North Georgia Mountains Electroshock

Butting up to the Chattahoochee National Forest this lake is very unique because it has a source of cold, clean water year around. There’s a rumor among the old timers on the mountain that this lake use to be full of big brown trout. Our mission today was to determine if the fishery could still support trout. Unfortunately bass were introduced to the lake so any trout that come into the lake from the tributary are quickly ate.

A common theme among mountain lakes is very poor water quality. Today was no different. The conductivity was 16 uS/cm which is incredibly low. An average middle Georgia pond usually averages 60-90 uS/cm. The lake’s visibility was 13 ft while a normal Georgia lake is 18 in to 5 ft. These conditions made electroshocking very challenging. Fish can see us coming plus the water does not carry electricity well. Even in the tributary where the fish were boxed in all we could do was watch the fish dance in front of the boat.

Mountain Morning
It was a dreamy, mountain morning as we arrived. Temperatures were in the low 60s and almost chilly with our current heat wave.
Flooded jon boat
The dreaminess quickly came crashing down as a flooded jon boat blocked our launch path. We quickly learned that this lake has such a huge water shed that flooding is not a rarity but a norm after prolonged periods of rain. This flooded, slimy boat was just the tip of the iceberg.
Elelctrofishing was slow with the poor water quality. To spice things up this lake’s main tributary is a trout stream coming out of national forest. The tributary was large enough that we took our shock boat up it for a good ways. We saw some trout spook out from the deeper holes and one large shadow from an undercut bank that we suspect was a large brown trout.
This is the main tributary. It was perfect trout habitat with rocky cobble bottom and cold water temperatures.We are in the dog days of summer and the water was 68 degrees.
Rocky Bottom
Clean bottoms are critical to trouts survival. Trout build nest called redds in the stream bottom similar to a bass beds along a lake’s shoreline. They need a rocky bottom to fan out a bed. Streams with silt make it almost impossible for trout to spawn successfully.
River Runner
Josh is navigating the twist and turns of the tributary. Luckily Josh runs the Chattahoochee on the weekends so this is a breeze.
At the end of the shock this was all we had to show. Lots of small bluegill. A few bass were seen but the clear water allowed them to see us coming so they escaped our electricity with ease. The only reason we caught these bluegill was because we pinned them in a tree.
Remember the flooded jon boat? This is why it flooded. The mud-line in the trees is about 10-15ft into the trees. This volume of water shows us this lake could never be limed or fertilized due to the shear amount of water flow.

After a long investigation we determined that this lake has the capability to hold trout year around. We performed a dissolved oxygen profile to see if a thermocline has set up in the lake. To our surprise there was no thermocline thus allowing a suitable amount of oxygen throughout the water column. The water temperatures were 67 degrees at the surface and 63 degrees near the bottom. These are ideal conditions for trout. The main concern with trout in this lake is stocking them big enough so the bass can’t eat them. This fall we will stock the lake heavily with large brown trout and rainbow trout. Since the lake lacks fertility feeders will be set up to help supplement the trout’s diet.

New projects like this are what we love to do at AES. Although warm water fisheries are our main venture we have people qualified to assist in cold water fisheries.

How Do We Shock Small Lakes With Little To No Access?

The captain

With the Metro Atlanta are growing at a steady rate many ponds are becoming enclosed by apartments and homes. The bulk of our clients are located in rural areas where our biggest worry is avoiding a collision with the pasture bull. Occasionally we will be summoned to survey neighborhood ponds on behalf of the HOA. Working in highly populated areas brings a new set of rules. We must be conscious of Mr. Smith’s impeccable centipede lawn he’s been grooming for the past 20 years, septic lines, or property boundaries between two neighbors that don’t like each other.  Launching a twenty foot shock boat usually doesn’t go well in the above situations. For these instances we have a 10 ft boat we can carry a short distance.

