How Can I Manage My Own Pond?

Big Bass

When most pond owners think about managing their own pond they think of shock boats, loud generators, and fish stunning electricity.  For the most part they will feel helpless without the aide of a professional. However, there are options for property owners to make their pond the best it can be in between visits by the professionals.

Healthy Bass
Did you know healthy bass have shoulders? Capt. showing a client what to look for.
Pond management kit
This kit has everything you need in it to get started managing your pond.
Aquatic Thermometer
Thermometer may sound simple and almost silly to need. However, this small instrument can be a real money saver. On the side of our fertilizer boxes it says to start fertilizing once the water temperatures hit 60 degrees then discontinue once the water temperatures get below 60 degrees. Imagine spreading fertilizer when you eye balled the water but it was actually 55 degrees? At $55/box that could get pricey.
Secchi Disk
The secchi disk is the universal tool to measure the visibility in water. Visibility is measuring the amount of plankton in the water. Lakes with higher visibility readings especially above 36″ will carry less pounds of fish. Think of lakes in the mountains where you can see 20 ft down. Lakes like this can hold about 40-80 lbs of fish per acre. Now change gears and think of a farm pond in the middle of a cow pasture during summer. It’s probably going to be pea soup green. This green color you are seeing is plankton. Plankton should be very important to pond owners. It forms the base of the food chain but can also cause fish kills. Managed right you can get 300-400 lbs of fish per acre. To get this amount of fish the visibility should stay between 18-24″.
Fish Scale
We all have that buddy that calls a 3 lb bass a 7 lb bass. Put your doofus buddy in their place and harvest bass with some sound, scientific data. During electroshock surveys we measure in grams. If our scale is off by a few grams it’s not a huge concern. If our scale is off a few ounces that’s a big deal. Scales are critical to proper bass harvest along with a relative weight chart.
Fish Tags
These are Floy tags. Using a tag gun these are what we use to tag bass. There is no other data more valuable than comparing a fish’s weight and length from year to year. Recapture data is a common procedure from biologist in Montana studying Westslope Cutthroat trout to US Fish and Wildlife biologist studying Great Lake steelhead populations.
Fish Tagging Gun
The humble tag gun. This isn’t the most flashy piece of gear we carry but without it recapture data wouldn’t be possible.
Measuring Stick
Another simple tool that’s critical to a pond’s success. Getting an accurate length is important to calculating a fish’s relative weight.
Relative Weight Chart
One of the most common areas of confusion is this chart. This chart has the relative weights of largemouth bass. At certain lengths bass should weigh a certain amount. For example a bass weighing 454 grams (1 lb) will have a relative weight of 100%. If the bass is above 454 grams its relative weight will be over 100% which means it’s a fat and happy fish. Fish under 100% are under performing. Depending on goals fish under 100% can still be released. Many pond owners want fast action so we may only recommend harvesting bass below 90%. However, if the owner wants to grow trophy large mouth bass we will harvest bass over 100% because we are going to push that fishery to its limits.

If you are interested in any of these products head over to our store. If you need advice on using any of these products give the office a call!


How Do We Shock Small Lakes With Little To No Access?

The captain

With the Metro Atlanta are growing at a steady rate many ponds are becoming enclosed by apartments and homes. The bulk of our clients are located in rural areas where our biggest worry is avoiding a collision with the pasture bull. Occasionally we will be summoned to survey neighborhood ponds on behalf of the HOA. Working in highly populated areas brings a new set of rules. We must be conscious of Mr. Smith’s impeccable centipede lawn he’s been grooming for the past 20 years, septic lines, or property boundaries between two neighbors that don’t like each other.  Launching a twenty foot shock boat usually doesn’t go well in the above situations. For these instances we have a 10 ft boat we can carry a short distance.

