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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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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