Michigan Department of Natural Resources
Van Buren County (T3S, R14W, Sections 1, 12)
and (T3S, R13W, Section 6)
Surveyed September 17-19, 1991
James L. Dexter, Jr.
Maple Lake is a small reservoir on the south branch of the Paw Paw River.
Located in east-central Van Buren County, it is found in the Village of
The south branch of the Paw Paw River upstream of the lake drains over
60,000 acres (94 square miles). Rolling hills and sandy soils characterize
the geography of the area. The soils of the immediate lake area are primarily
loamy sands which are very well drained. The basin of the south branch
of the Paw Paw River is characterized by Adrian and Houghton muck soils.
Most of the watershed is agricultural (54%); of lessor importance are
forested land (20%), urban land (11%), open field (9%), water bodies (4%),
and wetland (2%). Both branches of the Paw Paw that feed Maple Lake are
designated trout streams. Ackley Lake (62 acres) is connected to Maple
Lake via a 10-foot arch culvert under M-40 located at the northeast corner
of Maple Lake. The outlet for Maple Lake is blocked by a retired hydropower
dam 27-feet high (17-foot head), constructed in 1907 on the north side
of the lake. It is owned by the Village of Paw Paw.
Maple Lake is 172 acres in size and has a maximum depth of about 15 feet.
Depths can vary over time because the flow-through system acts as a sediment
basin. The deepest areas are associated with the old river channel. Chara
is common in the lake, and little if any emergent vegetation is present.
Floating vegetation is sparse. Submergent vegetation (milfoil and coontail)
becomes quite thick in most areas.
Bottom substrates are made up of primarily sand and organic material.
The south end of the lake contains a thick organic bottom that is mostly
deposition from the inlet. It is sufficiently deep to impede some boat
traffic in the very south end.
Water quality parameters were measured August 20, 1991. Secchi disc readings
were 4.5 feet. Dissolved oxygen levels were greater than 6 ppm to at least
10 feet. Alkalinity ranged from 149 ppm at the surface to 165 ppm at the
bottom, while pH was 9.0. These parameters indicate the water is hard
and well buffered. Temperature varied from 72°F at the surface to
64°F at the bottom. The lake does not stratify because of the flow-through
system and shallow depth. The water retention time of the lake is very
short, about 7 days (Southwest Regional Planning Commission 1978).
Overall water quality in Maple Lake is rated as fair to poor. While there
have been no problems with fish kills, the environment of the lake is
far from good. Phosphorus loading of the lake has been estimated at 11,900
pounds annually. This is an excessive amount, but detrimental effects
are reduced by the very short retention time of the impoundment. In addition
to the heavy nutrient loadings, the physical characteristics of the lake
(many channels, bays, peninsulas, and shallow depths) make it highly susceptible
Residential development around Maple Lake is almost total. It sits in
the middle of an urban area and has practically no undeveloped shoreline
left. A cement boat launch (township-owned) is located on the north shore
off M-40 and can handle 20-30 vehicles and trailers. Shore-fishing access
(and parking) is available at the dam and at Maple Isle (a small city-owned
island with pedestrian bridge access, beach house, and picnic facilities).
Future shore access is planned at the south end of the lake off Red Arrow
According to historical records, Maple Lake fish have been actively managed
by the State since at least 1934. Between 1934 and 1945, combinations
of bluegill, largemouth bass, yellow perch, and black crappie were stocked.
No additional stocking occurred until 1954 when walleye fingerlings were
introduced. Between 1954 and 1956 about 21,200 walleye fingerlings were
stocked. Walleyes were not stocked between 1957 and 1979, but stocking
was re-initiated in 1980 on an annual basis (Table 1). Stocking rates
in the 1980s were about 20/acre. They were increased to 50/acre, minimum,
starting in 1990 to meet DNR Region III walleye stocking guidelines.
