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.

Eastman, Georgia Electrofishing Recap

The shock team has been loading the boat down in the past few days with healthy largemouth bass. Fall is in the air and bass can sense it.

Many seasoned bass fishermen know shad migrate to the backs of coves in the Fall. Not only is this true but it is a phenomenal tactic to use when electrofishing. The shock had been going slower than we expected with the history of the fishery. However, this all changed in 12 minutes. Capt. Matt found multiple schools of threadfin shad with large numbers of bass thrashing the surface in pursuit.  In total 63 bass were netted and shocking only ceased due to the live well overflowing with bass. Once the live well was emptied we noticed the large amounts of thrashing broke the welds on the live well and bent the sheet metal out. 
Full tanks today.
Capt. Matt checked the internals of a bass that was harvested. The liver was a bright red which indicates good health. No parasites were seen on the stomach.
This particular client has an old mill pond on the same property that he wanted shocked. The pond dates back several hundred years. It was built using oxen cart and surrounded by old cypress trees. It was already an ox bow lake due to its close proximity to the Ocmulgee river but the owners completed the dam to fuel a grit mill. 
Ponds like this are known to grow monster bass because they usually have competitive species that keep bass numbers low. This pond was no different. It had chain pickeral and alligator gar that came in from the river. The Ocmuglee river is on the other side of the dam so every 5 to 10 years the river breaches the dam. With that rush of water comes a new wave of fish. According to the owner a 5 ft alligator gar was in the pond for a while.
The small building to the right is what remains of the mill.
The owner graciously let us stay on the property in the deer camp.
The main lodge is full of Southern history and looks the part with Spanish moss covering old live oaks.
The work on the water may be done but there are still reports to be written. Capt. Matt staying up late to get reports out. With the amount of travel it is a luxury to not be writing reports in a truck.

Stay tuned for more updates as the shock team continues into the fall!

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.

Check out the growth for this bass that we stocked only 9 months ago…

This bass just weighed in at 1.3 pounds and 12.5″ after only being stocked 9 months ago. How does one achieve this? Watch our presentation on how to produce a trophy largemouth bass fishery https://lakework.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/sdafs-trophy-lmb.pdf

Happy Fishing!

Growing a Trophy Largemouth Bass
Bass grows to 1.3 lbs and 12.5″ in only 9 months