Mid-April Electrofishing Recap

The electrofishing team has been bouncing around middle and south Georgia for the first part of April. The team has been tackling many diverse fisheries from lakes less than two years old while others have run their course and need to be drained.

Georgia electrofishing
The weather was erratic at best. The weather fluctuated between down pours and gorgeous early spring skies.

Post-Spawn Conditions

The spawn was very flat this year. There wasn’t much of a buildup. With the amount of rain and unusual temperatures the bass spawned when the conditions were right. Many of the fish we shocked had fresh sores and flat bellies indicating the spawn has already happened. Some lakes had schools of bass fry with males guarding the school.

Georgia Electrofishing
A few pounds in the bass world makes a load of difference.
Georgia Electrofishing
Even after spawning this fish is still in great shape. Her relative weight was well over 100%.
Georgia Electrofishing
The crappie were moving up to spawn as well. This crappie was about 1.5 lbs. Crappie spawn before bass hence why their numbers can get out of control but, it seemed like this year the bass and crappie were spawning side by side.

Seasonal Growth

This time of year we get lots of calls about algae growth. With the warming water algae is starting to grow again. There are some species of algae that grow in specific temperatures but die in warmer or colder temperatures.

Georgia Electrofishing
Growth this sever needs to be chemically treated.
georgia electrofishing
Launching our shock boat in lakes with aquatic vegetation can be tricky. It’s critical that we clean our trailer so we don’t transfer vegetation from each lake.
georgia electrofishing
When algae is this thick it makes fishing almost impossible. A topwater frog is about the only thing that works in when filamentous algae is this thick.

Wrapping the Week Up

With a long week week of electrofishing coming to an end the team saved the best lakes for last.

Georgia Electrofishing
These bass are small but they are what all sizes of bass should look like. We always tel people healthy bass should look like footballs. Often times when electrofishing we shock bass that look more like torpedoes which indicates unhealthy bass.
Georgia Electrofishing
We are always telling people to diversify their forage base. Bass evenly eating four different forages allows no one forage base to get depleted. This particular client has low bass numbers so a small amount of goldfish survived. This particular lake had great numbers of shad. The property owner was adamant about stocking another load of shad but electrofishing revealed he had plenty.
Georgia Electrofishing
Let the boss get on the rail.
georgia electrofishing
An aerial view of the shock team pushing some fish off shore.
Georgia Electrofishing
Pure Florida strain bass are slow growers but they have constant growth while other strains of bass slow down after a hot start. Greg is holding two bass that are in the 4 year old age class.
Georgia Electrofishing
Bass harvest is a great tool to ensure fisheries remain in balance. With this lake being a quality bass fishery we only released bass that had relative weights greater than 95%. At the end of the day almost 70 lbs of bass were harvested.

After four days of electrofishing and being on the road the team heading back to Ball Ground. Electrofishing is all fun till the boat is hooked up and pointed home. The real work starts now with report writing. We are booked out till mid-May so if you have any interest in getting your lake shocked now is the time to get in contact with us.

 

Start of 2019 Electrofishing Season

Georgia Pond Management

The Start of 2019

With water temperatures creeping up to the magical 60 degree mark, the shock team has been on the move. The electrofishing team was recently in Cartersville, Georgia.  The client being serviced has an unconventional goal of wanting to grow large Redear sunfish. Redear sunfish feed primarily on mussels so they become very large but the growth takes a while. As of now, no fish food company has figured out a food that Redear will consume.

Texas Hunter Fish Feeder
The lake has a small creek that runs close by. The creek is a tributary to a major creek in the Cartersville area so it floods easy. All fish feeders are built up to keep them dry.

