Electrofishing in Orangeburg, South Carolina

Using Electricity to Catch Bass in Orangeburg

Many people might be surprised to know that in Orangeburg SC, just two miles from the interstate, resides one of the highest quality and unique fishing properties in the southeast. The Fish Farm was the personal retreat of the late Jim Copeland, one of the former co-owners of BASS, and his family. The Copeland family still owns and maintains the property, and they continue to utilize the services of Aquatic Environmental to manage the fishery. The focus of our most recent visit was to harvest bass via electrofishing. Electrofishing allows use to get a snap shot of the fishery. The collected data then gives us the information we need to insure all of the ponds remain in balance.

Electrofishing
The dam was reinforced with crushed bricks but the brick also makes great fish habitat. A good number of bait fish were shocked off the bricks.
Big Bass
Dave Copeland in the heat of bass harvest. Dave is quick on the sticks today even with the unseasonably cool temperatures for the Orangeburg area.
Big Bass
The fishery is managed very strictly so fish that many people would consider a good fish are harvested to ensure bigger fish continue to grow. We want lots of forage and low numbers of bass to keep bass growing.

Big or Small this Property has it All

There are eight ponds on the property with the crown jewel being the 33 acre lake. This  lake has been managed aggressively since the Copeland’s purchased the property in 2005. Through the years a vast array of forage species has been stocked in this lake. Threadfin and Gizzard shad have been stocked and are now successfully reproducing in the big lake. Large forage items provide a meal high in protein for  large bass. Bass need a food source roughly one third of their body length so these large forage items are critical to keep big bass growing. 

Big Bass with Gizzard Shad
A large gizzard shad provides a great deal of calories to keep growth steady.

Strict Management Equals Phenomenal Results for the Orangeburg Property

Two of the ponds on the property are strictly forage ponds that are utilized to raise bluegill and shell cracker. They are stocked as food sources in other lakes as the need arises. On this trip, we removed bluegill and shellcrackers from the forage ponds, and stocked them in two other ponds. The Orangeburg area has great weather for growing forage so these ponds easily pay for themselves. The forage ponds have several Texas Hunter fish feeders on them. The Copeland’s use high protein fish food to keep the forage growing and multiplying. 

Through the years the Copeland’s have stocked threadfin shad, gizzard shad, crawfish, trout, tilapia, golden shiners, and goldfish as forage. A diverse forage base will help grow and sustain bass like these. There are no shortage of big bass on this property. The Copeland family and many of their guests can attest to the sheer amount of trophy bass on the property. 

Big Bass
Big Orangeburg bass aren’t hard to find!
Big Bass
Lots of bass in the 18 inch size class abound in the lake.
Good Communication with Property Owner
Clients that work with AES are guaranteed time with experienced fisheries biologist. After a long day of traveling and shocking Capt. Matt takes time to discuss the fishery with the property manager. Knowledge is power.

The Copeland’s have now put the property up for sale and they are committed to the continual management of the fisheries with Aquatic Environmental Services until they find the right buyer. 

 

 

Macon, Georgia Electrofishing Recap

The shock team was recently down in middle Georgia near the beautiful city of Macon, Georgia. The lake was located in a private community that have the intention of bringing the lake back to its former glory.

Upon arrival the recent hurricane has dropped a tree right on the boat ramp. Luckily the client was a hands on person that welcomed the rocky start to the morning.
We managed to shock a few decent fish.

This lake has lots of potential although right now it needs some work. Even with low alkalinity it still supports a thriving shad population which in turn is helping the bluegill and redear sunfish keep high numbers. The lake supports a good crappie population that is healthy. The threadfin shad keep the crappie well feed and there are anglers that actively fish for the crappie. It is not often we find healthy crappie populations since their reproduction cycles go up and down every year.

Stay tuned for more updates.

Blue Springs Country Club Electrofishing Summary

Blue Springs Country Club in Ringgold, Georgia

The shock team was in Northwest Georgia working at Blue Springs Country Club. The lake gets shocked once a year to make sure it continues to offer members great fishing. We manage Blue Springs as a quality fishery. We want to keep angler success high while still offering lots of healthy fish in the 3-6 lb range with the chance at a trophy. Blue Springs also offers anglers other options such as big bluegill and shell cracker. They utilize multiple fish feeders to keep the bluegill and shell cracker stay big.

