Late Season Electrofishing in East Georgia

georgia pond management

Bass Harvest…..it never stops

The pond being electrofishing today has a common problem that not many property owners think about but something we see often. The lake was stocked a few years back and everything was great. Owners get caught up in the excitement of seeing bass, bluegill, shell cracker, and shad going into the pond. The real work starts a few months later. Among a new lake owners duties is bass harvest. The initial bass that are stocked in a new pond will be the best class ever.

Georgia pond management
These are the original bass fingerlings. They are eight years old at this point. When a fishery reaches this point it’s important that the following year classes are managed very strictly. Failure to do so will result in lots of stunted bass that typically range in sizes of 8-12″. People are often blinded by catching lots of big bass while the runts’ numbers keep growing. Electrofishing opens eyes to the problem brewing underwater.
georgia pond management
Feed your tech.
georgia pond management
Capt. Matt breaking down the fishery in a more manageable form. after the electrofishing survey is done. The bluegill population size structure is compared to the bass population size structure. This snapshot gives us a very accurate understanding of what’s happening underwater.
Georgia electrofishing shock team
After a long week of electroshocks it was time to hit the road north for some decompression.

If you own a lake less than ten years old your best bet is to harvest bass aggressively and add habitat. Shoreline trees are a great start as the are usually small and will fall directly into the water. Digest these two tips then make them happen on your home water.

 

Start of 2019 Electrofishing Season

Georgia Pond Management

The Start of 2019

With water temperatures creeping up to the magical 60 degree mark, the shock team has been on the move. The electrofishing team was recently in Cartersville, Georgia.  The client being serviced has an unconventional goal of wanting to grow large Redear sunfish. Redear sunfish feed primarily on mussels so they become very large but the growth takes a while. As of now, no fish food company has figured out a food that Redear will consume.

Texas Hunter Fish Feeder
The lake has a small creek that runs close by. The creek is a tributary to a major creek in the Cartersville area so it floods easy. All fish feeders are built up to keep them dry.

The Shock

The fish are staging in preparation for the spawn. All winter they have been in deep water seeking shelter from the weather. People ask us why we don’t perform lake audits year around and the reason comes back to the fish. In the winter and summer, fish seek deep water. Deep water is more stable than shallow water. Our electrofishing equipment has an effective range of 4-6ft so our catch rates wouldn’t be high. Summer time water temps can be stressful to fish while they are in the lake so shocking fish in the heat of the summer can be deadly.

gizzard shad in a pond.
With low bass density and a pond full of gizzard shad, it’s no wonder this pond produces huge bass. The gizzard shad are in the 6-11″ range which makes them perfect forage. We did remove some larger ones since they were too large even for the biggest bass. Gizzard shad in a pond environment get a bad rap. Many biologists cite gizzard shad lock up as a major issue since it can negatively effect juvenile recruitment. The reward of stocking gizzard shad is trophy bass. Threadfin shad, bluegill, and other forage are great, but to get to trophy status, bass need large forage. Certain states are known for growing big bass while others aren’t. Florida has golden shiners that exceed 8″, Texas has tilapia, and California has rainbow trout.
Shiner
The lake gets flooded so some unusual species come into the pond. This is a Spottail Shiner.
Big Bass in Georgia Pond
Till the Redear sunfish get big enough to catch there are still plenty of fish to put a bend in the rod.
big bass
With the full moon coming soon, the fish are starting the stage for the spawn. Since the population is small, we tag a large portion of shocked bass. Our previous catches from last years electrofishing survey have grown 2 lbs in a year, which is phenomenal. Well managed lakes with an established bass population average 1 lb of growth per year.

As the weather continues to warm, keep up with the AES shock team this spring. Spring is when the largest bass are shocked.

 

 

Athens, Georgia Electrofishing

Georgia Electrofishing

Athens, Georgia Electrofishing

Unseasonably warm weather by February standards had the shock team on the water recently. All the lakes were near the University of Georgia in Athens, GA. The first lake was an aging county watershed lake. Since the lake was designed to hold drinking water not trophy bass the fishery was is in terrible shape. County watershed lakes are typically barren bowls and today was no exception.

