Anglers headed to Kunkel Lake in Ouabache State Park near Bluffton this spring must follow a largemouth bass rule concerning fish size and the daily bag limit.
For Kunkel Lake, the minimum size limit for keeping a largemouth bass is 18 inches, and no more than two bass may be taken daily. The rule went into effect in 2015 after a bass and bluegill restocking project in 2013.
Any bass less than 18 inches long must be returned, unharmed, to the lake.
By protecting big bass, biologists hope to maintain good bass fishing and keep bluegill reproduction in check. In the past, bluegills overran the 25-acre impoundment. Their large population resulted in slow growth, and most bluegills were too small to interest anglers.
Biologists say ensuring a dense bass population should also help keep carp and other unwanted fish from overtaking the lake.
Assistant DNR fisheries biologist Tyler Delauder is concerned that some anglers may not be aware of the bass limit, or may be tempted to keep undersized bass while bluegill fishing.
“These bass are our insurance policy on the lake and are needed to keep the lake in balance,” Delauder said.
Bluegill fishing should be good this spring, according to Delauder. Many are already in the 7- to 7.5-inch range. Few, if any bass, however, will be large enough to keep. Most bass caught last summer were around 10 to 12 inches long.
“It will be several more years before they reach the 18-inch size limit,” Delauder said.