Successful Lake Case Studies: Years ago, folks randomly caught fish from neighbors’ lakes, carried them to their pond in a bucket, cheerfully stocked them, and accepted what they caught. Today’s management science promotes four key principles to achieve optimum water quality and fish development:
Each phase provides a strong link to success. There are no shortcuts. If one link is overlooked, the fishery will not reach potential. That may sound like marketing hype, but it’s very true. Maintaining a professional plan with above principles will create an amazing world beneath your lake’s surface and contribute to a model program. Our firm does not boast or guarantee anglers will catch trophy fish every cast. We do pledge to professionally implement the four principles. If our staff and the lake owner faithfully execute them, we are rewarded with life-long memories.
Please note habitat is the first vital factor. Without it, young fish don’t have safe havens to escape early predation and contribute future generations of forage. Bass lack the desired cover for efficient feeding. All inhabitants miss important features required to thrive.
Producing quality fish brings us to the second requirement–building an off-the-chart food chain for eye-popping growth. Maintaining healthy genetics and harvesting underperforming fish play a key role, but largemouth bass and bluegill only achieve quality status with the opportunity to eat–at will. Bass MUST consume approximately 10-pounds of forage to gain just one, single pound. If you want to grow 8 to 10-pounders, they must eat 80 t0 100-pounds. Success requires more than a casual effort.
While managing over 4,000-acres of private water, we have found all ponds behave differently. Consequently, it takes different tactics to maximize parameters. Once you get there, bass will respond. This strategy is designed to create a balanced bass and forage population; so fish sizes are distributed properly and bass relative weights remain healthy. We must establish balanced–healthy populations before proposing future steps that push lakes toward trophy status.
We hope you enjoy these case studies. Don’t prematurely abandon management efforts before completing the comprehensive analysis. You’ll be surprised at the potential.
Successful Lake Case Study 1: Water Quality – Habitat
ASF was contacted by a client with a 100-acre lake in Tennessee. Multiple residents had a goal of excellent fishing. They had been working with a different firm but were not getting results. The first thing we noticed, alkalinity was well below the acceptable minimum of 20 ppm. The plankton bloom was almost nonexistent. When shocking the lake, we found relative weights averaged 76. Bass were crowded at 10-inches and only 4 larger than 17-inches. We implemented a water quality management program with liming and fertilization to ensure visibility was maintained at 18-24 inches. In addition to improving water quality, we shifted forage stocking to bluegill and threadfin shad. After 4-years, relative weight reached 95 during the last survey. We collected 35 bass over 17 inches.
We were not able to increase weights and lengths solely by improving water quality. However, by improving water quality and overall lake productivity, we turned this large lake around and reached clients’ goals.
Successful Lake Case Study 2: Habitat
In 2017, we shocked a very interesting 80-acre lake in Arkansas. This is the only lake we have ever seen where gizzard shad comprised the base of the forage chain. The lake was converted from several commercial catfish ponds. Therefore, water is extremely productive. During our visit, visibility was less than 4-inches. We shocked-up thousands of gizzard shad, but only 35 bluegills and 25 bass. We were amazed that bass relative weights averaged 103. Low numbers of bluegill and bass indicated low annual recruitment into each year’s class. Our theory, bluegill were being eaten immediately because there was no structure for them to hide. Bass were not successful because newly-hatched bass did not have enough small bluegill to eat. They would starve or get eaten by other bass. The typical recommendation for this situation, stock 1,000 bluegill to the acre. However, we knew a good percentage would be eaten before they could reproduce and make a valuable contribution to the population. Another factor, the client did not have the budget to stock 80,000 fish. Over the next two years, we installed bluegill structure. Material included over 200 Christmas trees, 300 pallets, and old farm equipment. Within 2-years, the bluegill population rebounded and bass numbers increased. Relative weights jumped to 107, including one bass that was 130.
Successful Lake Case Study 3: Forage
We designed a 65-acre all-female bass lake in Georgia. Initial stockers ranged from 0.3 pounds to 9 pounds. We had two major concerns starting a brand new pond with such large fish. They could decimate the population before it had enough time to reproduce and become established, and larger fish would not have enough large forage to grow at a maximum rate. To overcome these issues, we stocked a variety of fish species and sizes. We stocked 2,000 copper nose bluegill per acre, 1,500 large shiners per acre, and 6 loads of threadfin shad in the spring. We limed the lake, started a fertilization program, and installed 10 feeders. The next winter, we started stocking bass. Each bass was weighed, measured, and pit tagged so we could track growth. We monitored forage and found only threadfin shad needed supplementing. Over the next year, bass were captured with electrofishing and rod and reel. Each fish was weighed and measured. Data was recorded based on the pit tag. While some did lose weight, a very high percentage, across all sizes, had grown exceptionally well. Many with stocker weights under 0.5 pounds had reached 2- pounds in 215-days. A 4.4-pound bass reached over 8-pounds in just 316-days. This extreme example shows the right amount–and size–of forage can help push bass maximum growth potential. It is also a reminder, even with a perfect environment, not all bass perform well. We saw bass stocked at 6.4 pounds drop to 4.8 pounds.
|STRAIN||STOCKING WGT (lbs)||STOCKING Wr||DAYS IN LAKE||RECAP WGT (lbs)||RECAP Wr||WEIGHT GAIN (lbs)||% Growth|
Furthermore, American Sport Fish has produced millions of sport fish and managed lakes for over 30-years. We have developed hundreds of management plans for a wide variety of lakes, but they all key on:
1) Making sure that the lake has the right water quality.
2) Proper habitat.
3) Adequate forage.
Once a lake is balanced and bass are growing appropriately, we can:
1) Increase the level of management.
2) Consider stocking additional forage species.
3) Improve bass genetics.
4) Increase harvest to slide the scale toward trophy bass.
But, no matter what the overall goal, bass need:
1) 10-pounds of forage to add 1-pound of flesh.
2) Balanced lake conditions outlined in case studies.
One last example regarding vegetation. A new customer had been quoted $15,000 to correct coontail issues that choked their 30-acre lake and prevented fishing. In the past, this lake could not be fished after April 30. Within 30-days, we cleared the majority for $4,000 and left a few pockets as cover for newly-hatched fry. Anglers enjoyed numerous, memorable outings from May through November.
In conclusion, if these case studies resemble conditions at your lake, let’s develop a plan to remedy them. There are economical options. Let’s turn your challenging conditions into a case study!