Where did all my Big Bass go?

Most of our blog posts are a summery of what we’ve been up to at AES. People are surprised to learn that there are businesses that manage lakes and more specifically fisheries. Our job is to educate people so they have the knowledge going forth to make the most informed decisions. With things slowing down this post is going to be more information based and less what we’ve been up to.

Often times during an electrofishing survey the question comes up of what happened to all the bigger bass. Owners report lots of big bass 5lbs and bigger. All the sudden these stud bass are gone and they are catching small, stunted bass. It almost seems like a cruel magic trick but it’s actually science unfolding. A bass has a life expectancy of eight to thirteen years depending on environment. Many of these ponds were built brand new and stocked according to a customized AES stocking plan. We always stock forage first to allow for reproduction. Only after the forage base has had plenty of time to grow will we introduce bass. It’s important to note that these first bass fingerlings that are stocked will always be the best fish in the pond. We are introducing them into an environment with plenty of food and no competition. Usually around year ten in when owners notice the bigger bass are becoming fewer and harder to catch. The reason these fish are getting harder to catch is their numbers are decreasing from natural mortality. It may not happen all at once but it will happen eventually.

Inside these tubes are bass fingerlings that will be sent to the lab to be tested for genetic purity.
These bass are two years old. Notice the insane growth?
If proper management isn’t taken many lakes become full of skinny, unhealthy bass. The fish is so thin the sun almost shone through it.

There are three strains of bass fingerlings we stock. Each strain of bass has a different purpose to fit a client’s goals. Northern bass are very aggressive but don’t have the top end potential of a Florida strain bass. We recommend these to clients that want fast action and don’t mind if their bass top out around 8 lbs. Florida strain bass are the ones that you hear about breaking records. They are not as aggressive as Northerns but can grow to true trophy status. We would use these for clients wishing to grow large fish but at the same time not have lots of numbers or fast angling action. Lastly there is F1 strain. F1s are a cross between Florida and Northern bass. They are considered to have the best of both strains while still maintaining a happy median. F1s are the most common strain we stock.

 

Fish Truck V2.0

Running fish is the backbone of AES. Everything we do whether it’s electroshock or habitat enhancement leads up to getting fish in the water. Many people think we raise fish at our Ball Ground, Georgia office. Other than some trout fingerlings or holding some catfish for a few days we do very little. Georgia soil is very poor hence our water quality is poor. The bulk of our fish come from Arkansas hatcheries where they have the proper water quality. Once we have enough orders a semi-truck from Arkansas rolls ups and each truck loads up with their orders. After ten faithful years our current fish delivery truck was starting to show her age.

Saltwater and metal don’t mix
Few wrecks later and about six inches of mud
Matt doing the tedious workings
Rewiring the agitators. Agitators are key to breaking up carbon dioxide so more fish can be hauled.
Finished Product
Going with a 5500 sized truck allowed us to add some extra tanks

With spring rolling around we are more than ready to get fish in your pond and starting making memories.

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.

 

South Florida Exotics

Exotic plants and animals have been an issue in Florida for years. During our past shocking of Lake Parrish near Tampa, Florida we ran into huge schools of tilapia. Often they would be feeding on the surface in schools of over a hundred fish. We knew their numbers were high but our senior biologist found some startling images.

Notice all the holes along the rim of the cove. Those are all tilapia beds.
Prolific Spawners?

Tilapia are illegal to stock in Georgia but there is a lesson for pond owners. When stocking your pond know what you are getting. Purchase from a company or hatchery that has a good reputation in the industry. The guy your buddy met at QuickTrip around 2am my not be the best choice even if the price is right. Georgia DNR tickets are not cheap.

Silver Lake Massive Bass

Our clients on Silver Lake are catching massive bass.  Here are the Silver Lake massive bass catching statistics in pounds:

  • This week: Tuesday, Robert – 8 and Thursday, Robert – 9.5
  • Last week: Jeff – 8, Brad  – 5, and Matthew 3.5
  • February and 3 weeks ago: Dylan Thomas  – 8.5 and 9.5
Proof that we know how to stock fisheries.  Want to catch bass like the Silver Lake massive bass, give us a call!!


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Congrats to Robert and Dylan!! Keep the Silver Lake massive bass stats coming!

 

Grow Big Bass

Want to grow big bass? Let us shock and stock your pond. We are out shocking a client’s pond today and as you can see, we know how to grow big bass.  If you want to grow big bass, we need to first assess the population of your fishery. Shocking is the first step in building a stocking plan to grow big bass. If you don’t want to grow big bass, shocking is still the first step in creating and maintaining a successful fishery.

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Mossback Fish Habitat

A
nother successful Mossback Fish Habitat install.  Mossback Fish Habitats
are versatile, realistic, and long-lasting.  Mossback Fish Habitats are an excellent addition to your existing fish habitats like trees, brush, and other fish habitats. Contacts us for a Mossback Fish Habitat quote. We can plan and design a Mossback Fish Habitat specifically for your pond.

Read more about Mossback Fish Habitats here: http://lakework.com/fishery-mgmt/fish-habitat-enhancements/

 

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