The 2019 Electroshock Season Comes to an End

georgia pond management

After another grinder of a season the Spring 2019 electroshock season has come to a close or at least it appears. AES shocks around 100-120 lakes per year. Not many companies come close to us in terms of lakes shocked. The lake electroshocked in this blog is one of our favorite sets of lakes located outside of Orangeburg, South Carolina. With a storied history of producing giant bass we are always stoked to get out.

Getting Dialed In

south carolina pond management
The pulse box is the heart of the operation. It’s a $10,000 heart but worth every penny.
south carolina pond management
The start of the shock had plenty of buck bass. When we are shocking we prefer to get small bass. Big bass are great for pictures but harvesting small bass does a lot more for the fishery.
south carolina pond management
This bass was in the 16-18 inch range. To most clients this would be a stud bass. However, for this client this bass was a future taco. This fishery is doing so good and with the current goals this bass was harvested. We are thinning out the lake so the few bass become trophies.

When Managing a Lake it’s Important to Think Long Term

south carolina pond management
If you look close on the on this bass’s left side there are wounds. The two wounds came from a diving bird called a cormorant. These birds prey on shad but when the school has become depleted they will take a shot at anything.
south carolina pond management
We electroshocked some good fish but not the studs we were hoping to shock. The important thing was we removed almost 70 lbs of bass which allows us to win in the long term.
south carolina pond management
We want a fertile environment to promote successful recruitment but the one downside is parasites. All fish carry some parasites but a big load will actually effect the bass. These bass did have an unusually high load of nematodes.
south carolina pond management
While looking for parasites we examined the stomach of our bass. We experienced some classic bass cannibalism.
south carolina pond management
Another solid quality bass.
south carolina pond management
More of what we are looking for.
south carolina pond management
The Palmetto state has always treated us good and grows bass that not many states can. With warm winters, good dirt, and fertile water it grows trophy bass. Having a good foundation makes our job easier.

It has been a long season for the electrofishing team. With the amount of time spent on the road and water it now becomes time for report writing. The reports contain all the information to turn lakes around and improve them based on each clients request. Unlike many companies AES hand writes each electrofishing report. AES does not circulate cookie cutter reports. Each report has unique information and resources. One of the perks to this job is no two lakes are the same.

 

2019 Crayfish Stocking

Chilly Start

Another spring has wrapped up and with that comes crayfish stocking. This spring was odd and it even continued into our stockings. Past crayfish stockings are usually accompanied with Gatorade, 90 degree temps, and the dreaded swamp funk we get from releasing a couple thousand pounds of crayfish. The very first delivery went down in 46 degrees with the smart ones wearing pants and boots. Luckily it got warmer.

Why Crayfish?

If it seems strange to be putting crayfish in your pond and not in your low country then keep reading. Bass are incredibly poor at converting food into body mass. Like we’ve said in the past that it takes 10 lbs of forage for bass to add 1 lb of body mass. That ratio makes this battle uphill for any lake owner that wants a quality fishery. We always want the bluegill to bass ratio to be in balance first. Once that has been dealt with we can get creative. Threadfin shad do great in fertile lakes that have plenty of open water. Rainbow trout keep the kids busy in the winter and the bass full going into the spawn. Goldfish are slow swimmers and great entertainment for the kids due to their high visibility. However, the king of additonal forage is crayfish. Stocking crayfish is the cheapest option for lake owners yet they have more protein per gram than rainbow trout. That’s a game changer.

georgia pond crawfish stocking
The crayfish truck from southern Louisiana dodged flash floods in their area to meet us. The driver was in shock when he opened his door to such cool temperatures. Cajuns like it warm.
georgia crawfish stocking
Using a boat to stock crawfish is the best way and takes the least amount of time.
georgia crawfish stocking
Customers often wonder what the little tags on the side of the bag mean. The “41” on this bag means it weighs 41 lbs.
georgia pond crayfish stocking
Crayfish stocking is much simpler than many people think. This picture shows how many crayfish are truly in the sack. The biggest factor is making sure too much ice isn’t on the crayfish during transport process. Cold crayfish in warm pond water is deadly.
georgia crawfish stocking
Send it!
georgia crayfish stocking
41 lbs gone in a few seconds.

