May 17th 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.

 

Threadfin Shad Kill

As temperatures continue to plummet in the Southeast many lakes are reaching unheard of temperatures. Most fish will hunker down in the deepest portion of the lake and ride out the storm. However, some fish are more susceptible than others.

A key food source that becomes vulnerable in extreme cold is Threadfin shad. Around forty-five degrees is all threadfin can take before they start to die. They will search the depths trying to find suitable water. It’s common for threadfin to suspend in a certain portion of the water column. Whenever visible ice forms on the surface of the lake a shad kill becomes a real possibility. If your lake is small you can make a quick visible inspection to look for dead shad. If your lake is large you can also make a visual inspection but also be on the look out for seagulls or vultures picking off the dying shad.

If a shad kill is seen call our office and place your order for restocking. Shad stockings occur in April and early May. There is a limited amount of shad from suppliers so it’s critical to place your order early. Getting the lake electroshocked to inventory the shad population will show us how your population fared. Some luck out and have a partial kill while others loose the whole population.

Winter Pond Bass Fishing

So far in the Southeast this winter is stacking up to be a dozy. Atlanta has already had 8 inches of panic dropped on her and it’s not even New Years. Many pond owners take this same icy attitude toward their ponds this time of year. However winter pond fishing can be phenomenal if you have a solid game plan. The point of this article is to serve as a general approach to enjoying your pond in the cold months.

The first aspect of bass fishing in winter is all about timing. The days are shorter and colder. Bass know this and adjust their movements accordingly. There is no need to get up at the crack of dawn like we have to do in the summer months. The best times to fish are between 10am to 3pm. These will be the warmest parts of the day making sluggish bass a little less sluggish. An often overlooked time to fish in the winter is during rain or fronts. In Georgia it’s common for the weather to be 10 degrees warmer before and during a front. Pond temps in the high 40s will revieve runoff in the 60s.  The warm runoff draws bass in like magnets. Fishing areas where runoff enters the pond will be key.

Basic Tackle

Tackle this time of year doesn’t have to be super fancy. A 6’6” to 7′ medium heavy bait casting set up will be good for jigs and heavier soft plastic rigs. A 7′ medium spinning rod will handle smaller soft plastics and drop shotting well.

I love jigs!

On to baits and lures! I’m a minimalist at heart and don’t want to lug around four tackle boxes. I carry a small backpack with the essential baits and terminal tackle. Bass will hug the bottom this time of year. Some will suspend as well. Jigs are my favorite lure because you can do many things with them. Bouncing them slowly off the bottom mimicking crayfish is my go to technique. However during those rainy events with warm runoff swimming a jig is a good technique to try. Swimming a jig simply means slowly reeling in the jig similar to a spinner bait. Below are several jig and trailer combinations that are proven.

Brown colored jigs excel in clear water situations
Black and blue is the classic jig color. Does great in dirty or clear water.

The next category of baits that do good in cold water are soft plastics. There are so many options on the soft plastic market today. Similar to jigs I like to keep stuff simple. With the water being cold I don’t fish plastics with lots of movement. I prefer smaller plastics that move very little so no curly tail worms or crazy twin tail trailers.

If you don’t like jigs, soft plastic craws are a great alternative.
Worms should always be near the top. Notice all these have little to no movement. The colors are very translucent because often times the water in winter is very clear. Black should be saved for muddy water. Texas rig these to bounce off the bottom.
More crayfish imitations. The Sweet Beaver is a simple yet effective bait to have in your arsenal. Texas rig these to bounce off the bottom.
Senko is an all time favorite. Like shad colors such as pictured. However blacks and watermelons are also solid choices. Many people over fish these. Simply cast out and let slowly sink. Then lift your rod up slightly. The natural wobble these have do all the work for you.
Some ponds have threadfin shad in them. Threadfin are delicate and sensitive to extreme cold. They will die off if it gets to cold which is unfortunate due to their price. The one upside is bass key in on the dying shad and will gorge themselves. Flukes are great mimics. No weight required. A white trickworm can be useful to show them something they haven’t seen.
Basic rigging for all soft plastics. This keeps hook weedless since point is buried into the soft plastic.

Hooks and weights are simple. A 1/0 to 3/0 hook is all you will need. A small built weight that weighs around 3/16oz is plenty for Texas rigging . So now you know what to fish and when to fish. The last piece of the puzzle is where to fish.

Yes it’s basic.

Most ponds are one to three acres so that means you can cover them very quickly and easily. The red “x’s” are winter time hot spots. Lets start at the dam. The corners of a dam are great fish holding locations because there is a change in bottom contour which allows bass to pin forage.  The standpipe is a structure suspending bass will hold to. Most ponds have a few fallen trees. Fish the trees in deep water and pass on the shallow trees. The row of “x’s” is located on the western side of the lake. The western side will receive the most afternoon sun thus warming quickly. Lastly the inflow pipe will be worth fishing after a warm rain. The warm water draws fish in and also food from the watershed gets funneled into a small area.

Follow these simple tips to put more winter time bass on the end of your line!

 

Metro Atlanta Lake Management

Lake Audit, Lake Survey, Fishery Management

When people imagine a world class bass fishery Atlanta’s I-285 usually isn’t at the top of their list. Nestled near Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport is an oasis . This client has been with us for many years and most importantly takes fisheries management seriously. Due to its large size the lake is shocked twice a year to insure the appropriate number of bass are harvested. In addition we come out once a month to fertilize and monitor water quality during the warm season. On this visit we shocked the lake for bass harvest as well as the final fertilization of the season.

Electrofishing, Lake Audit
Most fish were offshore on shad but a few still on the banks
Lake Survey, Lake Audit
Not the only ones working today

Lake Audit, Lake Survey, Electrofishing

Electrofishing Threadfin Shad
Bustin’ some Threadfin shad
Electrofishing, Electrofishing Boat
Capt. Matt getting the leftovers
fish population survey, assessing fish populations
We go were ever the fish are
fish analysis
Seth quick on the sticks

Once we collected all the bass it’s time to weigh and measure. Fish that are healthy are tagged and released. Fish that don’t meet the cut are taken out.

lake audit, Bass
Data is not the most exciting position yet it’s the most critical
Female Bass
No worries for this big girl
Fisheries Management
Tagged and released
fishery management plan
Seth with another golf course pig
fish population
This one isn’t so lucky
measuring fish population
Inches matter

 

fishery management
To the ice chest he goes
Bass, Fishery Survey
Fish like this kill fisheries. Too many mouths make for skinny bass
Fishery Management
Donald is making sure nothing goes to waste.
Lake Fertilization, Pond and Lake Management
Fertile water equals happy shad and fat bass. Seth dumping the final bag of fertilizer.
Fisheries Management
Capt. Matt burning the midnight oil

After a long day the shock boys were worn down but a lot was accomplished. Harvesting bass could be considered the most important aspect of lake/pond management. It doesn’t matter how many bluegill you stock if there are too many bass their will never be enough bluegill. An advantage of electrofishing instead of rod and reel is that our sample is not bias. We shock aggressive and less aggressive fish just as well. Call us today to get your lake shocked and back on track.