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Cisco

Division of Fish & Wildlife fisheries aide Aaron Voirol holds a cisco captured at Crooked Lake during a 2019 fish community survey

Division of Fish & Wildlife fisheries aide Aaron Voirol holds a cisco captured at Crooked Lake during a 2019 fish community survey.

Overview

Cisco (Coregonus artedi) is the only native fish from the salmon family found in Indiana waters outside of Lake Michigan. It is a coldwater species that inhabits waters as far north as Canada and as far south as the upper Midwestern United States. Cisco are small and slender, silver-colored fish. They feed primarily on zooplankton, a diverse group of microscopic animals that live in aquatic environments. In Indiana, cisco grow to 7 inches by age 2, 12 inches by age 4, 15 inches by age 6, and they have been known to reach 19 inches at around 10 years of age.

Habitat

The glacial lakes of northern Indiana represent the southernmost extent of cisco’s range in North America. Glacial lakes are lakes formed by receding glaciers and water from melting glaciers. Only about 24% of Indiana lakes, primarily in the northern glacial lakes region, provide late-summer coldwater habitat (≤ 68°F and ≥ 3.0 mg/L dissolved oxygen) suitable for cisco.

Population Status

The number of lakes supporting cisco populations in Indiana has declined precipitously since 1955 as a result of coldwater habitat loss at many lakes. Failing Lake (Steuben County), Indiana Lake (Elkhart County), North Twin and South Twin lakes (LaGrange County), Lake Gage (Steuben County), Eve Lake (LaGrange County), and Crooked Lake (Noble/Whitley counties) are the only remaining Indiana lakes containing cisco.

Table 1. Population status of cisco in Indiana (C = common, R = rare, P = probably extirpated, E = extirpated, U = unknown status). Extirpated species are no longer found in a geographic area.
LakeCountyAcres19551975199420012016
AtwoodLaGrange170RPEEE
Big CedarWhitley144CRPEE
Big LongLaGrange366REEEE
Big OtterSteuben69CEEEE
ClearSteuben800CRRRP
CrookedNoble/Whitley206CCCCC
DallasLaGrange283CRPPE
Dillard's PitKosciusko13URRRP
EveLaGrange31RCCCC
FailingSteuben23CCCCC
FishLaGrange100CEEEE
GageSteuben327CCCCC
GeorgeSteuben/Branch MI509UUUUE
GilbertNoble28UUEEE
GooseneckSteuben25RRRRP
GordyNoble31CRRRP
GreenSteuben24REUCR
HackenburgLaGrange42RRPEE
HindmanNoble13RRPEE
IndianaElkhart/Cass MI122UUUUC
JamesSteuben1140CRPEE
JamesKosciusko282CEEEE
JimmersonSteuben434CRPEE
KnappNoble88CRPPP
Lake of the WoodsSteuben/LaGrange136CCEEE
LawrenceMarshall69CCCPE
Little LimeSteuben30UUURP
MarshSteuben56CEEEE
MartinLaGrange26CCPEE
McClishSteuben/LaGrange35CCCCP
MeserveSteuben16URRRP
MessickLaGrange68RRPEE
MyersMarshall96CCPEE
North TwinLaGrange135CRPEC
OlinLaGrange103CCPEE
OliverLaGrange371RCPEE
OswegoKosciusko83REEEE
RoundWhitley131REEEE
RoyerLaGrange69RPPEE
SechristKosciusko105CEEEE
Seven SistersSteuben21CCPPP
ShockKosciusko37CEEEE
ShrinerWhitley120CEEEE
SnowSteuben422CEEEE
South TwinLaGrange116CCCCC
TippecanoeKosciusko768CEEEE
VillageNoble12REEEE
WaubeeKosciusko187UEEEE
WitmerLaGrange204REEEE

Management

The Division of Fish & Wildlife (DFW) has taken several steps to conserve cisco populations over the last half century. The DFW has attempted to reintroduce cisco at two coldwater lakes, including Gilbert Lake (Noble County) in 1979 and Green Lake (Steuben County) in the early 1990s. Both of these attempts to reintroduce cisco failed to establish self-sustaining populations.

Gill netting during the fall (Nov.-Dec.) for cisco was once the preferred method anglers used to capture cisco. Early gill netting regulations required anglers to purchase a cisco license and restricted gill net mesh sizes. The harvest of cisco using gill nets was discontinued in the late 1970s to protect declining cisco populations.

Cisco are listed as a state endangered species (effective December 17, 2020) and anglers should be advised that under IC 14-22-34-12 it is unlawful to take or possess state endangered species. The 2015 State Wildlife Action Plan (SWAP) used the lake catchments of known cisco populations to define six Conservation Opportunity Areas (COAs) in northern Indiana to focus the conservation community’s efforts on coldwater habitat protection and restoration. The long-term protection of Indiana’s remaining cisco populations will rely largely on collaborative efforts to preserve coldwater habitat through the application of best management practices (BMPs) that reduce the quantity of nutrients entering Indiana’s waterways.

Reports

Resources

Contact Information

Matthew D. Linn
Fisheries Research Biologist
Indiana Department of Natural Resources
1353 South Governors Drive
Columbia City, IN 46725
260-244-6805
mlinn@dnr.IN.gov