Georgia Pond Management
Par for the course the lake had a sketchy boat ramp. People are often hesitant to contact us because their private lakes lack boat ramps so they think we can’t access their lakes. 95% of our clients don’t have boat ramps so we are use to launching in tight spots.
Georgia Pond Management
Client knowledge is invaluable to our study of the lake. Today’s lake had some quirks that only the client knows since he’s on the property very often.
Georgia Pond Management
One of the quirks was the lake level. The dam has a small leak so the county lowered the lake level. The lake dropped almost 15 feet for a full season. The one upside to this lake drop is terrestrial vegetation had a chance to grow. These grasses make great habitat for bluegill. 
Georgia Pond Management
Any type of government created watershed always has an over built outlet structure.
Georgia Pond Management
This lake was very deep. Most ponds average around 8-12 ft. Seeing 36 ft means we won’t be shocking many fish in this area of the lake. Fish can move around out electricity in such deep water.

The Results

This was a tough shock but we still managed to get a few solid fish. The flooded grass provided great bluegill habitat so the bass followed. The larger bass were still hanging deep but some we shallow enough for us to shock them.

Georgia Pond Management
These were the two better fish of the shock. Even lakes full of 8-12″ bass will still have a few good fish.
Georgia Pond Management
We tagged certain fish because we want to see how their weights change after the spawn.
georgia pond management
Since the fish were stunted so much Capt. Matt wanted to look at the fish’s insides.
Georgia Pond Management
A spotty liver isn’t too surprising with the harsh water quality and lacking forage base.

Lake #2

The second lake was similar to the first one except it was a built for fishing. It had produced several nice fish in the past but it’s approaching 12 years old so the original fish are dying off. This has resulted in lots of small,stunted fish since bass are rarely harvested.

georgia big bass
Some pre-spawn females were hanging in about 8ft of water near standing timber.
Georgia Pond Management
The biggest fish went a little over 7 lbs. 

Wrapping Up

Spring is the best time to shock the largest fish in your lake or pond. The big females that hang deep offshore for the majority of the year come shallow for a short window. Sometimes fish appear more healthy than they are due to females carrying extra weight. Fall is the best time to see the true state of a fishery. Electrofishing in Fall will show how well the fish recovered from the spawn and survive high water temps of the summer.

 

 

 

South Florida Electrofishing

Tarpon

South Florida Electrofishing Recap

Going south in the winter is a no brainer but it’s even better when we get the chance to shock some tropical species. AES makes the eighteen hour roundtrip every few years to check on this diverse fishery and make sure it’s performing well.

golf cart goofing
Discussing access points for each pond so Matt knows what to expect before we launch.
Boat launch
With the low water levels launching the shock boat was going to require precise execution. Luck was on our side with the shorelines being mostly hard packed sand. We would have never made it in Georgia with the soft red clay.
Biggly Home
All the homes have easy access to the lake so it’s important for the lakes to have high angler success.
GOlf Cart
Chasing the sun and Barrel as he raced away on his cart. No matter how hard Matt tried to keep up with him he always pulled away.

 

Starting the Day

Capt. Matt and Lee started the day with some freshwater mussel identification. Lee is the overseer of the ponds so he in actively involved in the management. All the ponds are located around the community golf course. With the constant hustle and bustle of the course we had to pick our times very carefully to not disrupt the waves of golfers.

Fresh Water Mussels
Matt and Lee did some digging looking for freshwater mussels. According to Lee the pond recently became very populated with mussels. We suspect wading birds brought them in.
freshwater mussels
The harvest!

Let the Electricity Loose!

The first lake was a typical lake we see back home with lots of smaller bass and little in the way of forage. We noticed the lake was very low for the time of year and Lee informed us they call the winter dry season in Florida. Lee said for thirty days straight in May they received one inch of rain a day but they haven’t gotten much since November. All the lakes are dependent on the water table and elevation to maintain full pool.

florida bass fishing
The first lake of the day. Notice the low water level. This became a trend throughout the day. We suspect this may hurt recruitment of the fish judging by the electrofishing results.