Crayfish stocking has wrapped up for the year. If you missed the boat get in contact with our office as we are constructing the list for 2020.

***All photographs shot on Kodak Tri-X 100 ISO Black and White Film***

 

Late Season Electrofishing in East Georgia

georgia pond management

Bass Harvest…..it never stops

The pond being electrofishing today has a common problem that not many property owners think about but something we see often. The lake was stocked a few years back and everything was great. Owners get caught up in the excitement of seeing bass, bluegill, shell cracker, and shad going into the pond. The real work starts a few months later. Among a new lake owners duties is bass harvest. The initial bass that are stocked in a new pond will be the best class ever.

Georgia pond management
These are the original bass fingerlings. They are eight years old at this point. When a fishery reaches this point it’s important that the following year classes are managed very strictly. Failure to do so will result in lots of stunted bass that typically range in sizes of 8-12″. People are often blinded by catching lots of big bass while the runts’ numbers keep growing. Electrofishing opens eyes to the problem brewing underwater.
georgia pond management
Feed your tech.
georgia pond management
Capt. Matt breaking down the fishery in a more manageable form. after the electrofishing survey is done. The bluegill population size structure is compared to the bass population size structure. This snapshot gives us a very accurate understanding of what’s happening underwater.
Georgia electrofishing shock team
After a long week of electroshocks it was time to hit the road north for some decompression.

If you own a lake less than ten years old your best bet is to harvest bass aggressively and add habitat. Shoreline trees are a great start as the are usually small and will fall directly into the water. Digest these two tips then make them happen on your home water.

 

Lake Liming for New Lakes

georgia pond construction

New lakes are a beautiful thing. They are ripe for the imagination. Property owners can make humps and points to bounce a football jig off or sticking tree tops mid-lake that will one day result in a bass crushing a top water plug. However, till that point we have to do the small things that make those big dreams possible. One of the small things that results in big dividends is lake liming. Proper alkalinity also fertilization programs to be effective. Fertilized lakes can hold 300-400 lbs per acre of fish while unfertilized lakes hold 40-100 lbs per acre. Lime is a composed of basic compounds so it keeps pH cycle much more stable. Stability is king in nature.

Break in the Rain

Anyone living in the Southeast is probably wondering if our temperate deciduous forests is slowly becoming a rain forest with the amount of rain we are battling. After a few dry days we tip toed the lime barge across the virgin ground.

Georgia Lake Construction
New lakes in the North Georgia mountains are prime candidates for liming. There are a few veins of good soil in North Georgia but for the most part the soil is poor.
Georgia Lake Construction
Lots of standing timber and brush can compound water quality issues. We are big fans of adding dense cover for bluegill and offshore cover for bass when lakes are being constructed. However, there is too much of a good thing. Leaving too much brush can release tannic acid. High levels of tannic acid decrease oxygen levels.
georgia pond management
Fish will soon be stocked so Melissa is checking the water quality as a bench mark.

Today’s lake only needed fifty tons so it was a quick job. The tonnage was a little overkill but liming at high rates will last longer. Other companies will suggest one or two tons to the acre. It will appear cheaper at first. However the catch is it needs to be done every year so the company makes more money on application fees. At our tonnage rates we lime lakes every three to five years.

Summer

As we head into the summer this is the time we lime the bulk of our lakes. We also lime in the winter. We are booking up quickly for the month of June and July so get in contact the office if you would like your lake limed.

 

South Alabama Aeration Installation for Cyanobacteria Prevention

vertex lake aeration

With cyanobacteria becoming more and more wide spread we are taking preventive steps for our clients. Lake aeration is a great way to keep water from becoming stagnant.

Why is Cyanobacteria Bad?

Cyanobacteria grows in stagnate and nutrient-rich waters. Cyanobacteria produce toxins that affect people and pets.  The most common and serious health effects are caused by drinking water containing the toxins or by ingestion during swimming or playing in contaminated water. Not all Cyanobacteria produce toxins but many do. Lakes near heavy agriculture are more vulnerable due to the amount of fertilizers used. South Florida has been the hot spot in the last few years with poor water management, heavy organic loading from agriculture, and development. With few treatment options prevention is the best treatment.