The Shock

The fish are staging in preparation for the spawn. All winter they have been in deep water seeking shelter from the weather. People ask us why we don’t perform lake audits year around and the reason comes back to the fish. In the winter and summer, fish seek deep water. Deep water is more stable than shallow water. Our electrofishing equipment has an effective range of 4-6ft so our catch rates wouldn’t be high. Summer time water temps can be stressful to fish while they are in the lake so shocking fish in the heat of the summer can be deadly.

gizzard shad in a pond.
With low bass density and a pond full of gizzard shad, it’s no wonder this pond produces huge bass. The gizzard shad are in the 6-11″ range which makes them perfect forage. We did remove some larger ones since they were too large even for the biggest bass. Gizzard shad in a pond environment get a bad rap. Many biologists cite gizzard shad lock up as a major issue since it can negatively effect juvenile recruitment. The reward of stocking gizzard shad is trophy bass. Threadfin shad, bluegill, and other forage are great, but to get to trophy status, bass need large forage. Certain states are known for growing big bass while others aren’t. Florida has golden shiners that exceed 8″, Texas has tilapia, and California has rainbow trout.
Shiner
The lake gets flooded so some unusual species come into the pond. This is a Spottail Shiner.
Big Bass in Georgia Pond
Till the Redear sunfish get big enough to catch there are still plenty of fish to put a bend in the rod.
big bass
With the full moon coming soon, the fish are starting the stage for the spawn. Since the population is small, we tag a large portion of shocked bass. Our previous catches from last years electrofishing survey have grown 2 lbs in a year, which is phenomenal. Well managed lakes with an established bass population average 1 lb of growth per year.

As the weather continues to warm, keep up with the AES shock team this spring. Spring is when the largest bass are shocked.

 

 

Seneca, South Carolina Lake Liming

Lake Liming

Trophy Bass Start in the Dirt

When you think of growing trophy bass, dirt isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. Bluegill, crawfish, shad and other forage grow big bass but have you thought about what grows a bass’s food?

All fish start out as fry and feed off their yoke sack. Once they are done with the yoke sack they move onto small aquatic insects. Lakes with poor soil don’t support as many aquatic insects.  When we attempt to fertilize these lagging lakes our fertilizer has no affect because alkalinity levels are low. Luckily for lake owners there is an easy solution to get top notch dirt.

Liming your lake is an easy job assuming there is proper boat access and a good tractor operator. Liming food plots is a normal fall ritual for hunters, but liming lakes is mostly unknown. Unlike food plots, lakes only need to be limed once every 3-5 years with the rates we recommend. Lake liming ensures the fertilizer will be effective and produces an algae bloom.

lake liming
The first few loads are always the hardest. The ground is very saturated so carrying such a heavy load makes operators nervous.
The lake being limed is a classic South Carolina up state lake with red clay composing the bulk of the soil. Red clay isn’t good for growing crops or big bass.
Lake Liming
When we are spraying lime off the barge we are liming the soil. We aren’t liming the water as many clients assume.
lake liming
In two to three months the lake will be ready to fertilize. Hydrated lime is quicker acting but it will last less than six months.  We used agriculture lime today. Agriculture lime is slower acting but last years. We lime lakes at 4-6 tons/acre because we only want to lime every 3-5 years.

In a few hours the pile of 24 tons was in the lake and working on the soil. We like to lime lakes in the cold months because lake owners won’t be losing growing season. We start fertilizing lakes once the water temps reach 60 degrees, so ideally our owners start fertilizing in April.

 

 

Lake Aeration in Jackson, Georgia

outdoor water solutions

Aeration and lake liming are two lake improvements that generate the least amount of enthusiasm from clients. Unlike fishing stocking where there’s instant gratification of seeing 10,000 bluegill go into the lake, seeing 800 meters of weighted airline sink into the lake is a big let down. However, subtle improvements are the difference between phenomenal fisheries and mediocre ones.

Today’s job was an aeration installation in Jackson, GA. Aeration installations are simple to install but they take lots of prep work to make for a smooth day. Outdoor Water Solutions is the company we used for this client. They provided AES with a detailed project map of where each bottom diffuser is to be dropped as well as the amount of air line.

The Parts

outdoor water solutions
This is the cabinet which houses the air compressor to produce the aeration in the lake.
pond management
The tubing comes in large spools for big jobs while for smaller jobs they come in 100 meter boxes. The tubing is weighted so it sinks to the bottom.
bottom diffused aeration
These are the diffusers that go on the lake bottom and produce the fine bubbles.
pond management
The pores on the membrane are extremely fine to produce the small bubbles.

