Michigan Department of Natural Resources
Cass County (T5S, R16W, Sec. 3, 4)
Van Buren County (T4S, R16W, Sec. 34, 35)
Surveyed September 21-24, and October 6, 1993
James L. Dexter, Jr.
Magician Lake lies mostly in northwestern Cass County, about 6 miles
northwest of the City of Dowagiac. It is in an area known as the "Sister
Lakes", which include Round, Crooked, Dewey, and Magician lakes. Magician
Lake is natural, having been formed during the last glacial period.
The topography of the watershed is that of hills and depressions. This
area lies at the lower end lobe of the Kalamazoo moraine. The soils are
classified as Spinks - Oshtemo - Ormas Association, which are level to
steep, well-drained, sandy (loamy) soils located on glacial outwash plains
and moraines. The watershed has been estimated at 2,050 acres in size
(Water Quality Investigators 1994). Active and fallow farms, woodlots,
and residential homes are the primary features of the watershed. Considering
the small size of the watershed, one could call it quite urbanized. There
are no inlets to the lake, and one outlet. The outlet is known as Silver
Creek, and it is located on the eastern shore of Magician Lake. It drains
south to the Dowagiac River, which then feeds into the St. Joseph River
watershed of Lake Michigan.
Magician Lake is 498 acres in size, of which 429 acres occur in Cass
County. The remaining 69 acres are in Van Buren County. It is up to 60
feet deep, although no official lake map has ever been made. Roughly 70%
of the lake is less than 20 feet deep (Water Quality Investigators 1994).
Aquatic vegetation is common, with most of the shoal areas having Chara
interspersed with common to abundant submergent plants.
Water quality conditions were surveyed August 12, 1993. The water had
a light green color, and a Secchi disc reading of 7.5 feet. Within the
water column (at 54' depth), alkalinity ranged from 120-151 ppm, and pH
was 8.3. These values indicate the water is hard and well buffered. Water
temperature varied from 78°F at the surface to 45°F at the bottom,
with a thermocline occurring at 14-48 feet (an uncommon profile). Oxygen
levels, however, dropped below 3 ppm between 18-19 feet, effectively prohibiting
most fish from using the water column deeper than 19 feet in midsummer.
The only historical water quality data is from August 21, 1985 (also
in 54 feet of water). All results were very similar, except that oxygen
levels during that survey were above 3 ppm to about 23 feet.
A later survey (September 3, 1994), by Water Quality Investigators (1994),
found 3 ppm of oxygen at 29 feet. The sample was taken over the deepest
portion of the lake. The Secchi disc reading was 11 feet, and conductivity
was 360 mhos/cm at 25°C. The estimated flushing rate was 2.8 years.
Development around Magician Lake is quite complete. There are four islands
in the lake that cover about 70 acres. These are not developed much. The
State owns an access site on the north side of the lake. It has parking
suitable for 10 vehicles with trailers, and it has hard surfaced ramps.
The first fishery survey of Magician Lake was conducted in 1887. The
lake at that time contained a typical warmwater fish community with bluegill,
yellow perch, rock bass, bullheads, and crappie.
Records on fish stocking at Magician Lake go back to 1934. Between 1934
and 1945 various combinations of bluegill, large and smallmouth bass,
yellow perch, and walleye were stocked. The lake has a history of good
fishing. There is one comment in the files that poor fishing occurred
in 1954 and that the lake was "infested with gar". In 1962, a seine survey
was conducted by the Fish Division. All game species collected in that
survey were growing above state average rates except for bluegill, which
were growing at the state average rate. The seine sample covered 20 acres
(3 hauls). The seine, with dimensions of 1600' x 30', captured over 5,000
fish in 2 days. It was a very impressive, and collected what appeared
to be a representative sample of the lake's fishes.
In the 1960's, an investigation was conducted to assess the possibility
of adding a northern pike spawning marsh. In 1973 it is noted that a marsh
was not needed, most likely due to the results of a full survey conducted
in 1972. Both fyke nets and boomshocking were utilized in that survey.
Again the fish community appeared unchanged and game fish showed good
growth rates. Some anglers, however, did say that fishing success had
declined. Based on the 1972 survey and the perceived suitability of the
lake for walleye, walleye stocking was initiated in 1975 and continues
today (Appendix 1). Stocking levels of spring fingerlings increased substantially
in 1991 due to a change in the regional minimum stocking levels.
In 1985, a general boomshocking survey found only one walleye and slower
growing bluegill. Other gamefish were still growing at state average rates.
In 1991, the first "Serns" indexing survey for young-of-year (YOY) walleye
survival was conducted. This survey found excellent survival (estimate
of 3.6 YOY walleye per acre) and growth rates above state averages.
The most recent survey was conducted in September and October, 1993 using
four standard trap nets (6'x3'x1.5"), four experimental gill nets (125'),
and night-time boomshocking (240-V DC, 1 hour). Netting was conducted
for 3 nights.
The fish community we found did not differ significantly from any previous
survey except that walleye are now common (Table 1). Bluegill, yellow
perch, largemouth bass, northern pike, and walleye are the mainstay of
the fishery. Largemouth bass and black crappie did not appear to be very
Bluegill were the most abundant species collected by number and weight.