Unlike our big shockboat our little boat has no pumps to fill our live well.
The front deck is tight on our little boat.
This certain lake has become choked with aquatic vegetation. The lake is located in the Metro Atlanta area. The area around it has become highly developed. Large amounts of silt have entered the lake decreasing depth. This decrease in depth has caused more sunlight to penetrate the water column. More sunlight equals more weeds.
Electroshocking Bass
Shocking in heavy weeds is extremely challenging. The fish roll out of the weeds but then instantly roll back into the weeds.
Electroshocking Bass
We call these HOA torpedoes. Often times neighborhood lakes suffer severe cases of mismanagement. Residents on the lake want to invest in the fishery while residents not directly on the lake see no need and would rather use the HOA budget for more aesthetic task. There is a simple and affordable solution. Harvest bass aggressively and drop natural habitat such as Christmas trees. The only cost is the price of cinder blocks and residents’ time.
Red breast are sunfish that live in creeks and rivers. They will come in from lakes and tributaries.
Redear Sunfish
Redear Sunfish or Shell Crackers are often confused with bluegill. Unlike bluegill they have a red/orange tab on their ear hence their name.
Black Crappie
This particular lake has become overrun with stunted crappie. Crappie will go through odd reproduction cycles so their numbers will be good one year and crazy the next. When the bulk of crappie are smaller than 12 inches it’s best to start aggressively harvesting.
Electroshock results
The final part of the survey is to weigh and measure the catch. This will give us a direction to get the lake back on track.

Now you know a few of our secrets to getting into those tight spaces. If you got a tough job give the office a call.

Pond Survey Without Electricity?

99% of the time we can figure out a way to get our shock boats into a pond but there will be a few forever out of our reach. Using standard electrofishing techniques is the most comprehensive way to survey a pond. This will give us direction when it comes to fish stocking and other pond management tasks. Even without electricity we can use other techniques to get a good idea of what’s happening.  When ponds are in balance or out of balance there are certain things to look for. Ever heard a friend say they catch only huge bluegill and small bass? Feel safe to bet your week’s paycheck he has an out of balance pond. Ponds that are in balance will have many different sizes of bluegill along with healthy bass.

Angler surveys and seine netting are the most commonly used techniques we use to survey a pond without our shockboat. Any college graduate did a thousand seines before they received their hard earned diploma. Angler surveys are a fancy way of saying we get paid to fish. A rod and reel are the most common tools. AES has a select few employees that think they are sophisticated and insist on fly fishing. Once fish are seined or caught the same inventory procedure follows as if we were on the shock boat. Bass will be weighed and measured for length. Bluegill will be measured for length. Any other species of interest such as channel catfish or black crappie will be inventoried as well.

The fly snob has landed.
Boots and shorts always hook more fish.
Easy does it.
Curious crowd assembled.
This may look like a decent fish but there are some clues that it’s under performing. The tail is long and skinny. Bass have shoulders that they should carry down their entire length. Healthy bass will be broad and sturdy like a football. This fish is more torpedo like.
Deer hair popper was too good to pass up.
This is seining in all of it’s muddy, oozing sulfur gas glory. Not for the faint of heart but lots of good data comes from seine pulls.
Notice even in our seine pulls we are getting lots of bass fingerlings and few bluegill. This is only a small portion of our sample but we aren’t off to a hot start.
Big bluegill are another tip off that a fishery is out of balance. Obviously things like fish feeders will produce large bluegill but this fish came out of a metro Atlanta neighborhood pond with little management.
Tyler reiterating the messiness of seining. He rode in the bed on the way back to office. Company trucks are messy enough.

Although not electricity, a rod and reel can be revealing in the right hands. At AES we know budgets are fluid so an electrofishing survey may not be in the cards. However, we encourage property owners to fish and figure out their own waters. If owners are unsure send pictures and accurate measurements for AES to look at. We want to help everyone to the best of our ability achieve their goals.

Summertime Fish Stockings

fish stockings

Many people think that we raise fish at our home office but the truth is we try to hold onto fish for the least amount of time as possible. Holding high densities of fish is a risky business. No only is oxygen a concern but high levels of nutrients result from eating feed. Ammonia and phosphorus levels can build up. These nutrients can fuel algae blooms. Algae blooms create lots of oxygen during the day but absorb oxygen at night. This can be a dicey situation. Along with oxygen issues there are predatory birds and otters.

This blog is a quick snapshot of us working some channel catfish up from our ponds.

We lure the catfish into our seine with feed. We turn the feeders off a day before harvest to make them feisty that morning.
A good pull requires patience and a little common sense.
Moving the fish from the seine to tanks is very important. This is where fish are likely to get roughed up. When fish are roughed up they develop sores. Sores are an invitation for infection.
These channel catfish were much larger than we usually have. He seined sixty catfish that weighed sixty-eight pounds for our client. The client has a smaller pond so these will be perfect.
Tyler holding one that ran a little above average. This particular client wanted larger catfish.
On a side note: Once catfish get this large they will compete with largemouth bass for forage. Keep in mind that if you want big bass it’s best to not stock catfish.

