Forsyth, Georgia ElectroShock Recap

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.

Metro Atlanta Lake Management

Lake Audit, Lake Survey, Fishery Management

When people imagine a world class bass fishery Atlanta’s I-285 usually isn’t at the top of their list. Nestled near Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport is an oasis . This client has been with us for many years and most importantly takes fisheries management seriously. Due to its large size the lake is shocked twice a year to insure the appropriate number of bass are harvested. In addition we come out once a month to fertilize and monitor water quality during the warm season. On this visit we shocked the lake for bass harvest as well as the final fertilization of the season.

Electrofishing, Lake Audit
Most fish were offshore on shad but a few still on the banks
Lake Survey, Lake Audit
Not the only ones working today

Lake Audit, Lake Survey, Electrofishing

Electrofishing Threadfin Shad
Bustin’ some Threadfin shad
Electrofishing, Electrofishing Boat
Capt. Matt getting the leftovers
fish population survey, assessing fish populations
We go were ever the fish are
fish analysis
Seth quick on the sticks

Once we collected all the bass it’s time to weigh and measure. Fish that are healthy are tagged and released. Fish that don’t meet the cut are taken out.

lake audit, Bass
Data is not the most exciting position yet it’s the most critical
Female Bass
No worries for this big girl
Fisheries Management
Tagged and released
fishery management plan
Seth with another golf course pig
fish population
This one isn’t so lucky
measuring fish population
Inches matter

 

fishery management
To the ice chest he goes
Bass, Fishery Survey
Fish like this kill fisheries. Too many mouths make for skinny bass
Fishery Management
Donald is making sure nothing goes to waste.
Lake Fertilization, Pond and Lake Management
Fertile water equals happy shad and fat bass. Seth dumping the final bag of fertilizer.
Fisheries Management
Capt. Matt burning the midnight oil

After a long day the shock boys were worn down but a lot was accomplished. Harvesting bass could be considered the most important aspect of lake/pond management. It doesn’t matter how many bluegill you stock if there are too many bass their will never be enough bluegill. An advantage of electrofishing instead of rod and reel is that our sample is not bias. We shock aggressive and less aggressive fish just as well. Call us today to get your lake shocked and back on track.

Ageing Bass

Ageing a bass is one of the best ways a biologist can gauge the health of a bass. In the Southeast we use the otolithes to determine age. In the North or where there are defined cold and warm seasons scales can be used to determine age. This is a quick guide on how otolithes are retrieved and aged.

Age of Bass
First step is to gain access to spinal region
Age and Growth Large Mouth Bass
Next Matt uses some precision tuned pliers to gently remove skin
Working space is prepped and ready for otolith removal.
Dating and Ageing Trophy Largemouth Bass
The otolithes are tucked in a nerve bundle along the spine.
Size and Age Bass
Each fish has two otolithes

 

Fish Ageing
Matt will split and sand the otoliths so that he can see through them. They are glued to a microscope slide so Matt can count the rings. This fish is five years old. It weighed 434 grams with a length of 13″. This is extremely poor growth.

Once age has been determined we can now implement strategies to improve the fishery.  Most lakes have never been managed so they are full of old, stunted bass. In most cases the best option is to drain the lake and start over. It is possible to get these bass healthy again but it may be too late. Bass have a lifespan of eight to ten years. If a bass is stunted at six years old then pouring $2,000 of bluegill in the lake is futile. During an electrosurvey we take otolith samples so call us today and get booked.

Bristol, TN Lake Improvements

This past spring Bass Pro Shops contacted us to do an electrofishing survey of their lake at the Bristol, TN store. Matt, our senior fisheries biologist, came up with a game plan to get the lake back on track. The lake was lacking cover and forage. The owner decided to go with feed trained bass due to their aggressive, fast growing nature. Habitat was also added to aide the forage that was being stocked.

Feed Trained Bass, Fish Stocking
Tyler unloading feed trained bass.
Bass Stocking, Fishery Improvements
Small mouths, thick shoulders
Fish Feeders, Purina Aquamax, Pond Management
Texas Avenger Big Mouth feeder being filled with Purina’s special Largemouth Bass feed
Feeding Largemouth Bass, Fish Feed
Close up of Purina’s Largemouth Bass feed nuggets

Feed trained bass will grow quickly as long as they are fed a proper diet. Purina started making large pellets to work with Texas Avenger Big Mouth feeders. They are the only feeders on the market currently that can shoot this feed. Each pellet packs 45% protein and 10% fat that will add quality size to fish.

Fish Habitat, Fishery Enhancements, Mossback
Lots of units built today
Mossback Habitats, Fishery Management
MossBack habitat units waiting to be deployed
Artificial Fish Habitats
MossBack’s signature textured pipe is superior to normal PVC
Habitat for Fish
MossBack even textures their limbs to encourage algae growth
Fishery Management, Fish Habitats
Dense cover is key to protect forage fish

MossBack’s units come with roughed up surfaces. When the surfaces are roughed up they grow algae much quicker than traditional, slick PVC pipe. Algae growth is important to the pond ecosystem because it forms the base of the food chain. Without it the whole food chain will suffer.

After putting in a long day the only thing left to do is wait. With proper planning and execution there is no such thing as a hopeless pond at Aquatic Environmental Services.