The Installation

Pond aeration
Aeration systems only require PVC glue, teflon tape, and hose clamps.
pond management
Josh is putting the last few turns on a diffuser before it gets dropped.
pond aeration
We use PVC glue with a barbed connector but as extra insurance we secure a hose clamp to the diffuser.
pond management
Lots of logistics were required to make today go smooth. With the amount of diffuser stations and tubing things could go sideways quickly.
pond management
Deploying the diffuser stations requires care because too much pressure on the diffuser stems can cause cracking. We use PVC glue and clamps to secure all air lines but great care is still used.

The Worst Case

This particular client has a lot invested in the fishery both in time and money. Aeration systems prevent summer fish kills among other things. They also help break up bottom muck, reduce foul odors, and limit the amount of biting insects. If your lake water resembled a bowl of pea soup last summer, an aeration system is something that should be seriously considered.

Below is a client that had four years worth of management invested in his lake. He sent us these horrific pictures of his lake one summer morning. This is why we aerate lakes.

Threadfin Shad
These are dead threadfin shad.
bluegill
This shoreline was where the bulk of the bluegill washed up. This client loves to fly fish for big bluegill. Seeing crows and buzzards fly off with your dead 1 lb bluegill cuts deep.
big bass
A front loader full of stud 4-6 lb largemouth.

The reason this lake experienced a fish kill was because the lake flipped. There was a period of cloudy rainy weather during the heat of the summer. Oxygen levels crashed and the fish had nothing to consume. Call the office this spring before it’s too late for your pond.

 

 

 

 

Newnan, GA Fish Habitat Improvements

Christmas tree for fish habitat

Lake Redwine Fish Habitat Improvement

Lake Redwine in Newnan, GA is a 300 acre lake surrounded by hundreds of homes. With such a large group of people living around the lake this can make management tricky.

AES has years of experience is striking a delicate balance with HOA/POAs. Lake Redwine is shocked every year to harvest bass and to check the health of the fishery. Recommendations are generated from the shock but, unfortunately with such huge acreage these recommendations can get expensive. This project is an example of when biologist and residents come together for a creative solution.

AES constructed a yearly plan to do small fish habitat improvements that fit into the budget while residents do their part collecting Christmas trees for fish habitat. This plan includes MossBack artificial fish habitat and Christmas trees as natural cover.

An Early and Cold Start

MossBack Fish Habitat
Hauling a 22 foot work boat thru Atlanta is no fun so we make a point to leave Ball Ground around 5 am to get ahead of the traffic. Early starts are part of the game.
Boat Ramp
Always a good day when we have a boat ramp.
MossBack Habitat
Volunteers made the process go quickly and efficiently.
MossBack Habitat
We started off the morning with loading up MossBack rootwad habitat.
bluegill habitat
A few days earlier volunteers tied blocks to the trees so things would move quickly once we arrived.
Redwine Sunrise
It hovered around 24 degrees for the bulk of the morning so it was exciting to see the sun pop over the trees.
MossBack fish habitat
Our first drop of MossBack rootwads were all centered around known bluegill and shell cracker spawning areas. Chad is the head of fisheries on Lake Redwine so he was on the boat with us to direct us. Chad is a great voice for us when HOA and Lake committee meetings occur. He cares deeply about the lake and the fishing. 
MossBack Rootwad Fish Habitat
MossBack rootwads are dense habitat designed to give bluegill and other forage species cover. The limbs and tubes are roughed up. This rough surface promotes algae growth which serves as the base of the food chain.
MossBack Rootwad Kits
With the brick adapters the MossBack rootwads stand straight up making great bluegill habitat. These post aren’t very tall so they can be deployed in shallow water. When working from HOAs it’s critical to not have fish habitat breaking the water surface. It can be a navigation and swimming hazard if people aren’t paying attention.
bluegill habitat
Once we got done with the artificial habitat we started loading the Christmas trees.
bluegill habitat
We loaded close to fifty trees in addition to the MossBack rootwads.
Bluegill Habitat
The marina was the final area we dropped trees. A lot of residents like to fish off the marina docks.