In 1945 the first documented complaint on Maple Lake was received. A
few years before (exact date unknown) the dam, or some portion of it,
washed out. During the subsequent low-water period carp had a very successful
spawn. By 1945 anglers complained of poor fishing for everything except
carp. An abundance of carp continued to plague the lake through the 1960s.
The first fishery investigations on Maple Lake occurred in 1955 and 1956.
Gill net surveys were conducted to evaluate the success of walleye introduction.
Gamefish captured included bluegill, largemouth bass, black crappie, yellow
perch, and walleye. Unexpectedly, nine net lifts took only took one carp.
All gamefish were growing at or above the state average growth rate.
A follow-up survey in 1962 did show a large number of carp (43% of the
total weight collected). All gamefish were, however, still exhibiting
average to good growth rates. Though the gamefish population appeared
to be in good shape (including holdover walleye), the extreme abundance
of carp led to a management proposal to eradicate the fishery and start
anew. A public hearing was held regarding the proposal and it was soundly
defeated by a lack of public support.
Electroshocking surveys were conducted in 1974 and 1984 to further evaluate
the status of the fishery. In 1974 the gamefish population was still in
good shape, but there were many carp and white suckers. The 1984 survey,
targeting only walleye, evaluated the success of walleye stocked in 1980-1984.
Only three walleyes were collected. Hundreds of white suckers and "lots"
of carp were observed in that survey.
In the spring of 1972, the Village of Paw Paw drew the lake down for
maintenance of the dam and to allow lake owners to clean their beaches.
The Village tried to set up a schedule of fall drawdowns every 3 years
to provide for dam and shore maintenance. Apparently this never occurred,
for the hydro plant at the dam was retired in the mid-1970s, and no further
references were made regarding drawdowns until 1979.
In 1980, concern mounted over the poor spring fishery. The cause of the
poor fishing may have been the fall 1979 drawdown for dam repairs that
left levels low throughout the winter. Since walleye had been shown to
grow and survive well in the lake from stocking in the 1950s, it was recommended
to restock walleye. It was thought that under the circumstances of the
prolonged drawdown (and loss of fish over the dam) that walleye would
have a good chance to succeed.
In 1990 the Maple Lake Association began a campaign to convince lake
property owners that it was time to dredge the lake out. In addition to
dredging, the Village of Paw Paw wanted to continue enhancement of certain
lakeshore areas for recreational purposes. The Lake Association took the
lead and proceeded to contact DNR representatives over the required permits
and grant possibilities. At the time of this writing, no permits or grants
have been issued. The Fisheries Division has suggested it would allow
a short window period (fall) for a drawdown to remove lake sediments at
the south end of the lake. We also suupport the idea of using a hydraulic
dredge on the rest of the lake. The estimated amount of material to be
removed from the lake is over 1 million cubic yards. Obviously, any work
involving a drawdown or hydraulic dredging will have some impact on the
fishery, and we want to reduce that impact as much as possible.
The latest survey, conducted in September 1991, used 6'x3'x1.5" standard
trap nets, 3/16" full-size fyke nets, experimental gill nets (125 feet
long), and the DC boomshocking boat. The fish community revealed by this
survey is little different from that of 40 years ago.
Bluegill dominated the total catch by number, but white suckers accounted
for most of the biomass (Table 2). In addition to these species, good
numbers of largemouth bass, yellow perch, black crappie, and walleye were
also collected. Each species of gamefish had good proportions of catchable-sized
fish, ranging from 9.6% for walleye to 90.3% for yellow perch. Northern
pike, rock bass, grass pickerel, chub sucker, and common shiner were the
only species not collected in 1991 that were present in previous surveys
but low in numbers. Shorthead redhorse, bluntnose minnow, and blackside
darter were captured in 1991 but not in previous surveys.