Big Bass in Blue Springs Country Club
Two of the better fish we caught. These fish were shocked off submerged structure. Offshore habitat is critical to keeping angler success high. Bass love to have ambush points. Blue Springs has been adding new fish habitat every year to keep things fresh. Natural habitat breaks down quickly so it’s important to renew every year. 

Why do we shock lakes?

Today was short but lots of good data was collected. Blue Springs wanted to see how the relative weights were doing to determine if stocking Rainbow trout will be needed later this winter. At their core, shocks are not meant to be a big fish or shock and awe event. Big fish are nice but they are not our focus. We would rather shock and harvest 200 10 inch bass to make more room for more Blue Springs trophies. The downfall of many great lakes is lacking bass harvest. Too many mouths to feed will destroy any fishery.

Spring Shocks versus Fall Shocks

Spring is the time to shock bigger bass while fish in the Fall will typically be smaller. We like Fall shocks because the fishery shows its true self. Bass have recovered from the spawn and bluegill have had time to complete a few spawning cycles. The fish will have large bellies full of eggs which makes them look healthier than they really are. The fish at Blue Springs may look fatter in March but we need real data to direct our management strategy.

Kite, Georgia Electroshock Recap

Another quick update on the shock team. They were in east Georgia near the small town of Kite. This particular pond is in a very interesting situation. Earlier this summer the client had reported excellent catch rates along with healthy bass. Suddenly the bass got hard to catch mid-way through summer. They figured heat had pushed the fish deep. Then the unthinkable happened. The property owner discovered otter signs then saw a pair of otters late one night. He reported they only stayed for a few days but the damage was done. Otters will fill their bellies and even once full they will continue to hunt.

Thought we had the state record bull head catfish.
Since the otter took out a large percentage of the bass the bass that do remain are fat and healthy. They are surrounded by bluegill, threadfin shad, and golden shiners.
Similar to golden shiners the common roach is a frequent resident of swampy areas in the Southeast.
Although most fish were healthy some were also very skinny. Capt. Matt had hunch something wasn’t right so he cut some fish open. This bass has a large amount of parasites on its stomach that are sucking nutrients from its stomach. The parasites are called nematodes. It is common for fish to make some parasites but not this many. This is a reason why the fish are skinny.

Stay tuned for more updates as the shock team continues to wrap up shock season and beat the cold weather.

 

Southeastern Electrofishing Road Trip Recap

The team was out all week covering over 1,200 miles with the shock boat. The team made its first stop outside of Mobile, Alabama.

big bass
Margaret calls this bass Ted because he has been caught so many times they are on that kind of personal level.

This first stop use to be a catfish farm with multiple ponds on site. Upon arrival we stocked grass carp to help with weed growth. The ponds all have poor water quality and this has a trickle down effect on all aspects of the pond. Fertile water will have a deep green hue which is phytoplankton. Phytoplankton is the base of the food chain in all pond ecosystems. Ponds with healthy phytoplankton populations can hold 300-400 lbs of fish per acre while infertile ponds might hold 80 lbs of fish per acre. Luckily there is a simple solution of first liming the lake then applying pond fertilizer.

The changing cypress trees in Vicksburg, MS gave our oaks and maples of the mountains a good run for their money when it came to Fall colors.

The next stop on the trip was outside of Vicksburg, Mississippi. As the cover photos shows we did very well. The owner enjoys fly fishing. In turn we manage the lake with slightly clear water so bass can see his flies and lots of 3-6 lb bass to keep angler success high.

Big Bass
We always say healthy fish should look like footballs but these fish looked like overinflated footballs. These bass are pure Florida strain so we anticipate the phenomenal growth to continue.
Big Bass
If you are noticing big difference between these two fish you are correct. The fish are both roughly the same length but not the same relative weight. The fish on the left had a relative weight well over a 100%. The fish on the right is about 90% relative weight. The reason it is lacking is because it was just recently transferred from another pond containing pure Florida strain bass that were underperforming.