After an early morning the fish were delivered and stocked healthy. Keep up with our Facebook and Instagram page for updates on unique fish stocking opportunities.

Where did all my Big Bass go?

fish stocking bass

Most of our blog posts are a summery of what we’ve been up to at AES. People are surprised to learn that there are businesses that manage lakes and more specifically fisheries. Our job is to educate people so they have the knowledge going forth to make the most informed decisions. With things slowing down this post is going to be more information based and less what we’ve been up to.

Often times during an electrofishing survey the question comes up of what happened to all the bigger bass. Owners report lots of big bass 5lbs and bigger. All the sudden these stud bass are gone and they are catching small, stunted bass. It almost seems like a cruel magic trick but it’s actually science unfolding. A bass has a life expectancy of eight to thirteen years depending on environment. Many of these ponds were built brand new and stocked according to a customized AES stocking plan. We always stock forage first to allow for reproduction. Only after the forage base has had plenty of time to grow will we introduce bass. It’s important to note that these first bass fingerlings that are stocked will always be the best fish in the pond. We are introducing them into an environment with plenty of food and no competition. Usually around year ten in when owners notice the bigger bass are becoming fewer and harder to catch. The reason these fish are getting harder to catch is their numbers are decreasing from natural mortality. It may not happen all at once but it will happen eventually.

Inside these tubes are bass fingerlings that will be sent to the lab to be tested for genetic purity.
These bass are two years old. Notice the insane growth?
If proper management isn’t taken many lakes become full of skinny, unhealthy bass. The fish is so thin the sun almost shone through it.

There are three strains of bass fingerlings we stock. Each strain of bass has a different purpose to fit a client’s goals. Northern bass are very aggressive but don’t have the top end potential of a Florida strain bass. We recommend these to clients that want fast action and don’t mind if their bass top out around 8 lbs. Florida strain bass are the ones that you hear about breaking records. They are not as aggressive as Northerns but can grow to true trophy status. We would use these for clients wishing to grow large fish but at the same time not have lots of numbers or fast angling action. Lastly there is F1 strain. F1s are a cross between Florida and Northern bass. They are considered to have the best of both strains while still maintaining a happy median. F1s are the most common strain we stock.


Blue Catfish Removal

The aquatic and fisheries business is unique because no one company has a stronghold on the industry. There are just as many small operations as there are multi-state companies. Similar to the restaurant game, this industry has a high turn over rate. Many people get into fisheries based off their love for the outdoors and being on the water. Ultimately this passion has to met some business savvy to survive. This industry will give you seventeen hour days and so many problems that all you want to do is pout under your stocking truck. Today’s lake removal was the result of this.

The catfish that were seined out of this lake are unique because they are a hybrid between blue catfish and channel catfish. There are many advantages of this hybrid like high disease resistance, tolerance to low oxygen levels, fast growth, and high dress-out percentage.

Working the seine slowly is critical to keeping the mudline on the bottom. Catfish use their wedge shaped heads to sneak under the mudline if it’s ever lifted up in haste.
Josh is making a pocket by bringing together each side of the net. Once the pocket is formed the mudline is pulled ashore.
We quickly inventoried our catch. Most of the catfish ranged from a quarter to half a pound. In the summer months it’s critical to reduce the stress of the fish. Warm water carries less oxygen so mortality is a real threat.
The office of the hatchery was a clever reuse of a house boat. Very fitting given the industry.
Josh is loading up some cats that are about to be dumped for the client later that morning.
A close up of today’s catch.
We like to move fish quickly. These fish were caught about two hours earlier and now they are in their new home.

At AES we are always trying to set ourselves apart from the rest by creating unique opportunities for our clients. We want our clients to have lakes and ponds that they are proud of. We are always hunting for special items whether it be brown/brook trout in the winter or hybrid striped bass in the fall. Give the office a call to set your pond apart.