Unlike our big shockboat our little boat has no pumps to fill our live well.
The front deck is tight on our little boat.
This certain lake has become choked with aquatic vegetation. The lake is located in the Metro Atlanta area. The area around it has become highly developed. Large amounts of silt have entered the lake decreasing depth. This decrease in depth has caused more sunlight to penetrate the water column. More sunlight equals more weeds.
Electroshocking Bass
Shocking in heavy weeds is extremely challenging. The fish roll out of the weeds but then instantly roll back into the weeds.
Electroshocking Bass
We call these HOA torpedoes. Often times neighborhood lakes suffer severe cases of mismanagement. Residents on the lake want to invest in the fishery while residents not directly on the lake see no need and would rather use the HOA budget for more aesthetic task. There is a simple and affordable solution. Harvest bass aggressively and drop natural habitat such as Christmas trees. The only cost is the price of cinder blocks and residents’ time.
Red breast are sunfish that live in creeks and rivers. They will come in from lakes and tributaries.
Redear Sunfish
Redear Sunfish or Shell Crackers are often confused with bluegill. Unlike bluegill they have a red/orange tab on their ear hence their name.
Black Crappie
This particular lake has become overrun with stunted crappie. Crappie will go through odd reproduction cycles so their numbers will be good one year and crazy the next. When the bulk of crappie are smaller than 12 inches it’s best to start aggressively harvesting.
Electroshock results
The final part of the survey is to weigh and measure the catch. This will give us a direction to get the lake back on track.

Now you know a few of our secrets to getting into those tight spaces. If you got a tough job give the office a call.

Pond Survey Without Electricity?

99% of the time we can figure out a way to get our shock boats into a pond but there will be a few forever out of our reach. Using standard electrofishing techniques is the most comprehensive way to survey a pond. This will give us direction when it comes to fish stocking and other pond management tasks. Even without electricity we can use other techniques to get a good idea of what’s happening.  When ponds are in balance or out of balance there are certain things to look for. Ever heard a friend say they catch only huge bluegill and small bass? Feel safe to bet your week’s paycheck he has an out of balance pond. Ponds that are in balance will have many different sizes of bluegill along with healthy bass.

Angler surveys and seine netting are the most commonly used techniques we use to survey a pond without our shockboat. Any college graduate did a thousand seines before they received their hard earned diploma. Angler surveys are a fancy way of saying we get paid to fish. A rod and reel are the most common tools. AES has a select few employees that think they are sophisticated and insist on fly fishing. Once fish are seined or caught the same inventory procedure follows as if we were on the shock boat. Bass will be weighed and measured for length. Bluegill will be measured for length. Any other species of interest such as channel catfish or black crappie will be inventoried as well.

The fly snob has landed.
Boots and shorts always hook more fish.
Easy does it.
Curious crowd assembled.
This may look like a decent fish but there are some clues that it’s under performing. The tail is long and skinny. Bass have shoulders that they should carry down their entire length. Healthy bass will be broad and sturdy like a football. This fish is more torpedo like.
Deer hair popper was too good to pass up.
This is seining in all of it’s muddy, oozing sulfur gas glory. Not for the faint of heart but lots of good data comes from seine pulls.
Notice even in our seine pulls we are getting lots of bass fingerlings and few bluegill. This is only a small portion of our sample but we aren’t off to a hot start.
Big bluegill are another tip off that a fishery is out of balance. Obviously things like fish feeders will produce large bluegill but this fish came out of a metro Atlanta neighborhood pond with little management.
Tyler reiterating the messiness of seining. He rode in the bed on the way back to office. Company trucks are messy enough.

Although not electricity, a rod and reel can be revealing in the right hands. At AES we know budgets are fluid so an electrofishing survey may not be in the cards. However, we encourage property owners to fish and figure out their own waters. If owners are unsure send pictures and accurate measurements for AES to look at. We want to help everyone to the best of our ability achieve their goals.

Forsyth, Georgia ElectroShock Recap

electroshocking big bass

Weather finally started acting like late spring and all of the solar powered AES employees are over joyed. Bring the pull over and coffee for morning shocks then break out the Sun Bum and straw hat for the afternoon jobs. It looks like the heat has set in for good so that means shock season is operating on limited time. We are still shocking some good fish but, we are much more cautious with the fish. As water temps become warmer the water holds less oxygen hence why there are no trout streams in South Georgia. When we shock fish we put them in a live well. We are constantly adding fresh water and pumping out soiled water but there is a certain carrying capacity we reach. This time of year we are always watching the fish in the tank to make sure the client does not loose any fish.

Water had almost twelve feet of visibility so shocking was an uphill battle. Luckily Capt. Matt had a good tech netting.
Don’t let the rush of catching the big one make you forgot about letting her recover.
Once you get your pictures do not just throw her back in. Give her a few back and forth motions to push water over her gills.
She rode off just fine.
These are a pair of three year old pure Florida strain bass. They do not have the aggressive nature of a F1 or Northern Strain bass but they have a higher top end potential. If you hear about bass over ten pounds it probably has a good amount of Florida genetics.
Crayfish season is getting close!

