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.

Newnan, Georgia Lake Enhancement

Here at AES we are big fans of artificial habitat. Last forever and when it goes off the edge of the boat you are done with it. The one drawback is it is very expensive. Recently we have been working with a good amount of HOAs. Improving a community lake will increase property values even for those not living directly on the lake. Unfortunately many communities have tight budgets. However that is not an issue at AES. We are here to create the best fishery with the given materials.

This lake is on the rebound after being managed poorly for over a decade. Funds for next year have been set aside to help the fishery but community members still wanted to help the fishery now. Christmas trees were collected throughout the neighborhood around New Years to be dropped as fish habitat. To save cost the community did all the prep work themselves. We simply showed up with our work barge and dropped the trees in pre-selected locations.

Boat ramps…a luxury in our line of work!
Prepped and ready to be dumped
Simple but effective
Community support is key to getting these efforts accomplished

Barge is ready to go
Proper location is critical.
Bluegill spawn in 3-5ft of water so don’t dump too deep.
Last drop of the day

With all the prep work this was a short day with a lot accomplished. There were plenty of people here to help load. Getting community members involved is important for these efforts. When more people are educated about their waters they will start to care more. Not many people will complain about getting tired of catching big bass. No matter your budget give AES a call and we will get you on the right plan.

Winter Chores

Ever wonder why the Midwestern United States grows such huge deer versus other parts of the lower 48? A little hint is good dirt grows big deer. The same concept applies for growing trophy bass. Unlike the Midwest, here in the Southeast we are not blessed with good dirt. Being famous for having red clay isn’t a huge source of pride for most lake owners. Luckily liming is an easy and effective way to improve water quality.  Liming does a lot of good things for your pond such as raising alkalinity and reduce pH swings. High alkalinity will make fertilizer more effective and small pH swings will make the aquatic environment stable.

Digital titration is the most accurate way to measure alkalinity. Want alkalinity to be at least 20 ppm.

With deer food plots landowners typically apply one ton per acre every year. As lake managers we apply four to six tons per acre. This seems like overkill. That is exactly what we want because at this rate you only have to lime every three to five years. Some will luck out and be good for many years. Factors such as watershed size effect the rate. Also years with flooding will wash out lime quickly.

Liming a lake is a straight forward process. First we will get lime brought in and dumped near the shoreline. We will bring our lime barge to the lake. No boat ramp is needed. There just needs to be an area with clean bottom and good drop off. Of course we need plenty of room for the trailer and trucking company.

A front end loader is needed to load our barge. Typically one bucket is enough. We require the loader to be 4 wheel drive and at least 20hp. We’ve used small loaders and they will tip over or break due to lime’s density.

The final step is to blast the lime off. On our barge we have a 2in trash pump that produces 213 gallons per minute. With this flow rate we are typically able to move eight to ten tons of lime in a hour.

When liming we are liming the soil not the water so we drive around blasting lime off.

Typical lakes only need 24-50 tons so we can get your job done in an afternoon. Winter is the time to get this done so when it warms up you will be back to enjoying your lake. Call us now to get ahead of the spring rush.

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!

 

Bluegill Feeding

 

Spring is here and it is time to crank up your bluegill feeders! 

To grow giant bluegill or improve bass growth feed your bluegill quality feed.   Feeding the bluegill a supplemental fish food diet creates healthier higher reproducing fish thus creates more bass food. Feeding begins in March and continues through November in much of the southeast. How much should you be feeding? As a general rule of thumb, cast enough feed so its gone in 5 to 10 minutes.  For bluegill they need at a minimum a 36% protein diet. We prefer the Aquamax 500 or 600 fish food with 41% protein level. DO NOT USE CHEAP CATFISH FOOD! 

Feeding by hand is not as efficient as using an automatic fish feeder which can feed multiple times a day. Bluegill have a short intestinal tract and benefit from multiple feedings during the day. A feeding area is a great place for kids to learn to fish, because the action is always fast. Many people just enjoy watching the feeding frenzy that occurs and showing off your trophy bluegill to your friends.

Bluegill will not travel far to consume food so to maximize bluegill growth and production, setup multiple feeding sites. 

Check out this link to read about our Bluegill Feeding Trials. This gives you more insight on why to use quality food for feeding.  Our research showed that a more expensive food such as Aquamax 500 is actually cheaper for putting weight on bluegill. 

Threadfin Shad Survival

The start of 2014 rang in the coldest temperatures that in over a decade. For those with threadfin shad, the bitter cold could have led to the demise of your threadfin shad population. Threadfin shad are great bass forage but they die once the water temperatures reach the low 40’s especially if the water temperature stays too cold for too long. Ice may equal dead shad. However, just because some shad die off does not mean that the entire population died off. In deeper lakes, shad can survive by seeking out thermal refuges that provide warm enough water temperatures to get the shad through the cold winter.