The bluegill fishery in Maple Lake can be rated as excellent. Schneider
(1990) developed five criteria for ranking bluegill populations from survey
catches in Michigan. These bluegills rank 6.0 (excellent) on a scale of
1-7 using the trap netting data. No other District 12 lakes in the last
3 years have ranked this high. Growth of bluegill is excellent, with the
population averaging a full inch above the State average growth rate (Table
3). Recruitment of bluegills appears variable (Table 4). While young-of-the-year
recruitment in 1991 was excellent, there were severe recruitment problems
with the 1989 and 1990 year classes. I don't believe that these cohorts
were undersampled, but that the estimated age frequency represents a true
picture of the population. The 1989 and 1990 age classes may have suffered
excessive predation. There were strong 1987 year classes of bluegill,
yellow perch, and black crappie, and these may have had a significant
impact on bluegill recruitment. Also, the 1990 year class of stocked walleye
was very high as determined by fall electrofishing. Largemouth bass data
reveals no problem with recruitment and shows normal mortality (Table
The present yellow perch population in Maple Lake is characterized by
a very large cohort of four-year olds. This age group averages 9.1 inches,
almost a full inch above the State average (Table 3). Because of the strong
presence of this year class, over 90% of the perch caught were of acceptable
size to anglers. Younger perch were poorly represented in the catch (Table
3). Ages 0 and I were probably undersampled by the gear because they were
small, but age II and III perch should have been collected in a representative
amount. Thus, it appears that low recruitment of perch occurred in 1988
Growth of black crappie was at the State average rate (Table 3). Black
crappie were also variable in year class strengths as determined from
our catch. Over 40% of the crappie collected were of catchable size. Once
again, the 1987 year class was very strong, while cohorts I-III were practically
failures. Age 0 crappies recruited well in 1991 (Table 4).
Growth of walleye in Maple Lake is excellent, averaging almost 3 inches
above the State average (Table 3). Six year classes of walleye were collected.
Survival of 2.0- inch spring fingerlings stocked at the rate of 52 per
acre in June was very good (Table 4). This was confirmed by a fall 1991
electrofishing sample and SERNS indexing (Serns 1982). The calculated
density of young walleye was 9.2 per acre, higher than any other southern
Michigan lake examined to date. Age I and II walleye were also well represented.
A very good walleye population has been established in Maple Lake.
Additional SERNS index sampling was accomplished in fall of 1990 and
1992. Al- though this information was not collected for this survey, it
is presented here because of its importance to walleye management. In
1990, survival of stocked walleye was excellent (estimated density of
5.5 per acre). The stocking rate that year was 79 spring fingerlings/acre
(1.5" in June). This was the first year of higher stocking levels. Sampling
during fall of 1992 (after a spring fingerling stocking of almost 63 per
acre, size of 1.9 inches) revealed very poor survival. Estimated fingerling
walleye density was only 0.7 per acre. Growth also appears to have declined.
This information indicates that we cannot be successful stocking at this
rate when there are already two large year classes present.
The gamefish populations in Maple Lake exhibit wide fluctuation in recruitment
as determined by the age-frequency table. For most species 1987 was a
very good recruitment year. Problems with recruitment rates due to either
decreased spawning success or high mortality are apparent for the 1988-1990
cohorts of most species. For the most part, 1991 appears to be another
successful year. Wide fluctuations in yearly recruitment levels are to
be expected because this is a reservoir with frequently changing environmental
conditions due to it's low retention time.
Maple Lake should continue to be stocked with spring fingerling walleyes
at the rate of 50 per acre. Over the past 12 years the lake has received
annual stockings. Now that there is an established walleye population,
stocking should occur biannually.
To compliment the fall SERNS indexing completed in 1990-1992, a walleye
population estimate will be attempted in 1993. This information will validate
the SERNS estimates.
The remainder of the adult gamefish population is in excellent shape
at this time. However, there are some recruitment problems which may effect
fishing in the future. Fishing in Maple Lake is currently about as good
as can be expected for any lake in the District.
The goal of management should be to maintain, rather than improve, the
fisheries. This should be possible because of the good growth of fish
and the continued high nutrient loading of Maple Lake.