Since the fish where small Matt did some digging around to see if there were any parasites present and also pull otoliths to age fish. Matt noticed some nematodes but the load wasn’t anything abnormal.

Bass Dissection
Due to Florida being so far south some of the fish sampled were obviously staging for the spawn. The eggs of this female were almost fully developed.
Bass Dissection
Matt explaining some details to Lee. It’s very insightful to look at the inners of a bass. Colors tell us a lot about a bass’s life.
Shrimp and Bluegill Bass Forage.
Matt found the reason for the bass’s for growth. Small bluegill and grass shrimp will never grow trophy bass.
Grass Shrimp
Matt cracked into another small bass and got the same results as before. The three grass shrimp were the only contents in this fish’s stomach.
Grass Shrimp as Bass Forage
Grass shrimp aren’t common in Georgia. They are good forage for small bass to consume while growing but they should not be a larger bass’s main food source.

The Sleeper

As mentioned in the title we had the chance at shocking some unusual species and we got our first one. This fish is called a sleeper. They are in the same group as gobi hence the similar appearance. They live on the bottom and their brilliant camouflage makes them great predators. The pictures below shows the various angles of this fish. They are a competitive species for bass so we did remove all the ones we shocked.

Sleeper Fish
Matt takes note of the spin count on the fins. Spin counts are used to identify the specific species.
Sleeper Fish
The Sleeper has a small mouth but it still has a solid set of teeth.
Sleeper Fish
It has a slender body to wedge it’s self into good ambush spots.

Familiar Faces

After a quick lunch there were three lakes left to be shocked. Some of the lakes were rumored to have snook and tarpon in them. The St. Lucie River runs through the community so fishermen are known to catch fish from the river then transplant into the ponds. There are many factors that go into moving saltwater fish into freshwater ponds with questionable salinity levels so we were skeptical of catching any of these ghosts. When electrofishing in South Florida we always expect the unexpected.

Florida Lake
This is the first lake we shocked after lunch. It was rumored to have large snook so we were on high alert.
Largemouth Bass
Got into some quality bass after our lunch time intermission.
Largemouth Bass
Florida has strict fish stocking regulations so all these bass are pure Florida strain.
Tilapia
This is a baby tilapia. This was the first pond that had quality bass and we know why. This is the perfect sized tilapia.
tilapia
These are adult tilapia.

Tilapia are phenomenal forage since they reproduce every 28 days. The tilapia in the 3-5″ size range are the perfect forage to fuel explosive growth.

Surprises

As mentioned before some of the ponds were rumored to have saltwater species in them yet so far we had shocked four ponds with no luck so our chances were fading. Our South Florida electrofishing trip was looking like another bust when it came to catching some exotics. With some sharp eyes on the front deck and a little luck things changed.

florida tarpon
One of the perks of electrofishing in South Florida is everything is connected to the ocean.
tarpon
Matt can check this one off his bucket list.
tarpon removal
The tarpon was an unwanted visitor since this pond in particular is managed for trophy bass.
tarpon
Off to the St. Lucie River!
Snook
In addition to the tarpon we also shocked several snook. Nothing large but very cool fish we don’t see often.
Snook Fishing
Snook use their lateral line similar to largemouth bass. It helps with orientation and prey detection.
Armored Catfish
Of the least exciting species we shocked were armored catfish.
Armored Catfish
They are incredibility hard hence their name and their mouths resemble sucker mouths. The locals say if they are cooked inside their shell they taste like lobster.
sunsets
Final Florida sunset

We watched as our final Florida sunset for the trip fade into darkness. The shock team accomplished a lot during their time in Florida. These trips are what set AES apart from other pond management companies. AES is capable of managing many different fisheries as this South Florida electrofishing job demonstrated.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!