Our final stop was Shreveport, Louisiana to several clients managing for trophy bass. All the ponds were recently constructed so they are in their prime. If you have trophy goals then that means spot on water quality, loads of forage, and aggressive bass harvest. The fish above are a testament to proper management. Visibility of water was 30″, plenty of dense habitat for forage, and loads of forage. Besides bluegill the owner has stocked threadfin shad, crawfish, and golden shiners. The water is fertile so the shad are doing excellent and crawfish are 90 cents per pound in Louisiana. To grow trophy bass it is critical to have multiple types of forage. Bluegill are the backbone of the forage base in the pond but they need other forage types to relieve predation pressure. When bass are evenly eating different types of forage no single forage will get hit too hard.

This road trip was one of the final big trips for the shock team. As the weather turns from cool to cold the bass sink back into the depths in preparation of the spawn.

Eastman, Georgia Electrofishing Recap

The shock team has been loading the boat down in the past few days with healthy largemouth bass. Fall is in the air and bass can sense it.

Many seasoned bass fishermen know shad migrate to the backs of coves in the Fall. Not only is this true but it is a phenomenal tactic to use when electrofishing. The shock had been going slower than we expected with the history of the fishery. However, this all changed in 12 minutes. Capt. Matt found multiple schools of threadfin shad with large numbers of bass thrashing the surface in pursuit.  In total 63 bass were netted and shocking only ceased due to the live well overflowing with bass. Once the live well was emptied we noticed the large amounts of thrashing broke the welds on the live well and bent the sheet metal out. 
Full tanks today.
Capt. Matt checked the internals of a bass that was harvested. The liver was a bright red which indicates good health. No parasites were seen on the stomach.
This particular client has an old mill pond on the same property that he wanted shocked. The pond dates back several hundred years. It was built using oxen cart and surrounded by old cypress trees. It was already an ox bow lake due to its close proximity to the Ocmulgee river but the owners completed the dam to fuel a grit mill. 
Ponds like this are known to grow monster bass because they usually have competitive species that keep bass numbers low. This pond was no different. It had chain pickeral and alligator gar that came in from the river. The Ocmuglee river is on the other side of the dam so every 5 to 10 years the river breaches the dam. With that rush of water comes a new wave of fish. According to the owner a 5 ft alligator gar was in the pond for a while.
The small building to the right is what remains of the mill.
The owner graciously let us stay on the property in the deer camp.
The main lodge is full of Southern history and looks the part with Spanish moss covering old live oaks.
The work on the water may be done but there are still reports to be written. Capt. Matt staying up late to get reports out. With the amount of travel it is a luxury to not be writing reports in a truck.

Stay tuned for more updates as the shock team continues into the fall!

Alpharetta, Georgia Small Boat Electrofishing Recap

We are in the heat of shock season now with the cold nights and mild afternoons. Today’s lake was an HOA lake that we manage. Since it’s an HOA they have the goal of catching lots of 1-2 lb fish to keep residents happy along with large bluegill. This blog won’t be as educational as previous ones but more of an update of what we have been up to.

These were the typical sized bass we shocked during the survey.
Weighing bass on the little boat makes us appreciate the large working space of the main shock boat.
Seine hauls give us great amounts of data about bluegill and how well they are reproducing.
Can never see enough of these guys in a lake if you have any aspirations to grow bass.
Internal organs can tell us a lot about the environment a bass lives in. These organs were mute and dull. This bass was shocked in a lake with dissolved oxygen levels that ranged from 1.31 mg/l to 0.86 mg/l ie a harsh existence at best.
The biggest bass of the day!
Bullhead catfish come in from creeks to the lake and compete with bass for forage. As gross as they appear their numbers typically never get high due to bass predation.
Large redear sunfish are prized by pan fishermen for the good tasting met. Bass also prize them for the same reason.
Unfortunately, in this lake there was no intermediate bluegill just large and newly hatched bluegill.

Keep checking for updates about the shock season as the shock team is having very little office time so blog post may be far and few between.

G.B. Williams Electroshock Recap

Smyrna, Georgia is an upcoming city near Atlanta full of homes, apartments, and shopping centers. At one point in time it was rural farmland ripe with pasture, livestock, and ponds. G.B. Williams is a thriving example of old Smyrna with a large horse boarding stable and lake. The lake became famous in the early 2000’s when AES shocked large bass that later became published in the Marietta Daily Journal. G.B. Williams is actually a pay lake that anyone can fish for the right price. The secret to the lake’s success is gizzard shad and gizzard shad in the right size. The lake is full of 5-8″ gizzard shad which is the perfect size to grow big bass. The lake also supports a healthy population of bluegill and redear sunfish.

