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Successful Lake Case Studies

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:

Habitat

Food Chain

Genetics

Harvest

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

Successful Lake Case Studies

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.

Successful Lake Case Studies

Numbers:

STRAIN STOCKING WGT (lbs) STOCKING Wr DAYS IN LAKE RECAP WGT (lbs) RECAP Wr WEIGHT GAIN (lbs) % Growth
TIGER 0.242 N/A 215 1.628 89 1.386 572.7%
NORTHERN 0.814 90 215 1.65 81 0.836 102.7%
NORTHERN 0.374 N/A 215 1.738 86 1.364 364.7%
NORTHERN 0.352 N/A 215 1.804 87 1.452 412.5%
TIGER 0.506 N/A 258 1.804 122 1.298 256.5%
TIGER 0.33 N/A 215 1.87 114 1.54 466.7%
NORTHERN 0.902 115 215 1.892 93 0.99 109.8%
NORTHERN 0.462 N/A 215 1.892 93 1.43 309.5%
NORTHERN 0.462 92 215 1.892 93 1.43 309.5%
NORTHERN 0.33 N/A 215 1.914 94 1.584 480.0%
TIGER 0.44 N/A 258 1.958 97 1.518 345.0%
TIGER 0.418 N/A 243 1.958 97 1.54 368.4%
TIGER 0.198 N/A 215 1.98 108 1.782 900.0%
TIGER 0.396 N/A 243 2.002 99 1.606 405.6%
TIGER 0.484 96 243 2.002 122 1.518 313.6%
TIGER 0.616 102 243 2.046 91 1.43 232.1%
TIGER 0.374 N/A 243 2.09 103 1.716 458.8%
NORTHERN 1.54 94 263 2.112 94 0.572 37.1%
TIGER 0.33 102 215 2.112 94 1.782 540.0%
TIGER 0.264 N/A 215 2.112 104 1.848 700.0%
NORTHERN 1.012 99 263 2.178 97 1.166 115.2%
NORTHERN 0.77 99 215 2.2 98 1.43 185.7%
NORTHERN 1.342 102 263 2.2 108 0.858 63.9%
TIGER 0.308 N/A 258 2.2 108 1.892 614.3%
TIGER 0.462 N/A 258 2.2 120 1.738 376.2%
TIGER 0.55 90 243 2.266 92 1.716 312.0%
TIGER 0.374 N/A 258 2.266 101 1.892 505.9%
NORTHERN 0.616 91 215 2.288 84 1.672 271.4%
NORTHERN 0.792 101 215 2.288 92 1.496 188.9%
TIGER 0.528 106 258 2.31 103 1.782 337.5%
TIGER 0.88 98 215 2.354 86 1.474 167.5%
TIGER 0.506 102 258 2.376 106 1.87 369.6%
TIGER 0.55 110 258 2.398 97 1.848 336.0%
NORTHERN 0.792 101 215 2.464 99 1.672 211.1%
TIGER 0.528 106 258 2.464 99 1.936 366.7%
NORTHERN 2.178 97 215 2.552 85 0.374 17.2%
NORTHERN 1.738 95 263 2.552 103 0.814 46.8%
TIGER 0.902 132 258 2.552 113 1.65 182.9%
TIGER 0.242 N/A 288 2.552 126 2.31 954.5%
TIGER 1.122 110 258 2.574 94 1.452 129.4%
TIGER 0.968 124 258 2.574 104 1.606 165.9%
TIGER 0.638 94 243 2.574 104 1.936 303.4%
TIGER 1.364 151 258 2.64 106 1.276 93.5%
TIGER 0.616 102 258 2.64 117 2.024 328.6%
TIGER 0.374 N/A 258 2.64 117 2.266 605.9%
TIGER 0.396 N/A 258 2.662 107 2.266 572.2%
TIGER 0.594 97 258 2.706 109 2.112 355.6%
NORTHERN 0.792 101 215 2.728 100 1.936 244.4%
NORTHERN 1.826 112 263 2.75 111 0.924 50.6%
NORTHERN 0.66 97 215 2.794 102 2.134 323.3%
TIGER 0.726 107 288 2.816 114 2.09 287.9%
TIGER 0.704 90 258 2.838 104 2.134 303.1%
TIGER 0.704 103 258 2.86 115 2.156 306.3%
TIGER 0.726 107 243 2.904 117 2.178 300.0%
TIGER 0.484 79 258 2.948 108 2.464 509.1%
NORTHERN 1.144 98 215 2.992 110 1.848 161.5%
NORTHERN 2.046 125 263 3.08 113 1.034 50.5%
TIGER 0.77 113 258 3.124 114 2.354 305.7%
NORTHERN 1.65 101 263 3.146 105 1.496 90.7%
TIGER 0.99 110 258 3.168 106 2.178 220.0%
NORTHERN 1.804 98 263 3.344 102 1.54 85.4%
NORTHERN 2.156 118 263 3.872 118 1.716 79.6%
FLORIDA 4.246 119 243 4.092 97 -0.154 -3.6%
FLORIDA 4.268 101 243 4.752 103 0.484 11.3%
FLORIDA 4.114 106 243 4.84 98 0.726 17.6%
FLORIDA 6.402 103 277 4.862 84 -1.54 -24.1%
FLORIDA 4.73 95 277 5.038 102 0.308 6.5%
NORTHERN 2.442 108 263 5.104 131 2.662 109.0%
FLORIDA 4.07 82 316 5.126 96 1.056 25.9%
FLORIDA 4.18 84 277 5.258 91 1.078 25.8%
FLORIDA 4.114 90 277 5.61 105 1.496 36.4%
FLORIDA 5.698 99 267 5.742 99 0.044 0.8%
FLORIDA 4.796 97 277 5.83 101 1.034 21.6%
FLORIDA 5.918 111 243 5.852 101 -0.066 -1.1%
FLORIDA 3.938 93 194 5.984 121 2.046 52.0%
FLORIDA 3.652 94 243 6.006 121 2.354 64.5%
FLORIDA 3.652 94 243 6.028 113 2.376 65.1%
FLORIDA 5.126 89 316 6.072 98 0.946 18.5%
FLORIDA 4.18 84 277 6.072 98 1.892 45.3%
FLORIDA 3.938 93 184 6.204 116 2.266 57.5%
FLORIDA 4.972 86 267 6.424 111 1.452 29.2%
FLORIDA 4.73 88 316 6.468 104 1.738 36.7%
FLORIDA 4.488 106 277 7.062 122 2.574 57.4%
FLORIDA 4.488 78 267 7.238 101 2.75 61.3%
FLORIDA 4.444 90 277 7.26 117 2.816 63.4%
FLORIDA 6.446 104 316 7.48 112 1.034 16.0%
FLORIDA 4.488 84 267 7.656 115 3.168 70.6%
FLORIDA 4.422 96 316 8.052 121 3.63 82.1%
FLORIDA 7.128 107 243 8.448 118 1.32 18.5%
FLORIDA 5.258 85 267 8.778 115 3.52 66.9%

 

Conclusions

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!

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