After a few lakes in the Forsyth area we headed a ways out on hwy 41 in Crawford County, Georgia. This client has us shock every few years to make sure their habitat efforts and harvest are still going in the right direction. We love their pond because there goals are for a quality bass fishery. We shocked tons of healthy three pound fish. The fish are stacking up around sixteen or seventeen inches so the next step is stocking gizzard shad. It’s always a privilege to work with clients that take our management suggestions seriously.

Luckily for John’s son the big girl was still a little stunned so she didn’t put up a fight for pictures.
Greg trying to measure a rowdy one.
Working fish quickly in the heat is critical. Dissolved oxygen levels drop rapidly in our holding tank.
Even with the tight timing accuracy is still important.
Aerial view of the metrics.
Healthy bass of thick shoulders as Greg is describing here. They also have short and stubby tails. Unhealthy fish have bodies that resemble a torpedo.
Healthy post-spawn fish.
This lake was full of quality fish like this. Can’t wait to see how the fish will do with the addition of gizzard shad.
New family portrait?
Good feeding with high protein Purina food can make one pound bluegill a reality.
Got the sunfish grandslam today!
A lot of people would have harvested this fish based on length. However, we want clients to harvest bass off relative weights which are much more accurate than eyeballs. Even small fish can be healthy.
She wasn’t having any of it.
With lots of coaxing dad convinced her to get this close.
Always good to see big shiners like this in lakes. There were not many in this lake but something is better than nothing.
Even the dogs were ready to go home after the past two days.

If you missed out this spring we will be back shocking this fall. Call the office to guarantee your spot.

Smyrna, Georgia Fish Removal

Just like humans, lakes age and need maintenance to keep performing at their best. When we survey a lake we also inspect the dam and outlet system. Often times most just need some brush removal or grass plantings to reduce erosion. However, there are times when major repairs need to be completed and the lake must be fully drained.

A small neighborhood community in Smyrna, GA contacted our office to aid in a fish removal. The lake was constructed in the 1960’s according to some of the older community members. The current seawall had fallen into disrepair thus not protecting the shoreline from wave action. The seawall is up for repairs very soon so they started draining the lake.

The contractor that was completing the repairs had to reduce the lake levels by more than 80% to reach compactable soil. With such a drastic water draw down there would most certainly be a fish a kill. With new homes being built on the lake, the mess and stench from a fish kill would not be good PR for the community.

The lake had to be drained down to concentrate the fish as well as aid in the seawall repairs. The more concentrated the fish are the higher our harvest rates will be.
Surveying the metrics of the situation.
Made friends with the dozer operator and he cleared us a path to get boat as close to lake as possible.
Some of the heavy machine operators told us they fished the lake earlier with no luck. Luckily we fish with electricity.

It’s critical to move the fish quickly from our holding tanks to fish truck. The water is already low in dissolved oxygen so the fish are extremely stressed.

This pond had a very sandy bottom which is very unusual. Most fish removals are mucky messes that require chest waders.
Jon and Matt dumping the harvested fish into the fish truck.
Jon is our head fish stocking manager. All the fish we shocked he inventoried so we knew how many and how much we took out from the lake.
All the bass were measured for length and weight just like we would do on an electrofishing survey.
On the right is Richard, head project manager, checking on the bass and bluegill after shocking.
Bluegill and small crappie made up the bulk of our catch.
Shocking perch is something that does not happen often in Georgia. The Fort Gordon Army base is the only other place in Georgia we have seen perch.
Decent bass for a pond that has gone unmanaged for 80 years.
Even in our tiny tanks the bass will not pass up a chance to eat.
This was the average size bluegill we shocked. Seeing lots of bluegill this size shows us this is a bass heavy environment. In a well managed pond we should see different sizes of bluegill.
A big redear sunfish ended the day on a high note.

Fish removals are not our typical job here at AES but we are an adaptable company. We saved thousands of fish that will be stocked in ponds for people to enjoy. If these fish were left in the pond there would be thousands of dead fish left floating and stinking up the community. Besides being an eye sore fish kills can pose a health hazard. Decomposing fish in stagnant water could make family pets sick if they drink from it. We all have adventurous little kids that love to touch everything and those hands eventually go in their mouth. If your community ever has this situation give our office a call.