Installation

With days of rain in Georgia is was exciting to be installing a lake aeration system under sunshine and not worrying about getting a truck buried in mud. Today’s installation had two cabinets and twelve total bottom diffused aeration stations. With the heat of a Southern Alabama summer the lake owner wanted to protect his investment from Cyanobacteria and fish kills. He plans to push this fishery to the max with future lime application, fertilization program, and heavy fish stocking.

alabama pond management
Located near Mobile, Alabama the lake had great Southern charm with plenty of live oaks.
This is a sample of what the bottom diffused stations look like. The black membrane has tiny holes in it that produce fine bubbles. The fine bubbles are what break up the layers that form in lakes.
vertex aeration
The bottom diffused stations are easy to install. Vertex are so simple they don’t even require hose clamps or Teflon tape.
lake management in georgia
We always bury the lines so the landscapers don’t hit the lines and it also looks more aesthetic.
georgia pond management
The last thing to do is deploy the units. Vertex creates a detailed map for us. The unites are all placed in specific areas based on depth.

After a few thousand meters of tubing the team successfully installed all the units. The lake owner was very pleased knowing his investment is being protected. If you would like to protect your investment give the office a call. Don’t let a family member get sick be the reason you get your lake worked on.

 

 

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.

 

 

Ageing Bass

Ageing a bass is one of the best ways a biologist can gauge the health of a bass. In the Southeast we use the otolithes to determine age. In the North or where there are defined cold and warm seasons scales can be used to determine age. This is a quick guide on how otolithes are retrieved and aged.

Age of Bass
First step is to gain access to spinal region
Age and Growth Large Mouth Bass
Next Matt uses some precision tuned pliers to gently remove skin
Working space is prepped and ready for otolith removal.
Dating and Ageing Trophy Largemouth Bass
The otolithes are tucked in a nerve bundle along the spine.
Size and Age Bass
Each fish has two otolithes

 

Fish Ageing
Matt will split and sand the otoliths so that he can see through them. They are glued to a microscope slide so Matt can count the rings. This fish is five years old. It weighed 434 grams with a length of 13″. This is extremely poor growth.

Once age has been determined we can now implement strategies to improve the fishery.  Most lakes have never been managed so they are full of old, stunted bass. In most cases the best option is to drain the lake and start over. It is possible to get these bass healthy again but it may be too late. Bass have a lifespan of eight to ten years. If a bass is stunted at six years old then pouring $2,000 of bluegill in the lake is futile. During an electrosurvey we take otolith samples so call us today and get booked.

Fish Stocking Fun for Kids

Fish Stocking, Bluegill

Here at AES we love to introduce children to all aspects of fishery management from stocking of a forage base, to the importance of habitat and the thrill of catching a great fish.  We made a delivery of bluegill to one of clients extra special for the neighborhood kids.

 

The children eagerly awaited as buckets of bluegill were loaded from the truck and then taken to the pond.

Fish Stocking, Bluegill

Once taken to the pond they all watched intently as the bluegill were released.

Fishery Improvements, Forage Fish, Bluegill Stocking

Another happy client!

Electrofishing Outside of the Southeast

Although the bulk of our business comes from Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina we are more than capable to survey lakes outside of our home range. With the number of years Greg has been in the pond management industry he has forged a reputation of building the finest fisheries so naturally word has spread. The shock team makes a road trip to Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi in late spring and another trip to Illinois in early summer. Shocking in Florida is an emerging area for us as well. There are many companies in Florida than manage vegetation but few provide fisheries services.

One-year old smallmouth in Northern Illinois.
Toothy
Illinois stud
Greg’s arms were tired after this day in Vicksburg, MS.
All smiles in Southern Arkansas.
Electricity is not always required to survey.
Didn’t matter if it was a duck or bass for this lab.
Capt. Matt in Ohio with the apex predator…Flathead Catfish
Chilly morning smallie

Even if you do not think you’re close to the home office give us a call. Many times we can complete fish population surveys on multiple ponds in an area to reduce the travel cost.