Over 21% of those collected were of acceptable size (greater than 6.0
inches). Growth rates were at state average (Table 2), with younger bluegill
exhibiting slow growth and older bluegill showing fast growth. This is
slightly better growth than in past surveys. Age-frequency analysis (Table
3) shows variable recruitment levels of young bluegill, but this may be
due to our sampling. Using Schneider's (1990) index for bluegill populations,
the size distribution of this population ranked average (3.25) on a scale
of 1-7, based on trap net and electroshocking data combined. This is identical
to the bluegill rank based on 1962 data (Schneider 1990).
Yellow perch were also growing at the state average rate. Eight year
classes of perch were collected, and recruitment of young perch was excellent.
Only 8% of the perch were of acceptable size.
Although relatively few black crappie were collected, there were five
year classes present (Table 2). Growth was well above state average, and
44% were of acceptable size.
More northern pike were collected than largemouth bass. A total of 38
pike, ranging from 8-24 inches, were collected (Table 1). Only 5% were
of legal size. Seven year classes were collected. Growth rates of most
year classes were below state average. Recruitment levels were impressive,
especially of age III pike (1990 year class). Age frequency analysis shows
fairly good survival through age IV, then a significant drop in survival.
This is most likely due to angling pressure once pike become legal size.
The walleye stocking program at Magician Lake has been very successful.
A total of 76 walleye were collected representing eight age classes. Growth
rates for walleye were over 4 inches above the state average. Most walleye
collected were age 0, although there was a strong showing from the 1991
stocking (age II, average size 16.8 inches). There may be some limited
natural reproduction occurring at Magician Lake because we did identify
one age I walleye (1992 year class). That was a non-stocking year. Other
possibilities, less likely, are that we aged this fish wrong, or there
was private, unpermitted stocking going on. Age-frequency analysis (Table
3) shows variable recruitment due to our alternate year stocking policy
for this lake. Approximately 29% of the walleye were of legal size.
In 1992-1995, we conducted a voluntary postcard creel survey of walleye
catch for Magician Lake. An example postcard is in Appendix 2. A total
of 26 cards were returned over the 4-year period. Anglers reported a total
catch of 49 walleye at a catch rate of 0.84/hour. What is interesting
to note about these card returns is that almost every one reported they
were specifically fishing for walleye. This is very uncommon among southern
Michigan walleye lakes where we have conducted similar surveys. Even though
card returns were rather low for a 4-year period, I highly suspect that
many of the walleye anglers at Magician Lake wished to keep their good
fishing a secret.
Only 36 largemouth bass were collected (Table 1). This is one of the
poorest largemouth samples we have ever seen. Just over 5% of the bass
collected were of legal size. Largemouth bass were represented by six
age classes (0-V). Growth was average (Table 2). Age-frequency analysis
(Table 3) shows steady but low recruitment, and low mortality until age
IV, which is about the time they are large enough to be harvested by anglers.
The overall fishery of this lake is very good, with perhaps the exception
of largemouth bass and black crappie. However, sampling gear biases may
have led to our poor catches of these two species. Anglers have not complained
about the present fishery for bass or crappie. Magician Lake is heavily
used by Indiana anglers, and they really like it for walleye and bluegill.
Even though the lake does have significant areas of weed beds, fishing
for most species is very successful. There is not another lake in the
immediate area that can compare to this lake in terms of the walleye fishery.
Diamond Lake near Cassopolis has the closest good walleye fishery. Many
area lakes offer similarly good populations of warmwater game fish, but
the pike population appears to be especially noteworthy. Again, Diamond
Lake is Magician Lake's closest competitor.
Magician Lake will continue to be managed as one of southwest Michigan's
premier warmwater fisheries and stocked walleye waters. Currently, the
stocking level is 50 spring fingerlings per acre on an odd year basis
(total 24,900 sf). In the future, stocking may also occur in even years
if enough walleye are available and if Serns indexing indicates poor survival
of previously stocked walleye. Based on the number of anglers that fish
Magician Lake specifically for walleye and our survey results, I can safely
assume that a good walleye fishery has been created. Continued stocking
will ensure this fishery will continue.
Our goal into the next century will be to maintain the excellent health
of the current fishery and continue the walleye stocking program. Additional
surveys of the largemouth population may be required if we hear negative
reports from anglers. I strongly believe, however, that this will not
be the case. No major obstacles to achieving our goal of maintaining the
existing fishery are anticipated.
Report completed: December 19, 1996.
Schneider, J.C. 1990. Classifying bluegill populations from lake survey
data. Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Fisheries Technical Report
90-10, Ann Arbor.
Water Quality Investigators. 1994. Fusilier's Atlas and Gazetteer of
Michigan Lakes, Volume 4. Dexter.
Table 1.--Number, weight, and length (inches) of fish collected
from Magician Lake with trap nets, gill nets, and DC boomshocker, September
21-24 and October 6, 1993.
Table 2.--Average total weighted length (inches) at age, and growth
relative to the state average, for fish sampled from Magician Lake with
trap nets, gill nets, and DC boomshocker, September 21-24 and October
6, 1993. Number of fish aged is given in parentheses.
Table 3.--Estimated age frequency (percent) of fish caught from
Magician Lake with with trap nets, gill nets, and DC boomshocker, September
21-24 and October 6, 1993.
Last Update: 08/05/02