How Can I Manage My Own Pond?

Big Bass

When most pond owners think about managing their own pond they think of shock boats, loud generators, and fish stunning electricity.  For the most part they will feel helpless without the aide of a professional. However, there are options for property owners to make their pond the best it can be in between visits by the professionals.

Healthy Bass
Did you know healthy bass have shoulders? Capt. showing a client what to look for.
Pond management kit
This kit has everything you need in it to get started managing your pond.
Aquatic Thermometer
Thermometer may sound simple and almost silly to need. However, this small instrument can be a real money saver. On the side of our fertilizer boxes it says to start fertilizing once the water temperatures hit 60 degrees then discontinue once the water temperatures get below 60 degrees. Imagine spreading fertilizer when you eye balled the water but it was actually 55 degrees? At $55/box that could get pricey.
Secchi Disk
The secchi disk is the universal tool to measure the visibility in water. Visibility is measuring the amount of plankton in the water. Lakes with higher visibility readings especially above 36″ will carry less pounds of fish. Think of lakes in the mountains where you can see 20 ft down. Lakes like this can hold about 40-80 lbs of fish per acre. Now change gears and think of a farm pond in the middle of a cow pasture during summer. It’s probably going to be pea soup green. This green color you are seeing is plankton. Plankton should be very important to pond owners. It forms the base of the food chain but can also cause fish kills. Managed right you can get 300-400 lbs of fish per acre. To get this amount of fish the visibility should stay between 18-24″.
Fish Scale
We all have that buddy that calls a 3 lb bass a 7 lb bass. Put your doofus buddy in their place and harvest bass with some sound, scientific data. During electroshock surveys we measure in grams. If our scale is off by a few grams it’s not a huge concern. If our scale is off a few ounces that’s a big deal. Scales are critical to proper bass harvest along with a relative weight chart.
Fish Tags
These are Floy tags. Using a tag gun these are what we use to tag bass. There is no other data more valuable than comparing a fish’s weight and length from year to year. Recapture data is a common procedure from biologist in Montana studying Westslope Cutthroat trout to US Fish and Wildlife biologist studying Great Lake steelhead populations.
Fish Tagging Gun
The humble tag gun. This isn’t the most flashy piece of gear we carry but without it recapture data wouldn’t be possible.
Measuring Stick
Another simple tool that’s critical to a pond’s success. Getting an accurate length is important to calculating a fish’s relative weight.
Relative Weight Chart
One of the most common areas of confusion is this chart. This chart has the relative weights of largemouth bass. At certain lengths bass should weigh a certain amount. For example a bass weighing 454 grams (1 lb) will have a relative weight of 100%. If the bass is above 454 grams its relative weight will be over 100% which means it’s a fat and happy fish. Fish under 100% are under performing. Depending on goals fish under 100% can still be released. Many pond owners want fast action so we may only recommend harvesting bass below 90%. However, if the owner wants to grow trophy large mouth bass we will harvest bass over 100% because we are going to push that fishery to its limits.

If you are interested in any of these products head over to our store. If you need advice on using any of these products 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.

Blue Catfish Removal

The aquatic and fisheries business is unique because no one company has a stronghold on the industry. There are just as many small operations as there are multi-state companies. Similar to the restaurant game, this industry has a high turn over rate. Many people get into fisheries based off their love for the outdoors and being on the water. Ultimately this passion has to met some business savvy to survive. This industry will give you seventeen hour days and so many problems that all you want to do is pout under your stocking truck. Today’s lake removal was the result of this.

The catfish that were seined out of this lake are unique because they are a hybrid between blue catfish and channel catfish. There are many advantages of this hybrid like high disease resistance, tolerance to low oxygen levels, fast growth, and high dress-out percentage.

Working the seine slowly is critical to keeping the mudline on the bottom. Catfish use their wedge shaped heads to sneak under the mudline if it’s ever lifted up in haste.
Josh is making a pocket by bringing together each side of the net. Once the pocket is formed the mudline is pulled ashore.
We quickly inventoried our catch. Most of the catfish ranged from a quarter to half a pound. In the summer months it’s critical to reduce the stress of the fish. Warm water carries less oxygen so mortality is a real threat.
The office of the hatchery was a clever reuse of a house boat. Very fitting given the industry.
Josh is loading up some cats that are about to be dumped for the client later that morning.
A close up of today’s catch.
We like to move fish quickly. These fish were caught about two hours earlier and now they are in their new home.

At AES we are always trying to set ourselves apart from the rest by creating unique opportunities for our clients. We want our clients to have lakes and ponds that they are proud of. We are always hunting for special items whether it be brown/brook trout in the winter or hybrid striped bass in the fall. Give the office a call to set your pond apart.

 

Crayfish Stockings

The bass spawn is a far memory for most bass anglers as the South is switching gears into summer. However as biologist we are constantly thinking bass and big bass at that. If you’ve been out fishing in the last month you’ve probably caught some beat up fish. These beat up fish are recovering from spawning. To release eggs from the female the male bass will ram the female. To start the healing process bass will gorge themselves. The post-spawn feeding frenzy is real and crayfish are the perfect snack!