Emerson, Georgia Aeration Installation

The warmth of summer brings both joys and frustrations for lake owners in the Southeast. Long days mean plenty of daylight to get some after work fishing in. The warm water has fish’s metabolism firing on all cylinders so that means they ready to eat.  However there are some downsides to the shift in weather. Many of our clients will notice aquatic weed growth emerging as well as surface algae. Besides hampering aesthetics and making it hard to bounce a worm along the lake bottom, aquatic weeds do not harm the fishery often. There is a much more silent threat pond owners need to be aware of. It’s called lake stratification. The thermocline is the boundary between warmer surface water and cooler deep water. These areas do not usually mix naturally. The surface water is oxygenated by contact with the atmosphere and supports aquatic life. The deep water soon loses its oxygen through digestion of organic matter on the pond bottom and cannot support desirable aquatic life. Fish kills and bad odors can result from lake stratification. Fortunately lake owners have a solution in the form of bottom diffused aeration.

This is a close up of a bottom defused aerator. The black circular membrane has tiny holes in it that allow compressed air to be released into the water column.  Small lakes may only need two of these units will larger lakes will need many more. A small compressor on the shoreline creates the pressure. 
Tyler is attaching the hose to the unit so air can be sent from the compressor to the unit. The hose is self weighted so it doesn’t need extra weight to get to the bottom.
The weighted hose comes on large spools so here Tyler is making sure the boat operator has plenty of hose. We don’t want to put a lot of pressure on the units where they are connected. With such a high pressure system any weakening of the materials could be costly. 
The final step of the process is to connect the hoses to the compressor. The compressor is very discrete and quiet.
In addition to wanting the aeration unit installed the property owner also wanted to get several Texas Hunter fish feeders installed. With his goals of producing trophy bluegill Purina Aqua Max fish food was the only choice. With 45% protein this feed will quickly add size to bluegill, catfish, or feed trained bass.
Texas Hunter fish feeders are on of our favorite units to install. They are simple, well built, and carry a five year warranty on parts. We give property owners the option to install the feeders themselves because of their simplicity. However, at AES we know most owners are very busy so we can install, fill, and program feeders for the owners.

At the end of the project the owner was pleased to know his pond will be protected this summer. Lakes are investments whether it be time or money. If you would like to protect your investment this summer contact us and we will get you covered.

Crayfish Stockings

The bass spawn is a far memory for most bass anglers as the South is switching gears into summer. However as biologist we are constantly thinking bass and big bass at that. If you’ve been out fishing in the last month you’ve probably caught some beat up fish. These beat up fish are recovering from spawning. To release eggs from the female the male bass will ram the female. To start the healing process bass will gorge themselves. The post-spawn feeding frenzy is real and crayfish are the perfect snack!

We get our crayfish overnighted from Louisiana so they are fresh.
The man of the hour. Keeping good notes on which bag went wear is key.
This year we are moving an estimated 30,000 lbs.
Crayfish are ready to be released into the lake. With all the rain we have had this year a quad is a good option as the access roads become rutted.
Releasing the crays is as easy as wading into the water and cutting the top.
We spread a sack in different areas instead of dumping in one place.
You always have a few runners!
Lone survivor on top of all his buddies.

Crayfish pack more protein than any other forage item we stock and they are the cheapest. We still have a few runs left if you want to grab a few sacks!

Ellijay, Georgia Cold Water Stream Evaluation

At AES many of our clients are busy business professionals that are looking to escape the daily grind. Whether it be bringing back their grandfather’s farm pond they grew up fishing or building one from scratch we can service all their needs. However, from time to time we are called to the mountains to aide a different type of client.

Anyone that lives in Metro Atlanta knows that the North Georgia mountains are the place to be. While the mountains may not have many ponds and lakes they are loaded with a network of streams. Some are cold enough to support trout while others get slightly warmer and support species like Redeye bass.

The buyer of this property is interested in possibly stocking trout in this creek. All streams in Gilmer County, Georgia are classified as trout streams even if they are only marginal waters. As a biologist my job was to evaluate this stream for it’s potential to support trout. For a stream to support trout their are a few criteria that must be met. Temperature, habitat, and water quality are the most important aspects to determine if a stream can support trout.

A healthy watershed is critical to a trout streams survival. These ferns are not only pleasing to the eye but also keep soil intact. Riparian erosion releases silt into streams. Silt gets in trout’s gills, reduces reproduction success, and muddies the water. All of those things are not good for trout. 
A variety of habitat is required for trout. They need deep holes to rest in and riffle/runs to feed in.
These are the tools of the trade to check the metrics. Higher elevations are needed to support trout. Higher elevations will stay cooler in the heat of the summer.