Natural vs. Artificial Fish Habitat

In the lake management world it has always been known that artificial habitat is the best. It last longer and there’s so many different configurations these days. There are configurations for deep water that will aide bass. There are also shallow water kits similar to what we used today. The main drawback to using artificial habitat is the cost. This is when natural habitat comes into play. Natural habitat in the form of Christmas and cedar trees make phenomenal bluegill habitat. The one down side to natural is decomposition. Trees will usually last one to two years then need to be refreshed.

MossBack habitat has been working closely with private pond owners and state agencies to study how mixing natural and artificial habitat in one unit. They have begun to notice that sites that have a natural habitat beside an artificial kit hold more fish than just a single kit or tree by themselves. They suspect the bass hold in the artificial cover then bust the bait fish out of the natural habitat.  Although this research has just started this could have big implications for state agencies working under tight budgets.

Something is Better than Nothing

As we wrapped up today there was a great sense of accomplishment among the volunteers and AES staff. Redwine is such a huge lake that it’s almost impossible to cover every bluegill and shell cracker bedding location. Today’s job was a step in the right direction. Every year we chip away and get one Christmas tree closer to their goals.

 

 

Stocking Trout in Augusta, Georgia

Rainbow Trout

Fort Gordon Army Base

Stocking trout is nothing new as  we stocked browns in the Soque River   not long ago but with this week’s polar vortex, water temps throughout the state are prime for trout stockings. Even in areas not normally known for supporting trout we can stock them with winter time water temperatures. Today’s dump was at Fort Gordon Army base located near Augusta, GA. January and February are prime times for stocking trout in Georgia. The end of January works well for Fort Gordon because they host a yearly trout rodeo for kids and their parents. The base has its own natural resources staff to manage all of the base’s fisheries and wildlife. Events like this promote outdoor involvement and make great opportunities for wildlife officers to interact with base residents.

rainbow trout
Steve Camp is head of all natural resources on the base.

 

The Set Up

Fort Gordon is covered up with lakes and ponds. Some are strictly managed for certain goals while others are simply meant to provide a good angling experience. Many of the lakes have been limed and are now fertilized. In addition to the lime and fertilization program, the bulk of the lakes have Texas Hunter fish feeders to supplement the bluegill in the warm months and trout in the colder months. Steve is working with a tight budget so every purchase has a purpose.

rainbow trout
Flicking the trout in the air so they hit the water with gusto is an industry trick to stocking trout. Steve has the wrist flick down to a science. Allowing the trout to hit the water breaks ups the Carbon Dioxide that builds in their gills while being hauled.
trout stocking in Georgia
Having more hands is always welcomed. This is one of Steve’s newest biologist. This is a good teaching moment to talk about cold water fish since trout stocking in Georgia doesn’t happen often.
rainbow trout
Since the bulk of these fish were for kids to catch we stocked larger trout. The average weight was about 1.5 lbs. Trout that size are sure to keep the kids busy and taste great that evening.

Community is the Why

As we were wrapping up the stocking Steve did some community education. Managing wildlife is Steve’s main job but interacting with the community is just as important if not  more important. Steve has a big personality so community members love talking with him. His passion for the outdoors is unmatched.

Fort Gordon is a diverse army base with many different sectors. Often times these sectors stay within their area during the work day then go home. Steve uses the outdoors to bring people together and meet other people. Steve’s passion for helping someone get their first buck or fish is the reason he does this job. Like many other high level mangers he’s spinning ten plates in the air but still makes time for the people.

With the threat of Atlanta afternoon traffic looming we made a quick exit off the base. Stocking trout in Augusta, GA shows that if you want trout you can get them. Many ponds in the state can support trout from November to April. Some ponds can even support trout into June. With the trout hatcheries running low on inventory now is the time for stocking trout in Georgia or you may loose the opportunity till next season.