This is the standard size we shocked. The fish went about 16in and 2.5 lbs. Many people get hung up on a 10lb bass but this size bass supplies plenty of excitement. 
We know this fish has been caught before judging by the scars on its side. Remember to always wet hands before touching any fish. 
This fish was skinny but since this is a pay lake we let her to go to keep catch rates high.
Warmouth are a great catch for pan fishermen as well as good bass forage.
We normally remove bullhead catfish but customers like to catch them so we let this little guy ride.
We always tell people to harvest based off relative weights not size and this fish is why. It may be 18in but it’s relative weight was less than 75% indicating very poor health.
big bass
One of the final fish of the day was a stud. Notice the fish has a thick tail and carries its shoulders down to its tail. Healthy bass look like footballs ie they are short and thick. Never judge a bass’s health by its stomach size. If a skinny bass eats a big bluegill it will look “healthy.”

It’s not often we get to manage pay lakes but the AES shock team is a versatile bunch up for any challenge.

Rockmart, Georgia Electroshock

Shock season is coming into its own with the cool weather rolling into the Southeast. Previously the weather has been down right hot which means the bass are staying deep. Even under ideal circumstances our shock only goes to eight feet deep which is one reason we need the cool air to bring the fish out of their deep summer haunts.

Today’s lake is surrounded by cows and bison so shocking was tricky. The amount of free fertilizer running into the lake makes visibility low. We don’t want high visibility because it makes shocking more difficult and the lake will carry less pounds of fish but there can be too much of a good thing. Low visibility means it’s hard to see fish while shocking.
big bass
One of the better fish we shocked from the pond. Still a little skinny but this size fish is great fun to catch.
big bass
The recent stocking of gold fish is helping put some weight back on the fish. Summer stress can also cause fish to loose weight.
When we first shocked these black crappie we thought they were small hybrid striped bass because of their large size. If you catch 50 of these in a day that is a solid day of fishing.
Georgia Giant
This is the world famous Georgia Giant. The initial stocking produces the largest fish while later generations become watered down mutts. Georgia Giants are a cross between Redear Sunfish and Green Sunfish. Ponds with them will need to be drained and restocked every few years to keep the large sizes people expect.
Big bass
Capt. Matt with a handful of feed trained bass. Feed trained bass are Northern strain bass hence their aggressive behavior.
We use high protein Purina fish feed to keep the feed trained bass and bluegill growing. This feed has 45% protein compared to value brands with 33%.

Today was a grinder of a day but many lakes were shocked which gives us valuable data to make sure the lakes are staying on track. It only takes a few seasons for fisheries to becomes out of balance.

Lake Windward Electroshock

Today the shock team was in Alpharetta, Georgia on the shores of Lake Windward. With a brilliant sunrise to illuminate a paved boat ramp the day was off to a good start. We were slightly concerned that water temperatures were warmer than last year.

big bass
Even with the warmer water we still got on some good fish.
The humble warmouth were plentiful around rock piles and rip rap.
We always encourage clients to get on the boat. During an electroshock you get one on one time with a senior biologist.
shell cracker
Shell cracker should not make up the backbone of the forage base but they are an essential part of the lake ecosystem.
catfish
Large catfish will compete with bass for forage. The Windward community has people that fish for catfish so we returned these giants.
big bass
Four years ago Lake Windward was full of 12 inch bass with low relative weights. After hundreds of bass being harvested, many loads of threadfin shad, and thousands of pounds crayfish the lake is producing more healthy fish.
spotted bass
With all the hard work the Windward community has been doing it is disheartening to see some bucket biologist stocked spotted bass from near by Lake Lanier. Spotted bass do not do well in smaller lakes and ponds.
All the good fish were tagged. The Windward Lake board will be provided with this data so they can keep records for themselves. AES also keeps the data so we can see how our management strategies are working.

After a quick data crunch the lake is still on the right path to producing quality bass. This lake is much larger than our normal client but fisheries management is still the same on a large body of water with the only exception being on a larger scale. We are booked up to Thanksgiving with only a few days left open. If you are interested in getting your lake shocked call the office so see if any dates are open.