But, several obstacles exist in trying to maintain this fishery. It is
very likely that the lake association will be conducting a 6 week drawdown
of the lake beginning in mid-September of 1993. While drawn down the extreme
south end of the lake will be dredged out for a fishing pier, improved
boat use, and a dock for a paddle boat. We do not know what effect this
drawdown will have on the fish population of the lake.
The water level will be lowered no more than 6 inches in a 24-hour period,
with a limit of 8 feet in total drawdown. This slow withdrawal will hopefully
keep most of the fish in the lake and not cause many of them to migrate
over the dam. In addition to this project, the lake association is trying
to put in a sediment basin in the East Branch of the Paw Paw to trap sediments
before they reach the lake.
After this project the lake association will try to procure Recreational
Bond grants to conduct hydraulic dredging over a significant portion of
the lake. If this project goes through, Fisheries Division should monitor
the fish population to document dredging impacts.
Twenty-five years from now Maple Lake may be significantly changed. The
lake may be deeper, have less organic sediments, and probably will have
improved water quality. However, fish productivity may decline. Since
Maple Lake is located in a fairly densely populated area, it will continue
to receive significant use by the public and will require our attention
to monitor the fishery.
Report completed: February 1993.
Schneider, J.C. 1990. Classifying bluegill populations from lake survey
data. Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Fisheries Technical Report
90-10. Ann Arbor.
Serns, S.L. 1982. Relationship of Walleye Fingerling density and electrofishing
catch per effort in Northern Wisconsin lakes. North American Journal of
Fisheries Management 2:38-44.
Table 1.-Walleye stocking history of Maple Lake, Van Buren County.
Table 2.-Number, weight, and length of fish collected from Maple
Lake with all gear, September 17-19, 1991.
Table 3.-Average total length (inches) at age, and growth relative
to the state average, for fish sampled from Maple Lake with all gear September
17-19, 1991. The upper average is weighted by length frequency distribution,
the lower average is not weighted. Number of fish aged is given in parentheses.
Table 4.-Estimated age frequency (percent) of fish caught from
Maple Lake with all gear September 17-19, 1991.
Van Buren County (T3S, R14W, Sections 1, 12)
and (T3S, R13W, Section 6)
James L. Dexter, Jr.
The management goals for Maple Lake are based on the results of the 1991
survey, 1990-1992 fall YOY walleye surveys, and the proposed drawdown
of Maple Lake in 1993. Our first goal is to maintain the walleye population
and fishery at its present level. In order to achieve this goal several
objectives must be met. Objective one is to continue the stocking of walleye
spring fingerlings at the rate of 50-100 per acre on an every other year
basis. Objective two is to complete a mark-and recapture population estimate
of the walleye population (using jaw tags) in 1993 to validate the use
of the SERNS Index method for yoy walleye survival. The third objective
is determine the effects the fall 1993 drawdown has had on the fishery
by conducting another extensive survey utilizing all gear types in 1995.
Obstacles to achieving the first goal include significant migration of
fish over the dam during drawdown and failure to stock spring fingerling
walleyes on the proposed schedule. Data collected in 1995 will be compared
to 1991 data to determine any effects of the drawdown. Our second goal
will be to maintain the high quality warmwater fishery. This goal will
be accomplished by maintaining high predator numbers in the system (i.e.
walleye), that should help control young perch and bluegill recruitment.
Again, obstacles to achieving this goal include the potential loss of
fish over the dam during drawdown, and perhaps the unbalancing of the
population as a whole.
It is expected that the drawdown will have little negative effect on
the fishery because of the slow rate of drawdown. If this holds true,
the Maple Lake fishery can be expected to be as good in the year 2000
as it is now. The expected yield of stocked walleye from Maple Lake is
1-2 adults per acre per year. This amounts to a yield of 175-350 fish/year.
Most walleyes will be harvested between 15-20 inches, but there will be
a significant number of walleye caught over 5 pounds, as has happened
in past years.
Plan completed: February 1993.
Approved by: Richard O'Neal, District Biologist, March, 1993.
Last Update: 08/05/02