 

Brown Trout in Georgia’s Soque River

brown trout in soque river

Growing big bass is Aquatic Environmental’s speciality but we can do more. This past week we stocked big brown trout in Georgia’s Soque river. The Soque is located in North Georgia near the city of Clarkesville. The river supports trout year around but during hot, dry summers the trout population can take a hit. There are good populations of Brown trout in Georgia but they are usually in remote mountain streams. Brown trout in Georgia can handle slightly warmer temperatures than Rainbow and Brook trout but temperatures over 70 are stressful to all trout. The residents on the river suspend fishing in the summer to protect the trout. This round of trout was a speciality order since large brown trout are difficult to source.

Big Brown Trout
These brown trout were so big they didn’t fit in the buckets.
Brown trout in Soque river
Stocking is easy when all you have to do is park the truck and walk down a few stairs!
Brown Trout stocking
The resident releasing his fish!
Big Brown Trout
These are trophy sized Brown trout in Georgia.
brown trout
These are hatchery fish  yet they have gorgeous colors. Wild brown trout in Georgia are known for their bright orange and red spots.
big brown trout in georgia
When we mean big browns we mean business.

Where did these brown trout come from and what do they eat?

All of these fish came from a hatchery in North Carolina. They are trained to eat fish feed but after a few weeks they will start to take natural food. Natural food sources include stoneflies, caddis, and mayflies. Residents on the Soque use feeders to keep the fish well feed. We recommend high quality Aqua Max Purina fish food to keep the trout growing. Georgia streams aren’t known for supporting many pounds of natural food so supplemental feeding is important.

Fly Fishing in North Georgia
Some lucky anglers!

Aren’t stocked trout too easy to catch?

Freshly stocked trout are easier to catch but Brown trout in Georgia can be tricky. Brown trout prefer low light conditions not bright, sunny days. The Soque river sees its fair share of fishing pressure so these fish will wise up quickly. The addition of supplemental feeding also makes the trout trickier to nail down. With insect hatches and fish food the trout have lots of options.

We want to make your property stand out from the rest so call the office to get started! It doesn’t matter if it’s moving water or a 100 acre lake we can tackle anything.

Electrofishing in Orangeburg, South Carolina

Using Electricity to Catch Bass in Orangeburg

Many people might be surprised to know that in Orangeburg SC, just two miles from the interstate, resides one of the highest quality and unique fishing properties in the southeast. The Fish Farm was the personal retreat of the late Jim Copeland, one of the former co-owners of BASS, and his family. The Copeland family still owns and maintains the property, and they continue to utilize the services of Aquatic Environmental to manage the fishery. The focus of our most recent visit was to harvest bass via electrofishing. Electrofishing allows use to get a snap shot of the fishery. The collected data then gives us the information we need to insure all of the ponds remain in balance.

Electrofishing
The dam was reinforced with crushed bricks but the brick also makes great fish habitat. A good number of bait fish were shocked off the bricks.
Big Bass
Dave Copeland in the heat of bass harvest. Dave is quick on the sticks today even with the unseasonably cool temperatures for the Orangeburg area.
Big Bass
The fishery is managed very strictly so fish that many people would consider a good fish are harvested to ensure bigger fish continue to grow. We want lots of forage and low numbers of bass to keep bass growing.

Big or Small this Property has it All

There are eight ponds on the property with the crown jewel being the 33 acre lake. This  lake has been managed aggressively since the Copeland’s purchased the property in 2005. Through the years a vast array of forage species has been stocked in this lake. Threadfin and Gizzard shad have been stocked and are now successfully reproducing in the big lake. Large forage items provide a meal high in protein for  large bass. Bass need a food source roughly one third of their body length so these large forage items are critical to keep big bass growing. 

Big Bass with Gizzard Shad
A large gizzard shad provides a great deal of calories to keep growth steady.

Strict Management Equals Phenomenal Results for the Orangeburg Property

Two of the ponds on the property are strictly forage ponds that are utilized to raise bluegill and shell cracker. They are stocked as food sources in other lakes as the need arises. On this trip, we removed bluegill and shellcrackers from the forage ponds, and stocked them in two other ponds. The Orangeburg area has great weather for growing forage so these ponds easily pay for themselves. The forage ponds have several Texas Hunter fish feeders on them. The Copeland’s use high protein fish food to keep the forage growing and multiplying. 

