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.

 

South Florida Electrofishing

Tarpon

South Florida Electrofishing Recap

Going south in the winter is a no brainer but it’s even better when we get the chance to shock some tropical species. AES makes the eighteen hour roundtrip every few years to check on this diverse fishery and make sure it’s performing well.

golf cart goofing
Discussing access points for each pond so Matt knows what to expect before we launch.
Boat launch
With the low water levels launching the shock boat was going to require precise execution. Luck was on our side with the shorelines being mostly hard packed sand. We would have never made it in Georgia with the soft red clay.
Biggly Home
All the homes have easy access to the lake so it’s important for the lakes to have high angler success.
GOlf Cart
Chasing the sun and Barrel as he raced away on his cart. No matter how hard Matt tried to keep up with him he always pulled away.

 

Starting the Day

Capt. Matt and Lee started the day with some freshwater mussel identification. Lee is the overseer of the ponds so he in actively involved in the management. All the ponds are located around the community golf course. With the constant hustle and bustle of the course we had to pick our times very carefully to not disrupt the waves of golfers.

Fresh Water Mussels
Matt and Lee did some digging looking for freshwater mussels. According to Lee the pond recently became very populated with mussels. We suspect wading birds brought them in.
freshwater mussels
The harvest!

Let the Electricity Loose!

The first lake was a typical lake we see back home with lots of smaller bass and little in the way of forage. We noticed the lake was very low for the time of year and Lee informed us they call the winter dry season in Florida. Lee said for thirty days straight in May they received one inch of rain a day but they haven’t gotten much since November. All the lakes are dependent on the water table and elevation to maintain full pool.

florida bass fishing
The first lake of the day. Notice the low water level. This became a trend throughout the day. We suspect this may hurt recruitment of the fish judging by the electrofishing results.

Since the fish where small Matt did some digging around to see if there were any parasites present and also pull otoliths to age fish. Matt noticed some nematodes but the load wasn’t anything abnormal.

Bass Dissection
Due to Florida being so far south some of the fish sampled were obviously staging for the spawn. The eggs of this female were almost fully developed.
Bass Dissection
Matt explaining some details to Lee. It’s very insightful to look at the inners of a bass. Colors tell us a lot about a bass’s life.
Shrimp and Bluegill Bass Forage.
Matt found the reason for the bass’s for growth. Small bluegill and grass shrimp will never grow trophy bass.
Grass Shrimp
Matt cracked into another small bass and got the same results as before. The three grass shrimp were the only contents in this fish’s stomach.
Grass Shrimp as Bass Forage
Grass shrimp aren’t common in Georgia. They are good forage for small bass to consume while growing but they should not be a larger bass’s main food source.

The Sleeper

As mentioned in the title we had the chance at shocking some unusual species and we got our first one. This fish is called a sleeper. They are in the same group as gobi hence the similar appearance. They live on the bottom and their brilliant camouflage makes them great predators. The pictures below shows the various angles of this fish. They are a competitive species for bass so we did remove all the ones we shocked.

Sleeper Fish
Matt takes note of the spin count on the fins. Spin counts are used to identify the specific species.
Sleeper Fish
The Sleeper has a small mouth but it still has a solid set of teeth.
Sleeper Fish
It has a slender body to wedge it’s self into good ambush spots.

Familiar Faces

After a quick lunch there were three lakes left to be shocked. Some of the lakes were rumored to have snook and tarpon in them. The St. Lucie River runs through the community so fishermen are known to catch fish from the river then transplant into the ponds. There are many factors that go into moving saltwater fish into freshwater ponds with questionable salinity levels so we were skeptical of catching any of these ghosts. When electrofishing in South Florida we always expect the unexpected.

Florida Lake
This is the first lake we shocked after lunch. It was rumored to have large snook so we were on high alert.
Largemouth Bass
Got into some quality bass after our lunch time intermission.
Largemouth Bass
Florida has strict fish stocking regulations so all these bass are pure Florida strain.
Tilapia
This is a baby tilapia. This was the first pond that had quality bass and we know why. This is the perfect sized tilapia.
tilapia
These are adult tilapia.

Tilapia are phenomenal forage since they reproduce every 28 days. The tilapia in the 3-5″ size range are the perfect forage to fuel explosive growth.

Surprises

As mentioned before some of the ponds were rumored to have saltwater species in them yet so far we had shocked four ponds with no luck so our chances were fading. Our South Florida electrofishing trip was looking like another bust when it came to catching some exotics. With some sharp eyes on the front deck and a little luck things changed.

florida tarpon
One of the perks of electrofishing in South Florida is everything is connected to the ocean.
tarpon
Matt can check this one off his bucket list.
tarpon removal
The tarpon was an unwanted visitor since this pond in particular is managed for trophy bass.
tarpon
Off to the St. Lucie River!
Snook
In addition to the tarpon we also shocked several snook. Nothing large but very cool fish we don’t see often.
Snook Fishing
Snook use their lateral line similar to largemouth bass. It helps with orientation and prey detection.
Armored Catfish
Of the least exciting species we shocked were armored catfish.
Armored Catfish
They are incredibility hard hence their name and their mouths resemble sucker mouths. The locals say if they are cooked inside their shell they taste like lobster.
sunsets
Final Florida sunset

We watched as our final Florida sunset for the trip fade into darkness. The shock team accomplished a lot during their time in Florida. These trips are what set AES apart from other pond management companies. AES is capable of managing many different fisheries as this South Florida electrofishing job demonstrated.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Blue Springs Country Club Electrofishing Summary

Blue Springs Country Club in Ringgold, Georgia

The shock team was in Northwest Georgia working at Blue Springs Country Club. The lake gets shocked once a year to make sure it continues to offer members great fishing. We manage Blue Springs as a quality fishery. We want to keep angler success high while still offering lots of healthy fish in the 3-6 lb range with the chance at a trophy. Blue Springs also offers anglers other options such as big bluegill and shell cracker. They utilize multiple fish feeders to keep the bluegill and shell cracker stay big.

