as some improvements and surprises
The 288 bluegills captured in trap nets averaged 6.5 inches long. Seventy
three percent of these were long enough to be considered acceptable size
to most anglers (6 inches or larger) and there were a few bluegills 8
inches or larger. However, the majority of the fish appeared thin and
in rather poor condition. Bluegill growth dynamics were again analyzed
using fish scales. As with all past surveys, bluegill growth was about
an inch below the state average rate. Young bluegills were growing relatively
more slowly than older fish.
Redear sunfish proved to be a good addition to the fishery. Seventy-one
redear were caught; they averaged 8.4 inches long and appeared to be in
good condition. A local fisherman reported catching 30 redear this size
a few days prior to this survey. These were caught in the shallows, over
nests, with a bubble bobber and fly tipped with a wax worm. It will be
several years before natural reproduction can be verified; however, many
active redear nests were observed during this survey. This species adds
the dimension of a large, heavy-bodied panfish to this fishery.
The 19 channel catfish captured in 1991 were a great surprise. These
averaged more than 24 inches and 6.5 pounds. No known record of stocking
channel cats exists in the files. However, subsequent to this survey,
one lake resident reported that he had stocked 100 yearling (6") channel
cats in 1986 or 1987. Pectoral spines, used for aging, were taken on several
fish captured in 1991. The majority of the catfish appeared to be at least
7 years old, which would date them back to 1984. The fingerlings reported
above may have been older than yearlings at the time of stocking- or these
may not be the same fish. At any rate, the results of this study indicate
that channel catfish will survive and add significantly to the game fish
biomass in this fishery. Over 52% of the total catch (by weight) was made
up of catfish.
Only two smallmouth bass were captured in 1991. Both fish were "legal-sized"
(12 inches or larger) and were probably some of those stocked by Fisheries
Division in 1987. It is probably too soon to know with certainty if this
species will become established in Clear Lake. However, I do not believe
that enough rocky substrate (or many of the other features important to
smallmouth) are present in this lake for a significant population to develop.
This survey also produced a fair catch of pumpkinseed. The 31 fish caught
averaged an impressive 6.6 inches (a bit larger than the average size
of bluegills). Historically, this species has exhibited better growth
rates and larger average sizes than bluegills in Clear Lake. Growth rates
observed in the 1991 sample of pumpkinseed were somewhat slower in age
group IV when compared to past data (1961). This may indicate some stress
from competition with the redear introduced 4 years ago. However, much
more data would be needed to verify this condition.
Clear Lake has a history of intense fishing pressure in the winter months
when the public can access the lake from the county park. Limit catches
of bluegills (especially during the first 2 to 3 weeks of good ice) have
not been unusual in the past several years. Clear Lake has the reputation
of producing "lots of action" during the winter ice fishery but much "sorting"
is needed since the fish are rather small.
The fish populations in Clear Lake have exhibited uncanny stability over
at least the last 40 years (since survey records have been kept). As decades
have passed, growth trends, average sizes, and relative densities (based
on catch-per-effort) for the various fish species have been near mirror
images. The vast array of physical and chemical features that make Clear
Lake what it is have apparently changed very little over this time period.
In most lake systems, major modifications in these features (for example
changes in water quality, fluctuating water levels, etc.) drive fish populations
to change. Introduced species can also lead to changes, but to date, the
stability of the Clear Lake fish population seems to be intact.
Clear Lake has historically supported a rather mediocre panfish fishery.
This is a lake that produces lots of recreational fishing and plenty of
fish for the table...as long as anglers are not too concerned with large
size fish. This system has historically not produced large numbers of
large predators, but occasionally nice catches of bass and pike are reported.
In general, anglers have been relatively satisfied with the fishery, although
a few complaints have been received regarding small sizes of panfish.
These complaints were considered when redear sunfish were introduced.
Redear sunfish management should continue in Clear Lake. The occasional
large redear in the anglers catch will add significantly to better impressions
of this panfish fishery. This species may become self-perpetuating in
this lake. A one-time stocking of redear fingerlings in nearby Crooked
Lake in 1956 resulted in an established population that is presently producing
redear up to nearly 12 inches long. However, to ensure survival redear
fingerlings should be planted at least 2 years in succession. Since several
fish were observed over nests in 1991, it could be assumed that a 1991
year-class of redear exists. I recommend additional fingerling plants
in 1992 and 1993 in hopes of developing three year-classes of relatively
similar size and maturity for future breeding.
Channel catfish are excellent food fish and formidable sport fish. One
riparian interviewed during the survey reported catching a large channel
cat in 1990. Large catfish are quite piscivorous and are undoubtedly serving
the lake well as a predator of small bluegills (which seem to be in great
abundance). Self-propagation of this species in this lake is doubtful.
Clear Lake surface water temperatures may reach channel catfish spawning
temperatures (75 F to 85 F) briefly in mid-summer, but this lake is well
north of the natural range of the species. Also, large crevices, cavities,
hollow logs, etc. are important for nesting sites; this type of substrate
is lacking in Clear Lake.
I recommend stocking 6- to 8-inch catfish fingerlings every other year
for 6 years. Periodic surveys will be necessary to evaluate the progress
of both the redear and catfish populations. Pumpkinseed growth should
continue to be analyzed to ascertain any possible competition with redear.
Report completed: February, 1992.
Table 1.-Number, weight, and length indices of fish collected
from Clear Lake with trap nets, May 30, 1991.
1Percent legal size or acceptable size for angling.
Table 2.-Average total length (inches) at age, and growth relative
to the state average, for two species of fish sampled from Clear Lake
with trap nets, May 30, 1991. Number of fish aged is given in parentheses.
1Mean growth index is the average deviation from the state
average length at age.
Table 3.-Estimated age frequency (percent) of two species of fish
caught from Clear Lake with trap nets, May 30, 1991.
Last Update: 08/06/02