 

April 19th-20th East Georgia Electroshock Recap

Shock season is starting to wind down along with our spring rush. Week long road trips are now being replaced by short day trips to any clients that we were not able to get back in March and April. Fish stocking has become our main focus lately. However, that doesn’t mean we are done throwing some electricity in the water. Toward the end of the week the shock team headed to Tignall, Georgia near Lake Hartwell and Shady Dale, Georgia off Interstate 20. The bass are in their classic post-spawn feeding frenzy. After the spawn the fish are severely malnourished and the only way to recover is to eat. As a property owner it’s up to you to keep the bass happy. Stocking crayfish or some extra bluegill will help your fishery.

Fishing Tip- Just get out there. The fish are starting to form wolf packs and destroying anything in sight. If your lake has threadfin shad then find the bait balls. When shad are present in the lake the fish will not be on the banks chasing bluegill as much. Fishing around threadfin schools with top-water, flukes, and spinner-baits will do the trick. For lakes without threadfin fish any cover or structure. This time of year fish love to suspend in tree tops waiting for the food to swim by. Swimming a jig is a great technique to use on these fish. It looks like a bluegill or bait fish. It’s also subtler than a spinner-bait.

Some spawned out girls looking to recover.
After bass spawn redear sunfish are next to go on bed. This one was easily over a pound!
Capt. Matt with a hand full. This pond is managed for trophy bluegill so our bass harvest rates are much lower in an effort to keep bluegill numbers low. We want low numbers so the few bluegill and redear that survive will grow very large due to lack of competition.
Redear sunfish or shell crackers grow larger than bluegill due to their diet. There diet consist primary of freshwater mussels which are high in protein. The have incredibly strong jaws that allow them to crack the mussel’s shell hence the name shell crackers.
Chubby-cheeked bluegill
Ran across our first chocolate colored dalmatian!
Capt. Matt doing some field surgery removing an ocular nematode.
Ocular nematode occur in older ponds with high amounts of decomposing organics.
This fish was acting strange in our holding tank. It was having a difficult time staying upright and gilling.
Capt. Matt took a look inside and found this. It took some work to get it out because it was lodged so deep. If there’s ever a reason to remove barbs from baits that you intend to target trophy bass with this is it.
Capt. Matt working hard to help her recover.
Worked with her for more than 10 minutes but she didn’t pull through. At least she did not go to waste. She’ll make some good fish tacos.

As we continue the march towards Summer it will become paramount to help your bass recover from the spawn. Spawning is very energetically expensive on fish. Starting in May we will stock crayfish. There are two great things that crayfish pose over other forms of forage we stock. First is they have the most protein of any forage. They pack more punch than rainbow trout. The second effects your bottom line. They are the cheapest of any forage. They range from $4.15/lb to $3.00/lb depending on quantities. We purchase from our Louisiana suppliers in the early summer before the demand increases for summer low country and crayfish boils. We don’t stock in winter because the mortality rate is extremely high with the harsh weather. Give the office a call before it’s too late to get your order in.

 

March 26th-30th Electroshock Recap

This week the shock team was along I-20 in the Greensboro, GA area. Fish are spawning or a few days from spawning. The team is just riding the wave now and enjoying seeing some of the top fisheries in Georgia at peak times.They were sampling a mixture of ponds managed for trophy bass as well as quality bass. Many people think these are synonymous but there are slight differences. Trophy bass lakes will typically have lower bass numbers but have copious amounts of forage. A bass needs 8-10 lbs of forage to put on a single pound of body weight. A quality bass fishery is managed to produce numbers of healthy 2-5 lb bass with the chance of catching the occasional trophy. Both still need to be intensely managed to reach their goals. Bass harvest is the Achilles for most property owners. Harvesting 4oo lbs of bass is no small chore but that’s where the shock team comes in.

