Where did all my Big Bass go?

Most of our blog posts are a summery of what we’ve been up to at AES. People are surprised to learn that there are businesses that manage lakes and more specifically fisheries. Our job is to educate people so they have the knowledge going forth to make the most informed decisions. With things slowing down this post is going to be more information based and less what we’ve been up to.

Often times during an electrofishing survey the question comes up of what happened to all the bigger bass. Owners report lots of big bass 5lbs and bigger. All the sudden these stud bass are gone and they are catching small, stunted bass. It almost seems like a cruel magic trick but it’s actually science unfolding. A bass has a life expectancy of eight to thirteen years depending on environment. Many of these ponds were built brand new and stocked according to a customized AES stocking plan. We always stock forage first to allow for reproduction. Only after the forage base has had plenty of time to grow will we introduce bass. It’s important to note that these first bass fingerlings that are stocked will always be the best fish in the pond. We are introducing them into an environment with plenty of food and no competition. Usually around year ten in when owners notice the bigger bass are becoming fewer and harder to catch. The reason these fish are getting harder to catch is their numbers are decreasing from natural mortality. It may not happen all at once but it will happen eventually.

Inside these tubes are bass fingerlings that will be sent to the lab to be tested for genetic purity.
These bass are two years old. Notice the insane growth?
If proper management isn’t taken many lakes become full of skinny, unhealthy bass. The fish is so thin the sun almost shone through it.

There are three strains of bass fingerlings we stock. Each strain of bass has a different purpose to fit a client’s goals. Northern bass are very aggressive but don’t have the top end potential of a Florida strain bass. We recommend these to clients that want fast action and don’t mind if their bass top out around 8 lbs. Florida strain bass are the ones that you hear about breaking records. They are not as aggressive as Northerns but can grow to true trophy status. We would use these for clients wishing to grow large fish but at the same time not have lots of numbers or fast angling action. Lastly there is F1 strain. F1s are a cross between Florida and Northern bass. They are considered to have the best of both strains while still maintaining a happy median. F1s are the most common strain we stock.