We get our crayfish overnighted from Louisiana so they are fresh.
The man of the hour. Keeping good notes on which bag went wear is key.
This year we are moving an estimated 30,000 lbs.
Crayfish are ready to be released into the lake. With all the rain we have had this year a quad is a good option as the access roads become rutted.
Releasing the crays is as easy as wading into the water and cutting the top.
We spread a sack in different areas instead of dumping in one place.
You always have a few runners!
Lone survivor on top of all his buddies.

Crayfish pack more protein than any other forage item we stock and they are the cheapest. We still have a few runs left if you want to grab a few sacks!

Ellijay, Georgia Cold Water Stream Evaluation

At AES many of our clients are busy business professionals that are looking to escape the daily grind. Whether it be bringing back their grandfather’s farm pond they grew up fishing or building one from scratch we can service all their needs. However, from time to time we are called to the mountains to aide a different type of client.

Anyone that lives in Metro Atlanta knows that the North Georgia mountains are the place to be. While the mountains may not have many ponds and lakes they are loaded with a network of streams. Some are cold enough to support trout while others get slightly warmer and support species like Redeye bass.

The buyer of this property is interested in possibly stocking trout in this creek. All streams in Gilmer County, Georgia are classified as trout streams even if they are only marginal waters. As a biologist my job was to evaluate this stream for it’s potential to support trout. For a stream to support trout their are a few criteria that must be met. Temperature, habitat, and water quality are the most important aspects to determine if a stream can support trout.

A healthy watershed is critical to a trout streams survival. These ferns are not only pleasing to the eye but also keep soil intact. Riparian erosion releases silt into streams. Silt gets in trout’s gills, reduces reproduction success, and muddies the water. All of those things are not good for trout. 
A variety of habitat is required for trout. They need deep holes to rest in and riffle/runs to feed in.
These are the tools of the trade to check the metrics. Higher elevations are needed to support trout. Higher elevations will stay cooler in the heat of the summer.

To check the water quality there is a system called the Shannon Index. The Shannon Index uses aquatic insects to assess how much pollution is in a stream. All the insects we collected today are pollution intolerant. This indicates good water quality. If we found insects like crane flies and blackfly larva this would suggest that water quality is not the best it could be.

This is a small black stonefly nymph.
The king of the aquatic insects, Golden stonflies!
An adult stonefly. We know it’s an adult because it has wings.
This is a clinger mayfly. Another great source of food for trout.
This is actually a cased caddis not a tiny pile of rocks. Cased caddis build their homes using materials from the creek bottom. These guys are the original tiny house builders!
Whole colony of cased caddis on the bottom of this rock.
Taylor, the fearless realtor/guide for the day. We got some extra walking in because the beavers dammed up a road.
Many people would not consider beaver dams to be pretty but they have their own beauty. They also provide great duck habitat. Unfortunately for trout purposes they slow water down which warms the water up.
This picture is above the beaver dam complex. The stream is back to its original self of running cold and clean.

The end result is the client will start out with a put and take fishery. This means we will stock trout in late October and tell the client to harvest trout starting late May. We also gave the option to let the trout stay and see how they handle the summer heat. We recommended the client halt fishing when water temperatures exceed 74 degrees since those warm temperatures are stressful to trout.

As the mountains become developed we look forward to serving a different demographic of clients. If you have stream on your property and wondering what’s in it give us a call.

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.

 

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.

Yearly Lake Management Services

As many lake owners know keeping up with your lake is a full time job. It’s easy to get behind. Life happens and we understand that. Unless you have a dedicated caretaker it can be a daunting task. There are so many things that a property manager needs to be aware of. Feeders need to be filled, water fertilized, and outlets kept clean among other things. Throw in otters, nuisance wildlife, and your head will start spinning. Fortunately here at AES we offer full lake management services.  Property owners can sign yearly contracts. We can manage your lake very intensely with visits every two weeks or just check on them once a month to make sure everything is working as it should. We fill feeders using only the highest quality Purina feed and dump the most water-soluble fertilizer to increase phytoplankton. Time is the most valuable asset we have as humans. We would rather get pictures of you and your family enjoying your pond than hearing about the seventh Black Widow you found servicing your feeders. 

Photo Credit: Grant Bobo

Middle Georgia MossBack Habitat Install

The calendar doesn’t agree but it’s spring in Georgia. This means ponds are starting to come back to life. Whether it’s fish stocking or electroshocking we are getting busy at AES. When we shock lakes each report comes with custom recommendations from our senior biologist. Habitat is usually a key component. Why stock thousands of dollars of bluegill and golden shiners in a pond without cover? They will just get ate as soon as they hit the water.

Today’s ponds were the final phase of habitat installation. To ease budget concerns we will break up habitat projects over two to four years. Doing it over a long period of time allows the pond owner to give us feedback. Sometimes in year three the owner might want to add a Texas Hunter fish feeder and want to drop some MossBack rootwad kits near the feeder.

It’s been a month long rain storm here in Georgia. Today was no different.
The taller units are MossBack safe haven kits. They are great for dense offshore cover. The smaller kits are MossBack rootwads. They are our bread and butter units. Small, well priced units that protect bluegill like no other.
Blue skies put a smile on the Captain’s face
Units are easy to deploy.
Slide them off and mark on GPS…easy stuff.
You know it’s spring in the South when you run the back roads and come out covered.

 

If your pond or lake is lacking cover and full of small bass give us a call. We love to work with concerned property owners. Budget shouldn’t be the reason you and your family/friends are not enjoying your pond.  We know how to bring the most value to you.