Through the years the Copeland’s have stocked threadfin shad, gizzard shad, crawfish, trout, tilapia, golden shiners, and goldfish as forage. A diverse forage base will help grow and sustain bass like these. There are no shortage of big bass on this property. The Copeland family and many of their guests can attest to the sheer amount of trophy bass on the property. 

Big Bass
Big Orangeburg bass aren’t hard to find!
Big Bass
Lots of bass in the 18 inch size class abound in the lake.
Good Communication with Property Owner
Clients that work with AES are guaranteed time with experienced fisheries biologist. After a long day of traveling and shocking Capt. Matt takes time to discuss the fishery with the property manager. Knowledge is power.

The Copeland’s have now put the property up for sale and they are committed to the continual management of the fisheries with Aquatic Environmental Services until they find the right buyer. 

 

 

Electricity for Bass Harvest?

Ask any pond owner what their favorite bait is and you’ll get a different answer for each lake. Throw in the hundreds of different colors lure manufactures make and the water get even more muddy. At AES we all enjoy a good jig bite in the dead of winter or a massive topwater strike in early summer but our preferred way to harvest bass is using electricity.

Electricity is the Best Way to Harvest Bass

Electricity has several advantages over classic rod and reel but the main reason we use it is because the success rate is high.  Electrofishing is the most advanced and accurate way to inventory a pond. Todays post will be taking you the viewer along with the AES shock crew as they help a property owner harvest bass. AES has been shocking this lake for three years but the owner recently approved five shocks this season to remove bass since he can’t be on the lake every weekend.

The Process of Bass Harvest

Big Bass
These small bass are the reason we are here. The lake is over crowded with them and they have such high numbers that they are suppressing the bluegill population. The bass are stacking up around 14 inches since there isn’t the proper sized bluegill for them to consume. The pond has plenty of large bluegill and newly hatched bluegill. However it is lacking 3-5 inch bluegill which is why the bass are not growing properly.
bass harvest
All the underperforming bass are taken out of the pond. We did release a few healthy bass as the lake is slowly starting to improve.
Big Bass
To our surprise and excitement we shocked this gorgeous fish. She was hanging deep off the dam. This proves that even in ponds that are over crowded with bass there will be a few that sneak by with the proper forage to grow large. This fish is big enough to eat smaller bass so she will keep growing.
hybrid striped bass
The owner will be thrilled to know he still has hybrid striped bass still swimming around. The lake no longer supports threadfin shad but hybrids also eat fish food. Since this client is under a management contract so we fill his feeders once a month with high protein Purina fish food. The high protein content is key to these fishes growth and health.
channel catfish
Unfortunately we are still shocking the occasional channel catfish during our bass harvest. We have put a big dent in their population and the abundant bass population have kept reproduction down. Channel catfish don’t guard their young once hatched so bass will make quick work of them.
big bluegill
We were shocking today to harvest bass we could not pass on this giant bluegill. It easily surpassed a pound in weight. This a direct result of high protein Purina fish food.

The shock to harvest bass was very successful. We harvested almost 70 lbs of bass. There are still plenty of bass to be harvested but we made a solid dent.

Macon, Georgia Electrofishing Recap

The shock team was recently down in middle Georgia near the beautiful city of Macon, Georgia. The lake was located in a private community that have the intention of bringing the lake back to its former glory.

Upon arrival the recent hurricane has dropped a tree right on the boat ramp. Luckily the client was a hands on person that welcomed the rocky start to the morning.
We managed to shock a few decent fish.

This lake has lots of potential although right now it needs some work. Even with low alkalinity it still supports a thriving shad population which in turn is helping the bluegill and redear sunfish keep high numbers. The lake supports a good crappie population that is healthy. The threadfin shad keep the crappie well feed and there are anglers that actively fish for the crappie. It is not often we find healthy crappie populations since their reproduction cycles go up and down every year.

Stay tuned for more updates.