To check the water quality there is a system called the Shannon Index. The Shannon Index uses aquatic insects to assess how much pollution is in a stream. All the insects we collected today are pollution intolerant. This indicates good water quality. If we found insects like crane flies and blackfly larva this would suggest that water quality is not the best it could be.

This is a small black stonefly nymph.
The king of the aquatic insects, Golden stonflies!
An adult stonefly. We know it’s an adult because it has wings.
This is a clinger mayfly. Another great source of food for trout.
This is actually a cased caddis not a tiny pile of rocks. Cased caddis build their homes using materials from the creek bottom. These guys are the original tiny house builders!
Whole colony of cased caddis on the bottom of this rock.
Taylor, the fearless realtor/guide for the day. We got some extra walking in because the beavers dammed up a road.
Many people would not consider beaver dams to be pretty but they have their own beauty. They also provide great duck habitat. Unfortunately for trout purposes they slow water down which warms the water up.
This picture is above the beaver dam complex. The stream is back to its original self of running cold and clean.

The end result is the client will start out with a put and take fishery. This means we will stock trout in late October and tell the client to harvest trout starting late May. We also gave the option to let the trout stay and see how they handle the summer heat. We recommended the client halt fishing when water temperatures exceed 74 degrees since those warm temperatures are stressful to trout.

As the mountains become developed we look forward to serving a different demographic of clients. If you have stream on your property and wondering what’s in it give us a call.

Forsyth, Georgia ElectroShock Recap

electroshocking big bass

Weather finally started acting like late spring and all of the solar powered AES employees are over joyed. Bring the pull over and coffee for morning shocks then break out the Sun Bum and straw hat for the afternoon jobs. It looks like the heat has set in for good so that means shock season is operating on limited time. We are still shocking some good fish but, we are much more cautious with the fish. As water temps become warmer the water holds less oxygen hence why there are no trout streams in South Georgia. When we shock fish we put them in a live well. We are constantly adding fresh water and pumping out soiled water but there is a certain carrying capacity we reach. This time of year we are always watching the fish in the tank to make sure the client does not loose any fish.

Water had almost twelve feet of visibility so shocking was an uphill battle. Luckily Capt. Matt had a good tech netting.
Don’t let the rush of catching the big one make you forgot about letting her recover.
Once you get your pictures do not just throw her back in. Give her a few back and forth motions to push water over her gills.
She rode off just fine.
These are a pair of three year old pure Florida strain bass. They do not have the aggressive nature of a F1 or Northern Strain bass but they have a higher top end potential. If you hear about bass over ten pounds it probably has a good amount of Florida genetics.
Crayfish season is getting close!

After a few lakes in the Forsyth area we headed a ways out on hwy 41 in Crawford County, Georgia. This client has us shock every few years to make sure their habitat efforts and harvest are still going in the right direction. We love their pond because there goals are for a quality bass fishery. We shocked tons of healthy three pound fish. The fish are stacking up around sixteen or seventeen inches so the next step is stocking gizzard shad. It’s always a privilege to work with clients that take our management suggestions seriously.

Luckily for John’s son the big girl was still a little stunned so she didn’t put up a fight for pictures.
Greg trying to measure a rowdy one.
Working fish quickly in the heat is critical. Dissolved oxygen levels drop rapidly in our holding tank.
Even with the tight timing accuracy is still important.
Aerial view of the metrics.
Healthy bass of thick shoulders as Greg is describing here. They also have short and stubby tails. Unhealthy fish have bodies that resemble a torpedo.
Healthy post-spawn fish.
This lake was full of quality fish like this. Can’t wait to see how the fish will do with the addition of gizzard shad.
New family portrait?
Good feeding with high protein Purina food can make one pound bluegill a reality.
Got the sunfish grandslam today!
A lot of people would have harvested this fish based on length. However, we want clients to harvest bass off relative weights which are much more accurate than eyeballs. Even small fish can be healthy.
She wasn’t having any of it.
With lots of coaxing dad convinced her to get this close.
Always good to see big shiners like this in lakes. There were not many in this lake but something is better than nothing.
Even the dogs were ready to go home after the past two days.

If you missed out this spring we will be back shocking this fall. Call the office to guarantee your spot.