A few pounds makes a big difference in nature.
We are starting to do mouth swaps to test bass genetics. We use to take a small fin clip but swabbing is much quicker and does no harm to the fish.
This is a 12in bass with a 5in bluegill stuck in its throat. The bluegill was removed and swam away fine.
This is a prime example of what a quality bass fishery can produce. Not a wall hanger but you’d be hard pressed to find someone that wouldn’t want to catch this quality of bass.
Older brother can’t be out done. This bass was on its way to dropping eggs before we shocked her.
Reed giving her plenty of recovery time.
She started to move her tail fluidly which tells us she’s ready to go.
Striped bass don’t do well in ponds but hybrid striped bass do. They need threadfin shad and fish food to reach their full potential. They will test any anglers skill set along with their drag.
If quality bass fishing is a goal then make sure catfish don’t get to 12 lbs.
These one pound bluegill will keep the kids grinning for a while.
Feed trained bass (left) vs. native bass (right)

As you can see this was a great week for the team. Next week the boys will be shocking 100+ acre lakes with a few small boat shocks to keep things fresh. With the bulk of our spring clients shocked this is a great time to get in contact with the office if you’ve been putting off lake improvements. We will not be as busy so we can tackle projects quickly.

 

Photo Credit: Grant Bobo; [email protected]

March 19th-23rd Electroshock Recap

Another great week is in the books for the shock team. Erratic weather continues to plague the Southeast but the fish are still making their migration towards the shallows. Luckily the nighttime temperatures are not dropping drastically so the water temps are not moving much. This week our average water temperature was about 54 degrees which is great for shocking pre-spawn fish. However, farther south we are shocking some post-spawn fish. We can blame the 80 degree February blast for that.

Weekly fishing tip- Stay off the bank. Fish are pre-staging about 15 feet off shoreline. Work spots with brush, tree tops, or rock. Rolling some big females that are holding tight to cover. Smaller males are cruising the shoreline or preparing beds. Keep it simple lure wise. Texas rigged soft plastics or smaller jigs are the best. Floating worms like the Zoom trick worm in bubble gum or merthiolate are great pre-spawn colors. Bright colors traditionally do best before the spawn when fish are aggressive.

Started the week with a small fish run. Hatcheries routinely run out of bluegill so we don’t hesitate at the opportunity.
Capt. Matt looking for a good launch spot while trying to stay warm. The cold blast mixed with high winds made it a brutal week.
Full bellies that just need some more warm weather.
Bass harvest is the most important management tool property owners have to produce quality bass.
Any bass that are under performing or trash fish are removed from a fishery. Although these bass look good, every property owner has different goals so harvest is dependent on goals.
She was over 19″ but not healthy. Sometimes you have to harvest bigger fish. Notice the big head and long body?
Capt. Matt with a net full of trouble makers

This coming up week we will be shocking along I-20 in East Georgia and far Northwest Georgia. The weather still looks crazy with a brisk start then a huge mid-week warm up. We hope this warm up will be the trend but March is the most volatile month in weather as we are finding out.

First Shock of 2018-Duluth, GA

If you’ve been outside recently you’ve noticed the days are getting longer, Sandhill Cranes are flying high, and buds are starting to pop. This also means it’s time for Big Ugly (an affectionate name for our shock-boat) to start purring and sending some electricity underwater.

Anyone in Atlanta has probably taken notice of this gloomy, rainy weather pattern we are stuck in. For the vitamin D lovers it’s a struggle but there is an upside. Morning lows have been in 60’s and highs in the 70’s. This means water temperatures are on the rise which gets the bass thinking about spawning. If you want to see bass at their heaviest and healthiest spring is the time.

We have been managing this fishery for over two years. It was the classic bass crowded fishery. The lake was full of small, stunted bass which are no fun for the owner. The owner bought into our vision and has followed through on our management suggestions. Give us a call today if you want to turn your pond around and start making memories.

Threadfin Shad Kill

As temperatures continue to plummet in the Southeast many lakes are reaching unheard of temperatures. Most fish will hunker down in the deepest portion of the lake and ride out the storm. However, some fish are more susceptible than others.

A key food source that becomes vulnerable in extreme cold is Threadfin shad. Around forty-five degrees is all threadfin can take before they start to die. They will search the depths trying to find suitable water. It’s common for threadfin to suspend in a certain portion of the water column. Whenever visible ice forms on the surface of the lake a shad kill becomes a real possibility. If your lake is small you can make a quick visible inspection to look for dead shad. If your lake is large you can also make a visual inspection but also be on the look out for seagulls or vultures picking off the dying shad.

If a shad kill is seen call our office and place your order for restocking. Shad stockings occur in April and early May. There is a limited amount of shad from suppliers so it’s critical to place your order early. Getting the lake electroshocked to inventory the shad population will show us how your population fared. Some luck out and have a partial kill while others loose the whole population.