Big Bass in Blue Springs Country Club
Two of the better fish we caught. These fish were shocked off submerged structure. Offshore habitat is critical to keeping angler success high. Bass love to have ambush points. Blue Springs has been adding new fish habitat every year to keep things fresh. Natural habitat breaks down quickly so it’s important to renew every year. 

Why do we shock lakes?

Today was short but lots of good data was collected. Blue Springs wanted to see how the relative weights were doing to determine if stocking Rainbow trout will be needed later this winter. At their core, shocks are not meant to be a big fish or shock and awe event. Big fish are nice but they are not our focus. We would rather shock and harvest 200 10 inch bass to make more room for more Blue Springs trophies. The downfall of many great lakes is lacking bass harvest. Too many mouths to feed will destroy any fishery.

Spring Shocks versus Fall Shocks

Spring is the time to shock bigger bass while fish in the Fall will typically be smaller. We like Fall shocks because the fishery shows its true self. Bass have recovered from the spawn and bluegill have had time to complete a few spawning cycles. The fish will have large bellies full of eggs which makes them look healthier than they really are. The fish at Blue Springs may look fatter in March but we need real data to direct our management strategy.

Kite, Georgia Electroshock Recap

Another quick update on the shock team. They were in east Georgia near the small town of Kite. This particular pond is in a very interesting situation. Earlier this summer the client had reported excellent catch rates along with healthy bass. Suddenly the bass got hard to catch mid-way through summer. They figured heat had pushed the fish deep. Then the unthinkable happened. The property owner discovered otter signs then saw a pair of otters late one night. He reported they only stayed for a few days but the damage was done. Otters will fill their bellies and even once full they will continue to hunt.

Thought we had the state record bull head catfish.
Since the otter took out a large percentage of the bass the bass that do remain are fat and healthy. They are surrounded by bluegill, threadfin shad, and golden shiners.
Similar to golden shiners the common roach is a frequent resident of swampy areas in the Southeast.
Although most fish were healthy some were also very skinny. Capt. Matt had hunch something wasn’t right so he cut some fish open. This bass has a large amount of parasites on its stomach that are sucking nutrients from its stomach. The parasites are called nematodes. It is common for fish to make some parasites but not this many. This is a reason why the fish are skinny.

Stay tuned for more updates as the shock team continues to wrap up shock season and beat the cold weather.

 

Southeastern Electrofishing Road Trip Recap

The team was out all week covering over 1,200 miles with the shock boat. The team made its first stop outside of Mobile, Alabama.

big bass
Margaret calls this bass Ted because he has been caught so many times they are on that kind of personal level.

This first stop use to be a catfish farm with multiple ponds on site. Upon arrival we stocked grass carp to help with weed growth. The ponds all have poor water quality and this has a trickle down effect on all aspects of the pond. Fertile water will have a deep green hue which is phytoplankton. Phytoplankton is the base of the food chain in all pond ecosystems. Ponds with healthy phytoplankton populations can hold 300-400 lbs of fish per acre while infertile ponds might hold 80 lbs of fish per acre. Luckily there is a simple solution of first liming the lake then applying pond fertilizer.

The changing cypress trees in Vicksburg, MS gave our oaks and maples of the mountains a good run for their money when it came to Fall colors.

The next stop on the trip was outside of Vicksburg, Mississippi. As the cover photos shows we did very well. The owner enjoys fly fishing. In turn we manage the lake with slightly clear water so bass can see his flies and lots of 3-6 lb bass to keep angler success high.

Big Bass
We always say healthy fish should look like footballs but these fish looked like overinflated footballs. These bass are pure Florida strain so we anticipate the phenomenal growth to continue.
Big Bass
If you are noticing big difference between these two fish you are correct. The fish are both roughly the same length but not the same relative weight. The fish on the left had a relative weight well over a 100%. The fish on the right is about 90% relative weight. The reason it is lacking is because it was just recently transferred from another pond containing pure Florida strain bass that were underperforming.

Our final stop was Shreveport, Louisiana to several clients managing for trophy bass. All the ponds were recently constructed so they are in their prime. If you have trophy goals then that means spot on water quality, loads of forage, and aggressive bass harvest. The fish above are a testament to proper management. Visibility of water was 30″, plenty of dense habitat for forage, and loads of forage. Besides bluegill the owner has stocked threadfin shad, crawfish, and golden shiners. The water is fertile so the shad are doing excellent and crawfish are 90 cents per pound in Louisiana. To grow trophy bass it is critical to have multiple types of forage. Bluegill are the backbone of the forage base in the pond but they need other forage types to relieve predation pressure. When bass are evenly eating different types of forage no single forage will get hit too hard.

This road trip was one of the final big trips for the shock team. As the weather turns from cool to cold the bass sink back into the depths in preparation of the spawn.