Sue Hokanson, Quartz Mountain Nature Park
August 14, 2013
The question has been asked several times now, “when will they stock Lake Altus-Lugert with sport fish?” We have to remember the Golden Algae blooms decimated the entire fish population. Not only the sport fish like Crappies, Walleye and Bass were killed, but also the small forage fish like minnows and shad. The sport fish everyone wants to catch are on the top tier of the lake food pyramid.
Yes, even lakes have food pyramids. At the top are the sport fish. In the middle are the many small forage fish like minnows and shad. The Fisheries Division of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation has already stocked our lake with gizzard shad that are native to Western Oklahoma. There needs to be many, many small shad for every large sport fish, and these adults will take a year or so to refill the lake with young shad. Sunfish will be stocked soon as well, and minnows have already returned to the lake from the river upstream.
The bottom level of the simplified aquatic food pyramid are the plants, phytoplankton, zoo plankton and small aquatic invertebrates. These provide food for the minnows, shad and juvenile sport fish. The Golden Algae blooms were massive and were very toxic to even the smallest fish. At the height of the Golden Algae blooms, even few of the native plankton were being observed.
The first positive signs for Lake Altus-Lugert were when the Golden Algae numbers started dropping and the plankton numbers started climbing. With very few fish still surviving in the lake, this lower level of the aquatic food pyramid will experience explosive population growth. Which will supply food for the middle level of minnows and shad.
Provided water levels continue to rise, salinity and Golden Algae continue to drop, the native minnows and stocked shad will also have a population boom. Then it will be time to stock the sport fish, hopefully beginning next year. As you can see it will take water and time to restore Lake Altus-Lugert.