Chapman Lake – Past, Present, Future

Posted 10/20/21

Last week’s Tracks and Trails article featured updates about Otter Lake. This week I’m going to discuss some past, present, and future details about Stanley’s own Chapman Lake. Although Chapman …

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Chapman Lake – Past, Present, Future


Last week’s Tracks and Trails article featured updates about Otter Lake. This week I’m going to discuss some past, present, and future details about Stanley’s own Chapman Lake.

Although Chapman Lake is a small 36 acre lake, throughout the years it has provided a multitude of outdoor recreational entertainment for young and old alike. Many area youngsters caught their first fish at Chapman Lake and romped up and down it’s shoreline with the likes of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.

I still have recollection of when I was a little tyke. My dad took me to Chapman Park to see the newly erected deer park followed by a trip down a gravel driveway which led to the old dynamite house, where we stopped to fish along the lakes shoreline. What an enormous lake I thought that was!

For a number of years, the former Conservation Commission and Department of Natural Resources gave minimal attention to Chapman Lake. Recalling my first involvement in outdoor organizations and the Wisconsin Conservation Congress, Joe Kurz was the DNR Fish Biologist representing Chippewa County. He often sent crews to check Otter Lake, but always bypassed Chapman. When asked why, he stated that Chapman Lake wasn’t a major body of water prioritized within his DNR budget.

Approximately 12 years ago, I became acquainted with a young man by the name of Heath Benike. Benike and I met while I was serving the Wisconsin Conservation Congress as an Executive Counselor. At that point in his career, he was a DNR fish biologist covering Polk and Burnett Counties. Throughout our conversations, I found him to be a remarkable person of great integrity. By a stroke of luck, he later asked for a transfer to become the DNR fish biologist representing Chippewa and Eau Claire Counties replacing Joe Kurz who retired.

Teaming up later with him to discuss and plan improvements for Chapman Lake was exciting. When Benike transfered, I specifically asked him to stop at Chapman Lake and get back to me with his ideas and opinions for improvements. The timeframe was perfect. Chapman had just been dredged and the Stanley Sportsman’s Club was discussing plans to implement an aeration system and fish stocking program. Within a short period of time, Benike and his crew stopped by Chapman on their way to Otter Lake. I still recall the phone conversation following his self-investigative assessment of Chapman Lake. “Wow! What a beautiful park and neat little body of water. What a handy and nice place for kids and senior citizens to recreate and fish”, he said. He went on to discuss benefits of installing a small aeration system at the lake. A short time later Benike attended a Stanley Sportsman’s Club meeting and discussed plans and costs of implementing an aeration system. He told the club he would put together plans and cost figures and his DNR fisheries crew would do installation if the club wanted to proceed with the project.

The following year an aeration system, purchased by the club was installed. The Stanley City Council agreed to pay for electricity to run the unit and provide maintenance. Hixwood Metal donated the building to house the aeration unit and a local electrician donated services during installation. A number of club members pitched in to help with the project.

Throughout the past few years, the Department of Natural Resources and Stanley Sportsman’s Club have stocked a number of fish in Chapman Lake. In 2010, the Sportsman’s Club stocked 500 adult bluegills. In 2011, the club stocked 150 adult bass and 500 large bluegills while the Department of Natural Resources stocked 1,000 large fingerling bass. In 2012, the Sportsman’s Club stocked 1,000 jumbo yellow perch while the DNR stocked 3,194 fingerling yellow perch, 840 large fingerling bass and 3,400 largefingerlingbluegills. In2013,theDNR again stocked 850 fingerling bass and 8,500 large fingerling bluegills. Bluegills stocked that particular year were approximately 2-3 inches in length and were donated as leftovers by the US Fish and Wildlife Services, Genoa, Wisconsin Fish Hatchery. In 2014, the DNR stocked 210 adult (field transfer) largemouth bass. These fish were transferred from Long Lake in Chippewa County as part of a bass removal project and ranged from 8-20 inches. Prior to being stocked into Chapman Lake, the bass underwent fish health testing to ensure no diseases were transferred with the fish.

