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.

 

 

Rockmart, Georgia MossBack Habitat Installation

At AES we shock lakes and ponds to get a snapshot of what’s happening underwater. Often times people assume we are after big fish and a photo op when we electrofish. In reality we want to harvest as much information and small bass as we can. Electricity isn’t bias so we shock aggressive fish as well as more docile fish. When anglers are fishing they will usually catch aggressive fish. Once we gather enough information we will make recommendations based on the client’s goals and budget. Today’s client gave us a budget to work with to improve habitat. We always give clients the best recommendations but understand budget is always a concern. We installed a variety of different MossBack kits today to improve habitat in different areas of the lake. For example a rootwad kit will be dropped in shallow water near bluegill spawning beds to give protection to newly hatched bluegill fry. In deeper water reef kits were deployed. Reef kits are not as dense as rootwads and are meant for bass to hang off. These deep water structures make for great places to fish around. No more random cast.

Today we constructed almost 30 MossBack habitats. Mossback kits are very easy to install. If the property owner has the time and resources we always encourage them to build and install themselves to save on cost. Each kit will usually take about 20 min to build. 
MossBack Habitats
The hardest part about deploying habitat is figuring out how to get back on the boat once the boat is fully loaded. The tightly packed habitats will test your flexibility.
MossBack Rootwad Kits
Another load ready to be deployed.
Lime barge
The boys coming back for more kits. The key today was to beat the rain. As we left the property the rumble of thunder was close.  

If you have a project in mind but aren’t sure where to start give the office a call!

 

Madison, Georgia Lake Liming

The summer time is prime time to do mid-season chores on your lake or pond. The fishing has slowed down and it’s down right miserable to be out past 11 am. Today we were in Madison, GA helping a long time customer. When this property owner came to us about five years ago his lake was so full of weeds a boat could barley navigate, the bulk of the bass were 8-12″, and the forage base was running on fumes. After several chemical applications and grass carp stockings the lake was cleared of vegetation. After many bass were harvested several loads of threadfin shad were stocked. This spring the lake was shocked to see how the lake was doing. To the utter surprise and delight of the owner his shad were thriving. He was planning on getting another load or two stocked but after our survey he realized no shad needed to be stocked. Situations like this show why an experienced professional is needed. Instead of the client spending money on something they already have they can now use that money for other forage.

40 tons of agriculture lime waiting to be spread. Property owners are often shocked when we recommend 4-6 tons/acre. Other lake management companies will recommend 1-2 tons/acre. The reason we recommend higher amounts is we don’t want property owners liming every year or every other year. We would rather property owners lime once every 3-5 years and use their budget for fish stocking or habitat enhancements.
Agricultural lime is usually a mysterious topic when we mention it to property owners. Lime is crushed limestone as you can see in the picture above. Lime is high in calcium which raises the pH and alkalinity of the soil. Georgia has incredibility poor soil which doesn’t allow pond and lakes to carry a lot of pounds of fish. When we fertilize we can triple the amount of fish a lake carries. 
This 85 hp tractor had a giant bucket so it made quick work of the pile. We always want tractors to be at least 20 hp and four wheel drive. Smaller tractors will struggle with the dense nature of lime. 
Nosing off the bank is made much easier when there is a good drop off. We have a few tricks up our sleeve to get out of tight spaces but a good bank slope is hard to beat.
Spreading 40 tons the easy way.

If you suspect your water quality is holding back your fishery call the office to see if we can help you out.

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!

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 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

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.

Winter Fish Habitat Improvements

The holidays have wrapped up and the dread of taking Christmas decorations down has sunk in. Most of your decorations are headed back to the attic or for curbside pick up. Think twice before chunking that Christmas tree away.

When bluegill first hatch they are less than one inch long and extremely vulnerable to bass. To help them survive they need dense habitat to hide in. This is where your old Christmas tree comes into play. Christmas trees are phenomenal natural habitat to spruce up a pond that is lacking bluegill habitat. This blog is a quick guide to getting your trees in the water and protecting bluegill.

Home Depots are great locations to pick up extra trees. This Home Depot’s pile just north of Atlanta has been steadily growing since New Years Day.

Bluegill habitat is not something to skimp on. I recommend clients get a few buddies together, take a trailer to Home Depot, and load up as many that safely fit on the trailer. The more cover that’s dropped will equal more bluegill this spring and summer. More bluegill means healthy bass. Bluegill reproduce multiple times throughout the warm months. If proper habitat is in place they will sustain their population which means pond owners don’t have to spend $2,000 in bluegill stockings every year. Bass harvest is also a serious consideration as well.

All the supplies you’ll need

First part of getting ready is corralling all the needed supplies. A perk of having a few buddies is while everyone else is loading the trailer one can run into Home Depot to purchase the rope and cinder blocks.  8″x 8″x 16″ cinder block is a good size.  Polypropylene rope is the preferred rope material. Cotton based rope will decompose quickly.

 

The good stuff
Secured to main trunk. Don’t loop rope through limps. They will break under weight of cinder block.
Knots don’t have to be pretty

Once all supplies are ready cut about four feet of rope. Now thread the rope through the cinder block and main tree trunk. Tying in the middle is the safest bet but some tie to bottom so tree will stand up. When the tree becomes water logged it will lay on its side so it does not matter where it’s secured to. A few granny knots to tie rope off and it’s ready to be dropped.

Location is the most important part of the process. The quick and dirty whiteboard sketch shows what is right and what’s wrong. Lets start with correct positioning.  All the trees have been dropped right on the edge of bluegill spawning sites.  There are lots of trees surrounding spawning sites. It’s better to have a little too much gusto than be stingy. Now for the wrong way to drop. Trees have been dropped way too far from spawning sites. Bluegill fry will get ate in their journey from beds to cover. The trees have been dropped sparsely.

One note about using Christmas Trees or any natural materials is that they have a limited lifespan. As soon as natural materials hit water they start decomposing. One year is about what we expect to get out of a single tree so plan to make this a yearly tradition. At AES we sell artificial habitat. Unfortunately they are not free but they last forever which saves time. After all, time is the ultimate currency.

If you need guidance on dropping trees or curious about artificial habitat contact our office. Winter is a slower pace here so we will be able to quickly help you. Come spring we are extremely busy and schedules are tight.