The best key to determine how the shad fared through the winter is by conducting an electrofishing survey this spring. You can also look for schooling shad at the water surface in the evenings once the weather begins to warm.  If a majority of the threadfin shad population or the entire population was eliminated, shad can be re-stocked this spring. Remember that we only stock shad when they are ready to spawn which increases the establishment of the shad since they will spawn shortly after being stocked. Typically, our shad stockings occur in April through June. Because of timing the sooner we determine the status of the shad the better the chances of stocking this spring.

** Though thick ice in north GA leads to rare kids fun activities (with safety measures in place), this particular ponds was covered in thick ice for four days. If you experienced heavy ice cover similar to this, you threadfin shad population likely did not survive unless the pond has a high abundance of deep water; and yet their chances of survival are still limited in such a severe ice cover. Also, we don’t recommend walking on ice in the south due to thinness of ice.

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4th day of completely solid ice!

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Take a look at what Joe stumbled upon at one of our managed lake sites today…

Snake

Today, while vising one of our managed lake sites, Joe stumbled across this well-camouflaged snake. With its somewhat triangular-shaped head, most people would jump to the conclusion that it is a venomous snake.  But, in reality, it is a non-venomous water snake. While not poisonous, they are also quick to bite back hard if they feel any kind of danger from anyone. Their bite is strong enough to put you into a lot of pain. ‘Tis the season that these snakes start making appearances, so watch where you step…and if you don’t know what kind of snake you’re dealing with, it’s best to turn around and walk the other way.

Winterize your lake or pond

With winter fast approaching, many of our managed lake see a dramatic change in weed density and water clarity.  Just like your Bermuda lawn, most aquatic weeds will turn brown and go dormant for the winter.  Most weeds will seem to be completely gone, but we know from experience that the roots and seeds are quietly biding their time until the sunlight increases and the water temperatures rise. And just like your lawn, treating the young shoots of the aquatic weeds is the easiest way to control them as opposed to letting the weeds become deeply rooted again.

Lake owners will also see the clarity of their lakes increase, sometimes dramatically, during the winter.  Why is that? As the water cools, the natural cycle of phytoplankton is halted, thus clearing the water or its summertime green or brownish color. With this cooling comes slower growth for all animals in the lake, as their bodies try to conserve energy through the winter.   As fishes metabolism slows, you should slow down the rate at which you provide supplemental feeding with your fish feeders to bluegill and/or catfish.

Fish feeders this time of year need to be set for a mid-afternoon feeding and shut down by the time the water temps are consistently in the low 50’s. Now if you feeding cool water fish such as trout, then keep them running.  Just keep in mind you want the fish to consume all of the food in around five minutes. Once turned off. Break down the components of the feeder and clean them well.  Apply lubrication to moving parts.  Thoroughly clean the solar panel.  Put your batteries on a load tester to make sure they are ready for next spring.  Never leave a feeder shutdown for the winter with food in it. Fish food sitting in a feeder that is shut down will lead to corrosion problems.

Winter is also the best time of the year to place fish habitat.  In our work, it is common to find lakes with a lack of protective cover.  This is critical to promote bluegill recruitment which will improve the growth rates of your largemouth bass. You can cut trees and sink them near spawning beds.   Next month, collect all the Christmas trees from your neighbors and sink them in less than 4 feet of water where small fish spend their time.  Also, increase fishing hot spots with placement of trees out in deeper water.

Old ponds that may have sediment buildup can use some dredging.  A silted in pond is not good habitat for spawning and may lead to a muddy lake.  It facilitates aquatic weed and algae growth. Dredging it out means draining the lake and there is no better time to drain the lake for the fish than when cool.

What else could I do this winter for my lake? If you experienced aquatic weeds in the warmer months, stocking grass carp this winter will give your lake a jump-start on the spring growth.

  • The best long-term control of the submersed weeds is stocking grass carp.
  • Grass carp are very effective in controlling submersed grasses and can eat up to 5 times their body weight in one day.

Installing a bottom diffused aeration system can prevent winter turnover fish kills and add beneficial oxygen to the water body.  Aeration systems have also been proven to reduce nutrient levels in the water, stunting weed growth.  Although not a aesthetically pleasing as a fountain, bottom diffused aeration adds more oxygen and actually takes less electricity to operate.

Just because winter is here and normal fishing slows down, you can add rainbow trout to your lake for added action in the winter months.  Trout are cold water fish and are very aggressive in the colder months, and are good tasting and easy to catch.  Supplemental feeding with a fish feeder is recommended for trout.

So don’t give your lake the cold shoulder this winter,  pick a project that will increase your enjoyment of the lake!