In 2014, Heath Benike left his position as DNR Fish Biologist for Chippewa and Eau Claire County and moved to accept the position of Fisheries Supervisor of the Black River Falls DNR office area fish team. Joe Gerbyshak then came aboard as the new DNR Fish Biologist representing Chippewa and Eau Claire County. Needless to say, he and his team have done a remarkable job representing our area with coverage of both Otter and Chapman Lakes. Joe’s team has been very patient and helpful in assisting the city crew in setting up and turning on Chapman’s aeration system throughout the past few years.

In June 2011, and again in 2015, the Department of Natural Resources surveyed Chapman Lake to obtain baseline fisheries data to determine thestatusandhealthofthefishery. The survey consisted of electrofishing the entire shoreline and collecting all fish encountered.

The most common game fish found during the 2011 survey was largemouth bass followed by northern pike. Largemouth bass ranged from 3.7-15.4inchesandaveraged8.7inches. Northern pike ranged from 11.9-21.1 inches and averaged 16.5 inches.

The most common pan fish collected was bluegill followed by black crappie and pumpkinseed. Bluegills ranged from 2.2-7.5 inches and averaged4.9inches. Blackcrappiesrangedfrom 3.4-8.2 inches and averaged 6.2 inches. Pumpkinseed appeared to make up a small portion of pan fish in the survey. Other species collected included white sucker, golden shiner, black bullhead and yellow bullhead.

During the 2015 fisheries survey the most common game fish species found was again largemouth bass followed by northern pike. Largemouth bass ranged from 7.1-18.5 inches and averaged 12.9 inches. Although a small sampling of northern pike was obtained, the average length captured was 19.2 inches.

The most common pan fish collected in the 2015 survey was bluegill followed by black crappie, pumpkinseed and yellow perch. Bluegills ranged from 4.5-7.2 inches and averaged 5.9 inches. Black crappies ranged from 6.4-7.2 inchesandaveraged6.8inches. Pumpkinseed and yellow perch appeared to make up a small portion of the pan fish population in Chapman Lake. Otherspeciescollectedincludedblack bullhead, golden shiner and white sucker.

From the limited amount of fisheries data collected during the 2011 survey and 2015 survey, it appeared that Chapman Lake had a healthy largemouth bass population for a 36 acre lake. The size structure of the largemouth bass improved substantially in the 2015 survey compared to the 2011 survey.

Every year since 2017, the Department of Natural Resources has stocked 360 extended growth northern pike. These fish average 8-10 inches in length. Due to COVID restrictions last year, no northern pike were stocked, however last month the DNR stocked 720 extended length northern pike, double the normal amount, to make up for non-stocking last year. According to Gerbyshak, the stocking of 360 northern pike per year or 10 per surface acre of waterwillbeanannualevent. Plansaretodo an electrofishing survey of Chapman’s shoreline inthenearfuture,possiblyspringof2022. Survey results could determine specifics for future stocking. Contrary to some public belief, walleyes have never been stocked in Chapman nor are there plans for future walleye stocking.

There may be some future concerns for ChapmanLake. Althoughit’sbeen11years since Chapman Lake was dredged, the return of leafy pondweed is becoming prevalent again. Leafy pondweed is a perennial which is more noticeable during the summer months, but most of the weeds will die off as colder weather arrives while the rhizomes (root system), survives in the sediment. There appears to be sediment flowing into the lake once again with runoff from the Wolf River. Runoff (loose soil, fertilizer and liquid manure) helps fuel weed growth. Unfortunately, this is beginning to look like a rerun of a bad movie. Unless future steps are taken to combat leafy pondweed, it could once again be a detriment to the lakes future progress. An abundance of leafy pondweed reduces oxygen levels. Therefore, the return of leafy pondweed raises concern with DNR fisheries staff.

Some years prior, the City of Stanley owned a weed eating machine which helped minimize the weed population in Chapman Lake. A year prior to dredging, the machine was removed andparkedatthecityshop. AtthattimeMayor David Jankoski told me the city did not have a DNR permit to run the machine and the license was very expensive. This occurred shortly after the Rod and Gun Club and Stanley Sportsman’s Club jointly purchased a weed eating machine from the Lake Hallie Lake Association for the sumof$2,000. LakeHallie’sweedeaterwasan identical twin to the City of Stanley’s weed eater. Parts were interchangeable. Both weed eaters were parked at the city shop without use for a number of years until one day, without explanation, both disappeared.