Michigan Department of Natural Resources
Cass County (T6S, R14W, Section 24)
Surveyed June 26&endash;27, 1990
James L. Dexter, Jr.
Belas Lake is a very shallow, small natural lake located in central Cass
County (see map of Belas Lake). More
than ½ of the land around the lake is owned by the State and is in
Crane Pond State Game Area. A public access site was constructed by the
Fisheries Division in 1981. This small gravel site has room for 10 vehicles
with trailers. The small town of Vandalia is located about 2 miles to
the southwest. Cassopolis is about 8 miles to the west.
The immediate shoreline area of the lake is marshy, with no development.
The watershed is a mixture of cultivated farm fields, pig farms, and woods.
The topography consists of slightly rolling hills. No information is available
on the soil types in Cass County, as a soil survey has not been completed.
The surface area of Belas Lake is 30 acres and the maximum depth is 17
feet. The lake bottom is mostly pulpy peat. No significant bottom structure
exists. One small inlet drains a pond from the east side. An outlet on
the south side drains into Kirk Lake. Both inlet and outlet are rated
as second quality warm-water streams. No control structure is present.
The lake is in the St. Joseph River Watershed.
Water quality measurements were taken on July 27, 1990. The water color
was dark brown. The Secchi disk reading was 8 feet. Alkalinities ranged
from 96 ppm at the surface to 116 ppm at the bottom and pH was 8.5. These
values represent moderately hard water that is well buffered against acidification.
Water temperatures were 77.4°F at the surface and 62.6°F at
the bottom. A thermocline began at about 5 feet. Dissolved oxygen levels
declined from 9.9 ppm at the surface to 0.3 ppm at the bottom. Sufficient
oxygen levels for most fish species was absent below the 12 foot depth.
Little historical information exists for Belas Lake. Bluegills were stocked
in 1936 and 1937 and largemouth bass in 1948. Records from the 1940's
indicate the lake had a history of winterkills. Dissolved oxygen samples
taken in February of 1948 and 1955 confirm this, with oxygen levels as
low as 0.2 ppm at the 6&endash;foot depth. In 1948 local farmers informed
fisheries investigators that yellow perch typically move up into the inlet
in large numbers and die, and then at ice out, dead bass and bluegill
show up. This scenario was observed in 1948.
Creel census figures from the 1950's and research notes from the 1940's
indicate that the fishery was fair to good for largemouth bass, bluegill,
yellow perch, and black crappie. A fyke net survey conducted in September
of 1978 showed about the same community, with the exception that the first
record of northern pike was entered. These most likely were offspring
from a stocking of 100 northern pike fingerlings in 1954.
During the June 27-28, 1990 survey, three different types of nets (two
each) were fished for one night. These nets included standard 6' x 3'
x 1.5" trap nets, mini-mesh (¼") full size fyke nets, and experimental
The present fishery of Belas Lake is similar to that of 1978. The fish
community found during the 1990 survey (Table 1) was dominated by bluegill,
pumpkinseed sunfish, and bullhead. Three legal sized northern pike were
collected. Yellow perch, black crappie, and largemouth bass were also
present, but not in great numbers.
Bluegills provide the most fishing activity at Belas Lake. Schneider
(1990) developed 5 criteria for ranking bluegill populations from survey
catches in Michigan. Using these criteria, this bluegill population ranked
4 (good) on a scale of 1&endash;7. Nineteen percent of the bluegill sampled
were over 7 inches.
The growth rate of bluegill (Table 2) was good compared to the state
average. Yellow perch were growing at their state average rate. Pike,
crappie, and bass do not appear to be experiencing growth problems but
only a few samples of each were collected.
The age composition and survival characteristics of bluegill are hard
to interpret (Table 3). It appears that heavy mortality may be affecting
the population between ages III and IV. More likely, however, our limited
netting effort under sampled older bluegills, because they had moved offshore
after spawning and were not vulnerable to our nets. More intensive netting
would be necessary to determine what is actually happening.
The history of winterkills on this lake undoubtedly leads to the good
growth of most game species. The constant reduction of the total population
allows more room and less competition. Belas Lake should continue to provide
good fishing in future years. Limited access and low use will contribute
to sustaining the fishery.
No intensive management is needed at Belas Lake. The watershed should
not be under- going any major changes in the near future. The possibility
of winterkills will continue, however, and may cause major changes in
the fish population and composition. Belas Lake should continue to produce
an acceptable warmwater fishery for years to come. Adequate natural reproduction,
good growth, a favorable species mix, and low public use will all contribute
to maintaining the good health of the fish community.
Report completed: June, 1991.
Schneider, J.C. 1990. Classifying bluegill populations from lake survey
data. Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Fisheries Technical Report
90&endash;10, Ann Arbor.
Table 1.-Number, weight, and length (inches) of fish collected
from Belas Lake with trap, fyke, and gill nets on June 26-27, 1990.
Table 2.-Average total length (inches) at age, and growth relative
to the state average, for fish sampled from Belas Lake with trap, fyke,
and gill nets on June 26-27, 1990. Number of fish aged is given in parentheses.
The top average is weighted by length frequency distribution; the bottom
average is unweighted.
Table 3.-Estimated age frequency (percent) of fish caught from Belas
Lake with trap, fyke, and gill nets on June 26-27, 1990.
Last Update: 08/06/02