Carlyle Lake, Illinois’ largest man-made, is located in South Central Illinois, approximately 50 miles east of St. Louis, Missouri. Construction of the lake began in 1958 and was completed in 1967. The lake is 12 miles long and 1-3 miles wide with approximately 26,000 acres of surface water at normal summer pool. Carlyle Lake is a multi-purpose lake, these purposes include downstream flood control, recreation, water supply, environmental stewardship, and downstream navigation. Although flood control is a major purpose of Carlyle Lake, severe impacts from holding pool levels higher than normal (445.0 NGVD summer pool) in the reservoir have resulted in significant shoreline erosion, sediment deposits, and habitat loss in shallow water spawning area as well as deep water habitat.
Although flood control is a major purpose of Carlyle Lake, severe impacts from holding pool levels higher than normal (445.0 NGVD summer pool) in the reservoir have resulted in significant shoreline erosion, sediment deposits, and habitat loss in shallow water spawning area as well as deep water habitat.
To help mitigate for poor spawning conditions and fluctuating water levels during the spawn, five brood rearing ponds are managed by the Corps of Engineers and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR). These ponds have been used in the past to raise sauger, crappie (black and white), and largemouth bass. Although significant numbers of fingerling fish are raised in the brood ponds (approximately 20,000 per pond each year), the survival rate of these young fish is low due to heavy predation and lack of suitable habitat and cover in the lake.
What FOR is Doing
The proposed project would re-establish depth and stabilize a section of shoreline (adjacent to the Coles Creek brood pond outlet) that is located on the eastern portion of Carlyle Lake. In addition, an artificial reef structure and habitat islands will be created adjacent to the shoreline giving fish protection during the critical transition from deep to shallow water and vice versa. This will also help support recruitment of fingerling fish, and will create an additional area that is favorable for spawning to occur. Stabilization will be provided by placing 400 pound rip rap (1,000 ton) as a barrier around the existing clay bank of the point. The stone toe protection will be approximately 175’ in length, 10’ feet wide at the base, with a top elevation of approximately 450.0 NGVD (5 feet above normal summer pool). The toe of the structure will be at elevation 443.0 NGVD (normal winter pool) to allow approximately two feet of rock structure in the water for spawning purposes during a normal pool year. The rip rap will be placed with a 20’ track hoe and hauled by a tandem dump trucks through an existing roadway leading to the site.
The reef will be constructed adjacent to the rip rap area and will be made up of artificial fish structures. These structures (approx. 500) will include Honey Hole trees and stumps, spider blocks, and submerged plastic culverts to enhance spawning. Over the past 15 years, these structures have been tested and proven successful in Carlyle Lake. These structures will remain in place for many years to support algae growth, provide cover, and attract all fish species. The structures will be built and assembled by students from local college and high school bass fishing teams, and employees from the City of Carlyle Parks and Recreation Department. All structures will be placed in the lake by IDNR Fisheries Staff, COE employees, and other partners in the project. The IDNR will utilize a fisheries habitat barge to ensure that all structures placed will form a reef in water depths ranging from two to ten feet. A side scan sonar with down imaging will also be used to get precise structure placement.
This project is designed to stabilize a critical shoreline area at Carlyle Lake and to improve and enhance the aquatic habitat simultaneously. By reducing the rapid shoreline erosion, siltation, and amount of sedimentation along the shoreline, it will also improve the water quality in the area reducing the chances of HABs during the summer and fall. This bank stabilization coupled with the addition of a large artificial reef structure will not only enhance the area, but will also make the area more productive and user friendly.
Following completion of the shoreline stabilization, the area above the rip rap will be seeded with a native grass species to create a buffer strip to minimize future impacts from runoff. The area between the toe levee and the shoreline will create a small wetland area (approximately ¼ acre) encouraging vegetation growth which will also assist in soil stabilization.
Monitoring the project will be accomplished in three phases. Phase one will consist of digging out the cove and construction of habitat islands and placement of rip-rap and shoreline stabilization, phase two will be construction and placement of the artificial fish structure reef, and phase three will be to monitor the project after construction is completed. Phases one and two will be directed by Carlyle Lake team members to ensure that the contractors and volunteers are following all plans and that work is completed properly. Although the finished product will be relatively maintenance free, phase three which will include monitoring the area for fish productivity and usage will continue for several years after completion.
Every year in the spring and fall, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Division of Fisheries conducts electroshocking surveys to determine the overall health of fish populations in Carlyle Lake. This area will provide biologists an additional site to monitor because large populations of all fish will utilize the area. Other methods of monitoring will include creel surveys, fishing tournament reports, and word of mouth.
The Interpretive Services and Outreach Program is an essential part of the Corps Civil Works program. Through this program we communicate Corps missions and accomplishments, achieve management objectives, and foster environmental stewardship. Interpretive outreach programming and environmental stewardship efforts at Carlyle Lake are popular with local schools throughout the area. Once the project is completed, it will serve as an educational area to offer programs and explain the importance of creating areas of great fisheries habitat.
Outreach to the public and lake users will be provided through many different sources including: social media, websites, news releases, word of mouth, etc. The Carlyle Lake Facebook page has over 14,000 followers and provides updated information daily. The Carlyle Lake Project also provides anglers with an updated map of fish attractor locations throughout the lake. Areas will be marked and added with GPS coordinates using the Humminbird Lake Master Charts to give anglers precise locations and excellent fishing opportunities year round.
The lake has a significant economic impact to the area year round with an average visitation of more than over three million visitors, $600,000 in revenue collected, and $70.6 million in visitor spending within 30 miles of Carlyle Lake per year. The lake hosts 40 – 50 fishing tournaments, annually, solidifying the immense impact fishing has on the lake and surrounding community. The City of Carlyle and Carlyle Lake have been the host site for the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) State Bass Fishing Finals since its inaugural year in 2009 (the contract was recently extended through the year 2021). 2019 marked the 11th anniversary for the event with over 70 teams competing for a chance to be crowned the Illinois State Champion. Other professional fishing tournaments held at Carlyle Lake include: the FLW College Central Conference Championship, the Illinois Bass Federation Northern Divisional Championship, Crappie Masters Tournament Trail, Crappie USA, Cabela’s King Kat Fishing Circuit and many more
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to support similar habitat projects
- Carlyle Lake Association